A GUM resin obtained by piercing the living root of different species of Ferula.” N.O. umbelliferae. Ours is Narthrex asafoetida.
The fresh oil is said to “smell not unpleasantly: but when decomposed it gives off sulphuretted hydrogen”,–the charming and penetrating odour of electioneering eggs. Political meetings have been before now broken up by the introduction of asafoetida into the hall by rowdy partisans of the rival candidate. Hale White gives another drastic use for the drug:–“cases of malingering may sometimes be cured by making the patient take, three times a day, an effervescing draught containing a few minims each of the tinctures of valerian and asafoetida. The effervescence makes the nasty taste of these medicines `repeat’ in the mouth for some time after taking them.” Old School has a pill of asafoetida, aloes, hard soap and confection of roses: in the margin of our copy of Hale White stands scribbled in pencil,
“Stinks and aloes, one supposes;
But why hard soap, and why the roses?”
These silly little things used to make examinations so easy!
And Kent gives yet another popular use–as a supposed protection against disease, hence used in the stables. He says lumps of “foety” as they called it were put in the corn for the horse, to keep off distemper. And he says “it has been used by the laity as a medicine for fainting, for hysteria, for all sorts of nervous symptoms and complaints:–this use is justified by the proving.”
In the Cyclopoedia of Drug Pathogenesy we find provings and poisonings by Asafoetida. In one case it evoked “pressing pain in the cardiac region, as if from over-filling and distension of the heart”. In another there was a sensation of “compression of the brain, as if surrounded and pressed together by a cloth”. “The thorax was seized with spasmodic contractions, till it seemed as if the lungs could not expand completely, respirations being normal.” Again, a “sensation as of a cord tied tightly round brain.” “Chest so constricted as if squeezed by a heavy body lying on sternum”: and, always, distension of abdomen: `rumbling, gurgling, distension”.
BLACK LETTER SYMPTOMS
Pressive pain in forehead, from within outwards.
Nervous headache of hysterical or scrofulous people.
Nocturnal throbbing pain in and around eye and HEAD.
Extensive superficial ulceration of cornea, with burning, sticking or pressing, from within out. Better rest, pressure, open air. Numbness round EYE.
Discharge of very offensive matter from the NOSE; with caries of the bones.
Swelling of lower lip.
Sensation of a ball rising in throat from STOMACH to oesophagus.
Flatus passing upwards: none down.
Heat in spleen and ABDOMEN.
Watery liquid STOOLS of the most disgusting smell: pains in abdomen and discharge of fetid flatus.
Watery stools of disgusting odour, profuse and greenish.
URINE warm and of a pungent, ammoniacal smell.
Spasmodic tightness of CHEST, as if lungs could not be fully expanded.
Asthmatic feeling in trachea, dry cough; spasmodic dyspnoea as if lungs could not be fully expanded.
Pain and tenderness TIBIA, almost unbearable at night.
Nervous PALPITATION with small pulse, from over-exertion or suppression of discharges.
HYSTERIA, with much trouble about throat or oesophagus; well marked globus; spasm of lungs, etc.
Nervous affections after suppressed discharges.
ITALIC OR CURIOUS SYMPTOMS
Swashing and gurgling sensation in brain, especially frontal.
As if a nail or plug were driven into brain: like a pointed plug in left temple, and right parietal.
As if nose would burst.
Heat of face, ear and hands, with chills down back.
Fatty, rancid taste in mouth.
Spasm of oesophagus like that of hysteria.
Winding and twisting in bowels, as of reversed peristalsis.
As it heart would burst.
Has a loathing of beer.
Constriction of chest; of throat; about heart.
Cramp in forehead.
Throbbing: head; in and about eye; pit of stomach; big toe.
