Chapter 1: Asafoetida
Hing is an essential part of Indian cuisine from time and beyond. Our ancestors included it in every dish we ate. As a child, I was not too fond of Hing; the strong pungent smell never suited my nose, no idea why? But now, when I talk about it to my patients, I realize that my body has got accustomed to the spice, ensuring proper working for my internal system. If it wasn’t for Hing, I wouldn’t have developed a strong immunity to fight diseases.
A few days back while I was preparing dinner, my daughter came and drowned me with questions including, “Mom, is it really important to add Hing to our meals? If yes tell me its benefits.” “Can’t we skip it? Do your ayurvedic books tell you about Hing?” and so on…..
I had to force her to be mum and explained “Hing is a gum secreted by the plant and has an important place in our spice box. It is a spice that is not only known to bring flavor to your food and activate your taste buds but also to ignite your digestive fire to help in early and proper digestion. It relieves gases and gastric pain helps in killing the worms in the tummy and cures respiratory disorders, restores consciousness and fights several diseases. But make sure you use only a pinch of it.” In response, there was another question, “Why?” So I had to tell her the properties of Hing.
Hing and its properties
There is a lot to discuss on Hing, but my daughter is too young to understand it. However, I’ll be discussing it in-depth over here.
Ayurveda and Hing
“हिंगु रामठमत्युग्रं बाह्लिकं भूतनाशनम् ||अगुढगन्धं जरणं जन्तुघ्नं सुधूपनम्|
हिंगूष्णं तिक्तकटुकं रसे पाके च दीपनम्||लघु वातकफानाहशूलगुल्मग्निमान्द्यजित्|
पाचनं कृमिह्रद्रोगकाश्वासोदरार्त्तिनुत्||विबन्धाध्मानशूलघ्नं चक्षुष्यं गुल्मनाशनम्|”
Hing is also known as Ramath, Atiugra, Gudhagandha, Balhik, Bhootnashan, Jantughna, and Jaranam in Sanskrit. All these synonyms depict the strong smell, properties, place of origin, and its action and medicinal benefits on the body.
This verse from Kaidev Nighantu states varied roles of Hing –
- Hing is an appetizer and a carminative agent.
- It kindles a digestive fire and enhances digestion
- It pacifies Vata and Kapha dosha
- Relieves bloating and abdominal pain
- Facilitates passage of Vata (gases)
- It is an efficient deworming medicine
- Relieves ailments like cough, breathlessness.
- Improves eyes health.
Let us know more about this –
- Bloating and gas formation in the stomach –
Gas formation is caused due to the imbalance of Vata and Pitta dosha. Aggravated Vata and decreased Pitta result in indigestion. Indigestion, in turn, leads to gas formation. This excess Vata accumulates in the abdomen. Inability to pass it out causes bloating and pain in the abdomen.
Having Hing daily in the diet facilitates proper digestion. In addition, it improves Agni and reduces gas formed in the stomach, primarily, due to its Paachan (digestive) and Deepan (appetizer) properties.
How to consume it?
1: Temper (Tadka) a pinch of Hing and jeera in a teaspoon of ghee before cooking the vegetables or dal.
2: Adding a pinch of Hing to a glass of fresh buttermilk aids digestion.
3: Pinch of Hing with ajwain and lukewarm water relieves bloating, gas trouble, and stomach pain instantly.
4: Application of Hing water around navel and abdomen is effective in abdominal pain.
Digestive issues, lack of appetite –
Being hot in potency Hing improves the secretion of Pitta, kindles the digestive fire, and improves appetite.
With its deepan & pachan action, Hing fastens proper digestion, and reduces the accumulated aam in the body, and takes care of issues like heaviness, nausea, food aversion, and constipation.
Worms, dental caries, and bad breath –
Children and many elderly individuals are infested with worms. Worms manifest with varied symptoms like excessive or lack of hunger, bad breath, stomach ache, itching, etc. Hing is known as ‘Jantughna’, meaning one who kills the worms.
The pungent odor and vipak, hot potency, and teekshna (penetrating quality) of Hing make it difficult for the survival of varied types of worms in the gut. Hing also scrapes off the kleda and ama from the gut, which otherwise serves as a favorable culture for worm growth. It thus prevents the recurrence of worm infestation.
In dental caries, a pinch of Hing with clove or camphor powder is placed in the affected tooth.
In Ayurveda, Bronchitis or regular Cough is known as Kasaroga. The deranged Vata along with cough in the lungs obstructs the respiratory tract and hampers the normal movement of Vata. This combat leads to coughing reflex. Repeated bouts of cougHing with or very little cough leave the patient in distress.
Although being hot in potency Hing is also Snigdha or lubricating in nature which pacifies the deranged Vata. It liquifies the cough and clears off the respiratory passage, and also facilitates the normal movement of Vata dosha, and reduces the frequent episodes of coughing.
Hingvashtak is a common medicinal preparation of Hing, which can be used in various conditions only after consulting an Ayurvedic physician.
Hing is a spice that helps to wash out toxins present in the body offering it a breather to cleanse the internal system. Hence, Hing is a useful spice when it comes to cough-related issues. Taking Hing in your daily diet is known to improve digestion and reduce Ama. Also, it eliminates mucus from the lungs caused due to Ushna (hot) nature.
Asthma or Swasroga is a result of doshas like Vata and Kapha. Vata when coupled with Kapha in the lungs obstructs respiratory passages, leading to Asthma. Ayurveda believes that Hing helps in pacifying Vata and Kapha causing problems in the respiratory passage and removing mucus stored in the lungs. This might not cure Asthma, but give the patient a sense of relief for the long term.
- Hing and Inflammatory Bowel Disease –
According to Ayurveda, Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Grahani is caused due to the imbalance of Pachak Agni and weakened grahani (intestine).
The undigested food and poor diet consumption lead to incomplete eradication of waste resulting in the accumulation of Ama (toxins) in the body. The weakened digestion sometimes causes constipation and otherwise frequent passage of stools with mucus. As mentioned before, Hing boosts Agni and facilitates digestion, this further reduces the strain on grahani and gives some time for its recovery.
It is of course not the only drug for IBS but works with a combination of other medicines.
It is beneficial for patients suffering from piles & IBS.
How to consume it?
Have a small bowl of fresh homemade buttermilk mixed with a pinch of Hing, cumin, saindhav salt, and fresh or dry coriander powder during meals.
- Uterine health –
Hing is also a good uterine cleanser and is purposely included in food preparation for new mothers in the post-natal period. It cleanses remnant uterine clots and regulates the menstrual cycle. This also helps in pacifying Vata in the post-natal period, regaining uterine tone, and preventing sagging of the abdomen.
Hing is useful in dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation), ovulatory problems.
- Other Conditions –
Local application of Hing water is helpful in bee sting and abdominal pain.
- Contradictions of Hing – Please note: Before including Hing in your daily diet, please consult an Ayurvedic Physician.
Use of Hing is restricted in Pitta Prakriti individuals, hyperacidity, Pitta ailments, bleeding disorders, and pregnancy.
It should also be avoided in a hot climate, i.e., Grishmaritu (summer) and Sharad Ritu (October).