Geographic and botanical origin of Asafoetida Gum
Asafoetida is the exudate gum of several plants of the Ferula genus, specifically the species Ferula foetida and Ferula assa-foetida. These plants are endemic to the barren and dry regions of Central Asia. The Ferula-plants are part of the family Apiaceae that also contains the genus Daucus – from which the most well known species is the carrot.
Harvest and Processing of Asafoetida Gum
In analogy to its better known cousin the carrot, Ferula plants develop stout taproots. Ferula assa-foetida can be harvested as of the fourth or fifth year. The raw material Asafoetida is produced through a cut that separates the plant from the root. A milky juice exudes from the severed taproot: Asafoetida Gum. A few days after the cut, the gum is collected by farmers and a new cut is made in the root. Hence the process is repeated.
Asafoetida Gum can be processed in a further step. Asafoetida oil can be extracted through steam distillation. This oil is often used in industrial applications.
Sensory and phytochemical composition
The raw material Asafoetida is a whitish to grey-brown gum mass. The gum has a noxious, pungent smell which is the reason for Asafoetida’s alternative labels: “devil’s dung” and stinking gum.
The phytochemical compounds of Asafeotida gum are the same as for all natural resins: ethanol soluble resin, water soluble, polysaccharide gum and a small amount of volatile, aromatic essential oils. Parts of these valuable oils are disulphid derivates that are responsible for the pungent smell of the gum.