Tag Archives: Asefetida

“Devil’s Dung”

The proper name is “Asefoetida” (also Asefetida). To remember it, think (ass + fetid).

The Devil, doing his sulfurous business Ferula assafoetida, (family Apiaceae), alternative spelling asafetida (also known as devil’s dung, stinking gum, asant, food of the gods, hing, and giant fennel) is a species of Ferula native to Iran…Asafoetida’s English and scientific name is derived from the Persian word for resin (asa) and Latin foetida, which refers to its strong sulfurous odor. Its pungent odor has resulted in its being called by many unpleasant names; thus in French it is known (among other names) as Merde du Diable (Devil’s Shit); in some dialects of English too it was known as Devil’s Dung, and equivalent names can be found in most Germanic languages… (source)

Back in the days when herbal medicine, founded partly on myth and partly on fact, was the norm, a common practice among fishwives and farmwives was to mix a paste of asefetida resin, and hang it in a bag around a child’s neck to ward off worms, colds, diptheria, smallpox, and other noxious diseases. This practice probably has its roots in the antiquated idea that disease is the product of “humours” or “vapors” which arise from the earth – the preventative “rationale” being that one stink will ward off another.

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