Indian foods are famous for their unique taste and smell brought about by many ingredients such as turmeric, cumin seeds, and the lesser known spice called asafetida. The latter is an oleo gum resin derived from plants under the Ferula genus, and unlike other Indian spices, it is yet to find its way into the mainstream market. The use of asafetida goes beyond the kitchen since practitioners of traditional medicine in Iran also use it as a remedy for muscle spasms, helminth infections, flatulence, and pain. It also exhibits potent activity against free radicals, convulsions, cancer, obesity, diabetes, Leishmania, and dementia. These medicinal properties are not possible without the presence of glucuronic acid, galactose, arabinose, and rhamnose in the gum fraction and the umbelliferone, ferulic acid, and terpenoids in the resin.
In this study, which was published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, the researchers conducted in vivo experiments in male albino mice. The researchers administered the test subjects with different concentrations of asafetida and subjected them to the hot-plate and acetic acid-induced writhing test to determine antinociceptive activity. They also co-administered the mice with antagonists to determine potential mechanisms of action of this spice. From these tests, the team observed that asafetida is most effective as a pain reliever at a dose of 10 mg/kg. Antinociceptive activity was also unaffected by the presence of antagonists, which means that they don't act on the same receptors. Based on this, the researchers hypothesized that asafetida works by modulating pain pathways in the peripheral and central nervous system.
To determine anti-inflammatory activity, the researchers induced edema in the paws of the mice using carrageenin and compared the weight of the paws of treated and untreated mice. They observed a significant reduction in inflammation due to asafetida treatment, but this effect was only observed when a dose of 2.5 mg/kg was administered.
Overall, these results show that asafetida has antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities. With further studies, this spice can be used as a natural remedy for toxic painkillers available on the market. (Related: Is acetaminophen the most dangerous OTC pain reliever of all?)
There are many other health benefits associated with asafetida. These include the following:
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