Europeans gave it the decidedly unflattering moniker "devil's dung." Even its more common English name, asafoetida, is derived from the Latin for fetid. Those unaccustomed to it can respond negatively to its strong aroma, a mix of sulfur and onions.

Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida) is the dried sap  or gum resin obtained from the roots of Ferula plants. It’s commonly dried, ground into a coarse, yellow powder, and used for either culinary or medicinal purposes.

While it’s native to Afghanistan and Iran, asafoetida is commonly used in Indian cuisine, where it’s referred to as hing.

As a seasoning, 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, it’s sometimes referred to as stinking gum. 

In one 30-day study including 43 adults with moderate to severe indigestion, those taking 250-mg capsules containing asafoetida twice a day reported significant improvements in bloating, digestion, and overall quality of life, compared with a placebo group. 

Asafoetida has also been shown to help boost digestion by increasing the activity of digestive enzymes. Specifically, it may increase the release of bile from your liver, which is needed for digesting fat.

Silphium, note that, according to Pliny, made sheep fall asleep and goats sneeze.   As Silphium slipped from Rome's grasp, Asafoetida, a substitute for Silphium, soon came to be called by that name.  Given that most the Apicius recipes were collected after Silphium had vanished, it is Asafoetida that we have available. 

Sources: 

Pass The Garum Blogspot

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