Asafoetida is one of the key digestion promoting herbs of the Ayurvedic tradition; it is also antispasmodic and expectorant. This is a spicy and very fragrant herb reminiscent of garlic; like garlic, it is rich in healthful sulfur compounds. Asafoetida is considered a stimulant, not only to the digestion, but also to the respiratory system and the nervous system (but calms nervousness). Further, it is an aphrodisiac (in laboratory studies, it has been compared favorably to sildenafil, known by the brand name Viagra). Asafoetida is obtained from the juice of the plant; it is fried before use (otherwise it is irritating). For digestive complaints, it is relied upon to improve the "digestive fire" and thereby speed the digestion of food, alleviating problems of heaviness, fullness, bloating, or gas after eating. By improving the digestion, asafoetida helps prevent the formation of excess phlegm and ama.
Formula for improving digestion and eliminating excess phlegm
Hingwastaka is a well-known traditional formula of Ayurveda, named for asafoetida (hingu, hingwa, hingava, and other spellings). Its recommended use as a digestive aid is to take some with the first bites of a meal, especially the morning meal when the digestion may be the most sluggish. To further improve the effects, it can be taken with a little lemon juice, which acts as a salivary and biliary stimulant. This formula is an expansion of another well-known traditional prescription: Trikatu, comprised of ginger, black pepper, and long pepper, given as a hot-spicy mixture to stimulate the digestive fire. Trikatu is also said to promote the absorption of nutrients (and has been used to promote absorption of herbal active components and drugs). To emphasize the formula's ability to resolve phlegm generated by undigested food, it includes "three cumins": ajowan, cumin, and black cumin (nigella). Rock salt stimulates the production of digestive juices.