Hing (Ferula foetida) or Heeng or Asafoetida is a "wonder-spice" famous in India for its wonderful medicinal and culinary uses. This pungent spice makes our food taste spicy and tangy, and also, keeps us healthy, fit and fine! Medically, it is a sedative, expectorant and laxative and a very useful remedy for relieving spasms and ingestion, nervous disorders, cholera, whooping cough and lots of gynaecological problems. It is a stimulant for respiratory and nervous system and very effective in pneumonia and bronchitis in children.

Botanical, Chemical and Geographical details of Heeng, Hing or Asofoetida (Asofetida)

Most of the Indian homes make use of Heeng for culinary and medicinal purposes. Indian Asofoetida, is famous for its odour, and its botanical name is Ferula narthrex. It is actually, a resin of a plant which grows in the higher ranges of Kashmir, parts of Afghanistan and Iran. Hing is bitter and pungent in taste and light, sharp, unctuous and hot in effect. While aggravating pitta, it pacifies vata and kapha. Its chemical composition consists of gum, ash and a volatile oil. Hing also contains protein, fibre and minerals which include a substantial amount of calcium and traces of iron. 

Ancient texts describe it as hingu and today, Hing is popular for being a tempting spice and a trusted medicine!!

Medicinal Properties of Hing:

Hing is a drug of choice in gas trouble, distention of the abdomen and colic. As a respiratory stimulant and expectorant it is given in chronically dry cough whereas as a nervine stimulant, ayurvedic texts recommend its use in a number of ailments like hysteria, paralysis, convulsions and syncope.

Here are a few tips for gaining its medicinal benefits.

  • Taking 250 mg of hing mixed in one teaspoonful each of betel (paan) juice and honey works well in respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis and cough.
  • Hing is a known antidote of opium and counteracts its effect if given in the same quantity to the patient. In hysterical fits, the patient is made to inhale hing besides being given various other medicines which include it as an essential ingredient.
  • The herb is effective in treating many gynaecological problems such as sterility, unwanted abortion, or pre-mature labor, difficult and excessive menstruation and leucorrhoea. About 1/2 tsp Asafoetida, fried in clarified butter with one cup of fresh cow or goat milk and a tablespoon of honey, if given thrice a day for a period of one month, will rapidly increase the secretion of progesterone hormone and help in proper mensuration. It also benefits the women after childbirth. Owing to its anti flatulent and digestive properties, it can be taken with beneficial results for the post-delivery period.
  • Taking before meals 2 gm of the famous Hingashtak churna with warm water helps in digesting heavy and fried food. Similarly, Rajaprivartini Vati, which also contains hing, is a drug of choice for treating painful and scant menstruation.
  • Taking¬∑half a teaspoonful of hing, two times a day with warm water, crushed 'ajwain' and vidang (Embilia ribes) -¬∑(all in equal parts) abates flatulent dyspepsia. The same combination is a simple and effective remedy for intestinal worm problems.
  • Asafoetida is used in the treatment of impotency. About 1/4 tsp of asafoetida should be fried in clearlified butter oil and mixed with honey and a teaspoon of fresh latex of the banyan tree and taking it once daily for forty days before Dawn. It is specifically recommended for spermatorrhoea and premature ejaculation or night fall.

Caution: As a spice, hing is an essential ingredient in preparations like pickles, soups, vegetables and pulses. Raw hing is nauseous and unsafe. Therefore, before its medicinal and other routine uses, it should be fried in desi ghee. Hing should also be used with care in patients suffering from severe acidity, haemorrhagic disorders, piles and hypertension.

How to know if your Hing is pure or adulterated?

Nowadays, it is difficult to obtain unadulterated hing as wheat flour and gum of keekar tree are mixed into it. Spurious and adulterated hing sinks and settles if put in a glass of water whereas pure hing, without leaving sediments, slowly but completely dissolves into water, turning it into a milky liquid. Pure hing also gets burnt when put close to a flame.

Source: Tribune, India