Asafoetida, scientifically known as Ferula assafoetida, is known for its extensive uses. It is used as a herbal medicine, fragrance, and flavoring agent in food items and beverages. It is extensively used as an ingredient in Indian cuisine. People sometimes refer to it as "Devil's dung" owing to its bitter taste and stinky odor which is due to the presence of sulfur compounds in its chemical constituents. Even though it does not have a great taste, it is known for its benefits. The plant is a perennial herb which grows about 2 meters tall. Red and milky white asafoetida are two varieties commonly available for use in the form of powder. Before discussing the side effects associated with it, let's have a brief look at its uses.
Uses of Asafoetida
Medicinal uses of this oleo gum resin are many. Breathing problems arising due to H1N1 swine flu, inflammation of air passages, and asthma are treated using asafoetida. It is also used for upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestion-related problems. Many women use it to start menstruation after menopause. Medical conditions like convulsions, hysteria, and depression are also benefited by its use and people also use it as a remedy to treat corns.
Apart from this, as mentioned before, it is widely used as a flavoring agent in many cuisines, as a fragrance in cosmetic products, and as a means for food preservation. We all know that every useful thing has its own set of positives and negatives. Similarly, asafoetida is also known to have some unwanted effects which are observed with its use.
Side Effects Associated with Asafoetida
Anything in limit is safe for the human body. However, anything used in excess is bound to respond with a negative, undesired reaction. Asafoetida in normal limits is also safe for humans. Intake of about 15 g of this resin produces no ill-effects. Anything beyond this safe limit causes undesired effects. Side effects commonly observed due to excessive intake of asafoetida are discussed below.
Hemorrhaging in Livestock
Coumarin constituents present in Ferula communis are toxic in nature and are known to reduce prothrombin concentrations thereby, causing hemorrhaging in livestock.
Ferula galbaniflua and Ferula rubricaulis are two other species of asafoetida which contain a gum that is rubefacient and has irritant properties. Individuals sensitive to these species develop contact dermatitis as a side effect.
Patients treated with asafoetida develop swollen lips as a side effect. Their lips become enlarged and puffy after taking the dose and get back to normal after sometime. Some patients also develop swelling in the face and throat, only if they are more prone to its effects.
Abdominal Gas and Diarrhea
Patients on herbal treatment with asafoetida may suffer from abdominal problems like gas and diarrhea. Frequent loose stools add to the misery of patients, and abdominal gas results in burping and belching. These side effects can be minimized by snacking prior to taking the resin dosage.
Some patients develop skin rashes in response to asafoetida use. Rashes cause extreme discomfort as they result in redness, itching, and tingling sensation. Such patients should avoid scratching the sensitized skin as it can worsen the condition.
Headache and Dizziness
These side effects are observed in patients which have the unusual habit of taking large doses of asafoetida. Headache leads to difficulty in concentration and carrying out regular activities, while dizziness causes inability to move properly.
Apart from the side effects mentioned above, prolonged use of this gum is known to cause nausea, vomiting, and throat irritation in individuals. Asafoetida formulation is also available in the form of tincture which may cause burning sensation while urinating and is also known to alter menstruation time.
Use of this resin is contraindicated in some conditions which are mentioned below.
- Using asafoetida for treating pregnant and breastfeeding women is highly unsafe and must be avoided.
- People with blood pressure-related problems like hypertension or hypotension should be kept away from asafoetida, as it is known to disturb blood pressure control in the body.
- It is also unsafe for individuals with gastrointestinal irritation.
- Infants should not be administered with its dose because of its tendency to cause blood disorders which can potentially be life-threatening.
Any person showing visible side effects should be immediately taken to a doctor for a checkup. The doctor may analyze its criticality and take appropriate measures to manage it. People have known asafoetida benefits since ages, but one must always be very cautious while using anything that might cause a health hazard and disturb the well-being of a person.