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It wouldn’t come as a surprise to know that asafoetida or hing’s unpleasant odour puts people off. However, this spice has never been known as a flavour enhancer in the Indian cuisine, rather, it is widely used as it offers innumerable health benefits.
Hing is used as a traditional remedy for digestive ailments such as gas, flatulence, bloating and abdominal distension. The Mughals, from Central Asia, first brought hing to India in the 16th century. Hing is a resin obtained from the Ferula Assa Foetida plant’s roots and has a distinct pungent smell and a bitter taste due to the presence of sulphur compounds.
Not only in traditional but in western medicine as well, the health benefits of hing have often been spoken about. The volatile oil is the main active constituent of hing, responsible for its therapeutic significance. Its main phytochemical is Ferulic Acid which has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antispasmodic, hepatoprotective and antioxidant properties. Hing is also loaded with an array of nutrients like carbs, fibre, potassium, calcium and iron which further add up to their medicinal properties.
Here are the many health benefits of hing:
Being loaded with dietary fibre makes hing a digestive stimulant and helps regulate bowel movements. It increases the acid production in the stomach and improves liver functions to secrete more bile salts. This helps in better digestion of carbs, proteins and fats which in turn helps in improving appetite and indigestion. Further, due to its carminative, anti-flatulent and antispasmodic properties, hing helps in reducing indigestion issues like gas, flatulence, bloating and abdominal distension.
Hing is a natural expectorant that helps in the removal of excess mucus, helping in relieving chest congestion and cough. The phytochemical compounds in hing reduce the inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes, which facilitates the treatment of respiratory conditions like bronchitis and asthma.
The strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of hing help in relaxing the throbbing blood vessels in the head. Moreover, hing acts as an antidepressant and provides relief from stress related headaches and chronic migraine.
Hing helps reduce cholesterol levels by improving the metabolism of the body. It helps in reducing the inflammation of the blood vessels, which is the primary cause of developing atherosclerosis and deposition of cholesterol plaque in the blood vessels.
Hing is a good source of potassium, which balances the effects of sodium, hence proving to be effective in maintaining blood pressure. Also, hing helps the arteries and blood vessels to relax, making the blood flow effectively throughout the body. Effective blood flow reduces the pressure of the blood against the inner walls of the arteries and prevents injury to the arteries and blood vessels. The compound Coumarin in hing prevents blood from clotting within the arteries thereby reducing the high blood pressure. Hence, this spice promotes overall cardiac health.
The health benefits of hing might be astounding, but keep in mind that in lower amounts (5 mg/day), hing is safe to be used, however, on large quantities, it not just makes the food taste bitter but may also cause acidity, headache, burping or in rare cases- even diarrhoea. Additionally, due to its hot-potency, hing should be avoided during pregnancy, breastfeeding and when suffering from bleeding disorders, gastrointestinal infections or ulcers.
So, to get the best out of hing, remember to heat it in the cooking oil or ghee first before adding any other ingredient to it.