The Indian herb Asafoetida (Ferula Asafoetida) possesses anti-inflammatory and antihistamine activity, in addition to fighting viruses and intestinal parasites. For those unable to tolerate garlic and onion, or those eating a low FODMAPs diet, this member of the carrot family makes a pleasing substitute when added to cooking. References for every statement in this post are found at the bottom of the page.
I realised years ago that the traditional low histamine diet was hurting me. This approach eliminates as many higher histamine foods as possible, with little regard for their nutritional status. Changing my focus to eating foods with antihistamine properties, while including nutrient dense higher histamine foods with beneficial properties, made an incredible difference. You can read more about that here or check out the recording of my online workshop on getting started with my approach here.
This epiphany led to an honest re-appraisal of my health state, giving me the courage to once again experiment with foods.
I was no longer going into anaphylaxis by this point – please do not ever add new foods without the involvement of your doctor if you have a history of moderate to severe reactions please. And remember that foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties can still hurt us. Most studies are conducted on animals, not humans, or in test tubes.
One of my first “gains” was ferula asafoetida. This Indian spice has a really pungent smell, so much so that I was terrified of using it when recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner. I eventually worked up the courage once it was revealed to be a member of the carrot family – because in those days I practiced my personal nutrition in a highly irrational way, full of superstition and guesswork – and was pleasantly surprised by its affect on my body and taste buds.
You may choose not to use asafoetida once you open the packet. This would be a mistake, because once sautéed in a little oil to release the flavour, and then added to veggies or meats, it smells and tastes pretty much like garlic or onions, only less aggressive.
Kind of like leeks…
More importantly than possibly resolving an issue for FODMAPs allium deprived folks, and those sensitive to foods in this family, asafoetida has been shown to relax histamine induced contractions of the intestines (in animal studies). It has been used traditionally in this way in the West and in India, and scientists are finding new properties, including fighting Avian Flu and lowering viral loads in Herpes Simlex 1 infections.
Researchers testing the anti-parasitic properties of asafoetida extracts on earthworms (because they resemble intestinal roundworm in humans) have found it to be as effective as the pharmaceutical Piperizine.
Please note: the extracts used in studies will be far stronger than the spice and it is not my intention to give you a “how to” with any of my research. I believe that self medicating, be it in supplement or medication, is unwise. This is why I do not include dosages used in studies. I’m not a doctor, so please don’t ask me to play one!
And though thankfully this is no longer a concern in my world, researchers have found evidence to back its traditional use as an anti-flatulent. Or toot-inhibitor as I like to call those…nigella is also one – read the post on the amazing seed with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
More importantly, to those dealing with mast cell activated inflammation and histamine release, is that compounds isolated from asafoetida have activity against the COX-1 enzyme, which plays a role in creating inflammation from mast cells (relating specifically to prostaglandin). So, this means may mean that if we can get COX-1 to play ball with us, we may experience less mast cell related inflammation.
Meditation has also been shown to inhibit COX-1 – read the post here.
Explainer: histamine is found in foods, but also in the body, where it is contained within mast cells – which are a component of the white blood cell system. When mast cells are triggered, by a virus/bacteria, stress, allergens, chemicals, altitude, vibration etc, they release inflammatory agents like histamine, prostaglandin, leukotrienes and others into the bloodstream, where they cause inflammation. If this inflammation is not needed, or is not eliminated when no longer needed, we experience inflammatory symptoms (like those of excess histamine). This is why I believe it’s important to eat a diet that’s anti-inflammatory overall, rather than just low histamine. Because histamine is only a piece of the puzzle.
Unsure how to use asafoetida? Try adding it to your cooking: by shrinking onto sweet potatoes or minced beef, adding it to lamb before roasting it, or using a pinch in a soup. I particularly love using it to spice up my lentil dahl (basically Indian lentil stew) and also a add a touch to my olive oil before cooking eggs in it.
You can find asafoetida online on Amazon or Indian food suppliers, and also in all Indian stores.
——- REFERENCES ——–
“Ferula.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 July 2016.
“Asafoetida.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 July 2016.
Ghannadi, Alireza, and Khadijeh Fattahian. “Anti-Viral Evaluation of Sesquiterpene Coumarins from …” Iranian Journal of Pharmacological Research, n.d. Web. 8 July 2016.
Mahendra, Poonam, and Shradha Bisht. “Ferula Asafoetida : Traditional Uses and Pharmacological Activity.” Pharmacognosy Reviews Phcog Rev 6.12 (2012): 141. Web.
Recent Updates in the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders Using Natural Compounds
Rasool, Mahmood, Arif Malik, Muhammad Saeed Qureshi, Abdul Manan, Peter Natesan Pushparaj, Muhammad Asif, Mahmood Husain Qazi, Aamer Mahmood Qazi, Mohammad Amjad Kamal, Siew Hua Gan, and Ishfaq Ahmed Sheikh. “Recent Updates in the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders Using Natural Compounds.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014 (2014): 1-7. Web.
Kumar, Pradeep, and D.k. Singh. “Molluscicidal Activity of Ferula Asafoetida, Syzygium Aromaticum and Carum Carvi and Their Active Components against the Snail Lymnaea Acuminata.” Chemosphere 63.9 (2006): 1568-574. Web.