Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Asafœtida

ASAFŒTIDA, a gum-resin, so called on account of its offensive smell. It is obtained from the Ferula asafœtida, L. an umbelliferous plant, growing wild in Persia; the root of which, on cutting it, exudes a milky juice: by evaporation, it acquires the consistence of wax, and a yellowish red colour. We have seen fine specimens of this plant in the Botanical Garden at Edinburgh; and there is no doubt that it will bear the vicissitudes of our climate, in the open air; and that it is strongly impregnated with its peculiar juice.

Although this nauseous drug possesses a bitter and acrid taste, which is much stronger, when fresh, the Persians nevertheless use it as a spice with their food; so that our epicurean imitators do not deserve the credit of original choice.

Beside its aperient and resolvent properties, asafœtida is one of the most valuable medicines in spasmodic, flatulent, hysteric and hypochondriacal complaints, especially when they arise from obstructions of the bowels. But, as it is of a heating nature, it increases the circulation of the fluids, and ought not, therefore, to be employed either in violent fevers, or in constitutions liable to hemorrhages. On the contrary, where spasms and constipations have contributed to weaken the powers of nature, and the functions are in a languid state, it generally affords effectual relief; as it promotes digestion; enlivens the animal spirits; and, by increasing the peristaltic motion of the intestines, tends to open them in persons of an advanced age. In the spasmodic, as well as in humoral asthma, unattended with fever, it is an excellent remedy; for, in the former, it counteracts the strictures of the respiratory organs; and, in the latter, greatly facilitates expectoration. The hooping-cough has been cured, and worms have frequently been expelled, by the conjoined administration of asafœtida, both by the mouth, and in the form of clysters. When given with the last mentioned intention, it is very usefully combined with jalap; by the assistance of which, it possesses uncommon powers over the tape-worm, especially in adults. Thus, according to C. J. Mellin, an elderly lady was relieved of a formidable tape-worm, together with a considerable portion of coagulated and viscid matter, resembling a fishing-net, after making use of the following pills: Take asafœtida, half an ounce, powder of jalap two drachms; let them be mixed with any syrup, to a proper consistence for making sixty pills: two of these are to be taken every morning and evening, at first; but gradually increased to four or five, according to circumstances.