Asafetida is a potent-smelling spice that plays an essential role in providing the robust flavors common to many Persian and Indian dishes. In addition, asafetida's uses in traditional medicine cover nearly every condition imaginable, including digestive problems, influenza, asthma, epilepsy and even flatulence. Despite some promising evidence in laboratory and animal research, no research with humans supports any of asafetida's purported benefits.
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Numerous compounds in asafetida may have the potential to treat or prevent cancer. These compounds primarily act as antioxidants or help to boost the potency of other antioxidants present in your body. Two of the most widely researched are umbrelliprenin and ferulic acid, both of which help to prevent the development of new cancer cells. In addition to these preventive abilities, a 2011 review of the research in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" shows evidence suggesting that a number of compounds in asafetida help the body destroy some cancer cells, particularly those present in cancerous tumors.
Treating Muscle Spasms
One of asafetida's traditional uses is in the treatment of muscle spasms. Research with animals backs this up, showing that asafetida might be a potent anti-spasmodic agent. Specifically, the same 2011 review in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" indicates that water extracts of asafetida gum appear to reduce the severity of muscle spasms when they occur. In addition, as the potency of this extract increases, the frequency of muscle spasms seems to decrease. Although these findings might seem promising, no research with humans has yet to demonstrate similar effects.
Virus and Parasite Elimination
Although people throughout Asia use asafetida to treat digestive parasites, no research supports this apparent benefit. However, asafetida seems to be a potent treatment for viral respiratory infections, including the flu and the common cold. A number of studies in the 2011 review in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" indicate that compounds called coumarins seem to be responsible for these antiviral properties, helping to kill and keep these infections from spreading. However, these findings all come from laboratory research, with no studies involving living animals or humans lending support to the potential antiviral benefits of asafetida.
Although asafetida seems to have a variety of benefits, the research supporting these is extremely limited. Considering the fact that too much asafetida can have toxic effects on your body, you should avoid taking excess asafetida to treat these or any other conditions. Despite likely being safe at smaller doses, avoid asafetida if you are pregnant. Some studies in the 2011 review in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" support its traditional uses to stimulate menstruation and terminate pregnancies, with animal research showing that asafetida might work both to prevent and interfere with pregnancies.