Asafoetida is the dried aromatic gum-resin exuded from the living rhizome, rootstock or taproot of varied plant species of genus Ferula.
Local names: Hing, Asafetida, Ingo, Inguva
Plant Sources: Ferula asafoetida and allied species (Ferula foetida and Ferula narthex).
Distribution: The perennial asafoetida plants has several varieties and are native to the region between the Mediterranean region to Central Asia, especially Iran and Afghanistan. The other species, known botanically as Ferula northex, grow abundantly in Kashmir, Western Tibet and Afghanistan.
Major producing countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Turkistan. Ferula gum-resins are imported to India, mainly from Iran and Afghanistan. A part of the imported gum resin is re-exported to various countries after some processing and value addition.
Method of harvesting/tapping: The gum resin is obtained from incisions in the roots and rhizomes of the plants. Usually plants of sour to five years old develop very thick and fleshy, carrot shaped roots. The upper part of the root is laid bare and the stem is cut close to the crown. The exposed surface is covered by a dome shaped structure made of twigs and earth. A milky juice exudes from the cut surface which soon coagulates when exposed to air. After some days, the exudate gum-resin is scraped off and a fresh slice of the root is cut.
Period of harvesting/collection: Tapping is usually done in March and April, just before the plants flower.
The milk juice obtained from the root becomes a brown, resin-like mass after drying. Asafoetida is processed and marketed either as lumps or in powdered form. The lump asafoetida is the most common form of pure asafoetida.The trading form is either the pure resin or so-called “compounded asafoetida" which is a fine powder consisting to more than 50% of rice flour and gum arabic to prevent lumping. The advantage of the compounded sorin is that is is easier to dose.
The gum-resin is also steam distilled to obtain the essential oil known as Oil of Asafoetida.