Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida) is the dried sap obtained from the roots of Ferula plants.
While it’s native to Afghanistan and Iraq, asafoetida is commonly used in Indian cuisine where it’s dried, ground into a spice, and referred to as hing .
In addition to flavoring food, asafoetida has also been used for centuries around the world for its perceived health benefits.
Technically a gum-resin, asafoetida is a hard substance that’s extracted from large, carrot-shaped roots of the Ferula plants .
Once extracted, it’s commonly dried, ground into a coarse, yellow powder, and used for either culinary or medicinal purposes.
As a spice, asafoetida is known for its strong, pungent odor, which is due to its high concentration of sulfur compounds. In fact, due to its unpleasant smell, this seasoning is sometimes referred to as stinking gum.
However, when cooked, its flavor and smell become much more palatable and are often described as being similar to leeks, garlic, and even meat.
In addition to adding a distinct flavor to dishes, asafoetida has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.
For example, in Ayurvedic medicine, hing is used to aid digestion and gas, as well as treat bronchitis and kidney stones. While during the Middle Ages, the dried gum was sometimes worn around the neck to help ward off infection and disease.
Yet despite being used for thousands of years, many of the traditional uses of asafoetida have not been proven by modern science.