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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Resins

Asafoetida is an oleo-gum resin obtained as an exudation by incision of the decapitated rhizome and roots of Ferula asafoetida L, F. foetida, Royel, F. rubricaulis Boiss, and some other species of Ferula, belonging to family Apiaceae.






Devil’s dung; food of the gods; asafoda; asant; hing (Hindi).


Biological Source


Asafoetida is an oleo-gum resin obtained as an exudation by incision of the decapitated rhizome and roots of Ferula asafoetida L, F. foetida, Royel, F. rubricaulis Boiss, and some other species of Ferula, belonging to family Apiaceae.


Geographical Source


The plant grows in Iran, Turkestan and Afghanistan (Karam and Chagai districts).




The plant is a perennial branching, 3 m high herb possessing large schizogeneous ducts and lysigenous cavities containing milky liquid. Upon exudation and drying of the liquid, Asafoetida is obtained. For the collection of the drug the upper part of the root is laid bare and the stem cut off close to the crown in March–April. The exposed surface is covered by a dome-shaped structure made of twigs and earth. After separating each slice, exudation of oleo-gum-resin, present as whitish gummy resinous emulsion in the schizogenous ducts of the cortex of the stem, takes place. It hardens on the cut surface which is collected, packed in tin-line cases and exported. Removal of the exudation and exposure of fresh surface proceeds until the root is exhausted. The yield is usually soft enough to agglomerate into masses when packed.


              Ferula asafoetida



Asafoetida occurs as a soft solid mass or irregular lumps or ‘tears’, sometimes almost semiliquid. Tears are rounded or flattened and about 5–30 mm in diameter, grayish-white or dull yellow or reddish brown in colour.


Asafoetida mass is mixed with fruits, fragments of root, sand and other impurities. Asafoetida has a strong garlic-like (alliaceous) odour and a bitter, acrid and alliaceous taste. When triturated with water, it makes a milky emulsion. It should not have more than 50% of matter insoluble in alcohol (90%) and not more than 15% of ash.


Chemical Constituents


Asafoetida contains volatile oil (4–20%), resin (40–65%), and gum (25%). The garlic-like odour of the oil is due to the presence of sulphur compounds. The main constituent of the oil is isobutyl propanyl disulphide (C6H16S2). The three sulphur compounds, such as, 1-methylpropyl-1-propenyl disulphide, l-(methylthio)-propyl-1-pro-penyl disulphide, and l-methyl-propyl 3-(methylthio)-2-propenyl disulphide have also been isolated from the resin; the latter two have pesticidal properties. The flavour is largely due to R-2-butyl-l-propenyl disulphide and 2-butyl-3-methylthioallyl disulphide (both as mixtures of diastereoisomers).


The drug also contains a complex mixture of sesquiterpene umbelliferyl ethers mostly with a monocyclic or bicyclic terpenoid moiety. Resin consists of ester of asaresinotannol and ferulic acid, pinene, vanillin and free ferulic acid. On treatment of ferulic acid with hydrochloric acid, it is converted into umbelliferone (a coumarin) which gives blue fluorescence with ammonia.



Asafoetida also contains phellandrene, sec-butylpropenyl disulphide, geranyl acetate, bornyl acetate, α-terpineol, myristic acid, camphene, myrcene, limonene, fenchone, eugenol, linalool, geraniol, isoborneol, borneol, guaiacol, cadinol, farnesol, assafoetidin, foetidin, etc.


Chemical Tests

1.     On trituration with water it produces a milky emul-sion.


2.     The drug (0.5 g) is boiled with hydrochloric acid (5 ml) for sometime. It is filtered and ammonia is added to the filtrate. A blue fluorescence is obtained.


3.     To the fractured surface add 50% nitric acid. Green colour is produced.


4.     To the fractured surface of the drug, add sulphuric acid (1 drop). A red colour is obtained which changes to violet on washing with water.




Asafoetida is used as carminative, expectorant, antispas-modic, and laxative as well as externally to prevent bandage chewing by dogs; for flavouring curries, sauces, and pickles; as an enema for intestinal flatulence, in hysterical and epileptic affections, in cholera, asthma, whooping cough, and chronic bronchitis.




Asafoetida is adulterated with gum Arabic, other gum-resins, rosin, gypsum, red clay, chalk, barley or wheat flour, and slices of potatoes.


Allied Drugs


Galbanum and ammoniacum are oleo-gum-resins obtained, respectively, from Ferula galbaniflua and Dorema ammoniacum. Galbanum contains umbelliferone and umbelliferone ethers, up to 30% of volatile oil containing numerous mono- and sesquiterpenes, azulenes, and sulphur-containing esters. Ammoniacum contains free salicylic acid but no umbeiliferone. The major phenolic constituent is ammoresinol. An epimeric mixture of prenylated chromandiones termed ammodoremin is also present. The volatile oil (0.5%) contains various terpenoids with ferulene as the major component.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparation known as Madhudoshantak (Jamuna Pharma).


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