Numbness: nasal bones; bones of face; chin. DR. CLARKE gives an excellent little picture of Asafoetida. “The symptoms of Asafoetida present an almost perfect picture of hysteria of the flatulent order. Reversed peristalsis of stomach and bowels. Excessive abdominal distension, and sensation as if everything in the abdomen would burst through the mouth. After belching of wind, strong rancid taste in the mouth. Many of the discharges are fetid; watery stools of most disgusting odour; profuse and greenish: fetid flatus the fetid smell of the drug may be regarded as one of its “signatures”. Periosteal affections ending in ulcers which are so sensitive that no dressing is tolerated.” (Hepar)
GUERNSEY says: A very great sensitiveness, hypersensitiveness especially in those in whom the venous system predominates over the arterial. It affects left hypochondriac region; left abdomen; left neck, and nape of neck, left upper and lower extremities, left ear. General symptoms left side.
Dissatisfied about oneself. Complains of her troubles.
Fetid or purulent discharges from ears: green and fetid from nose. Ozaena.
Fatty taste: risings in throat. Loathing; inclination to vomit. Pulsations pit of stomach, perceptible to hand and even eye.
Asafoetida, then is a drug of very definite localities and modalities. It vents itself on the mind, the nerves, the organs of special sense, the digestive tract, the periosteum, and especially on the left side. Curious how some drugs pick out the right side, some the left. WHY? But it is the same with patients: one comes whose every ailment is on the left side; another, on the right. A study of these remedies is often useful in prescribing.
The black type drugs that are very especially left sided are ARG. N., ASAF., ASAR., CAPS., CINA, CLEM., CROC., EUPHORB., GRAPH., KRE., LACH., OLEAND., PHOS., SELEN., SEP., STANN.
The very especially right-sided remedies in black type, are given as ARS., AUR., BAPT., BELL., BOR., CANTH., LYC., PULS., RAN. B., SARS., SEC., SUL. AC.
Then there are others especially right or left sided, as APIS, ARG., BRY., CALC., CHEL., COLOC., RAN. S., SULPH.
Some, again (but everyone knows these) start right side, and cross to left, like LYC.: or start left side and cross to right, as LACH.: or go from side to side and then back, as LAC CAN. One has seen this in throats, in diphtheria, and, in the latter case, in ovarian pain. There are so many interesting and intriguing things in homoeopathy that help in prescribing.
The Asafoetida patient (i.e. the patient most affected by, and therefore most amenable to, the curative action of Asafoetida) is described as being of a plethoric appearance, face puffed, bloated, even dropsical–“puffed, venous, purple”. Kent calls it “a very troublesome face, suggesting cardiac disturbance and venous stasis”. (These patients have the extreme sensitiveness that make you think of such remedies as Hepar.) “Fat, flabby, purple: and therewith extremely sensitive to pain, full of hysteria.” Such persons may have ulcers, extremely sensitive, and extremely offensive. Periostitis, especially of tibia (Asafoetida is one of the drugs that affect the tibia, vying with AGAR., LACH., RHUS, etc.–and DROS.). One remembers a bad case of Paget’s disease of the tibia, with atrocious pain, where none of these drugs helped, but DROS., with its pain in long bones, acted marvelously, restoring painlessness and sleep. No one seems to have realized the power in bone disease of Drosera, except Hahnemann! It is worth while getting a copy of Materia Medica Pura, now that it has been republished in facsimile form at a moderate price. It is a book one would not be without– anywhere!
Asafoetida is one of the remedies of “old scars, when they turn purple and threaten to suppurate”, or “take on a venous aspect and become painful and turn black”.
We keep on quoting KENT: let us run through his masterly picture of the drug, condensing:–
Full of discharges; catarrhal, watery, from different places, even watery stools: and all these discharges are horribly offensive and ichorous. Bloody discharges, horribly offensive, from nose, eyes, ears, chest, bowels, fistula openings, ulcers The phlegmatic person who is purple who gets no sympathy when sick, and is almost distracted about the horrible fetid discharges. Even the discharges from the eyes may be bloody and offensive.
Most of the pains seem to bore, as if they extended from the bone to the surface,–from within out.
Then numbness: a general feature of this remedy. Numbness of scalp. or deep in head: numb, dead feeling associated with the pain (Chamomilla, Platina). Often, numbness after sleep. Numbness of nose.
Hysteria: ball rises, as in globus hystericus. Hysterical and choreic affections of oesophagus and trachea. This “lump in the throat, or suffocation”, is a sort of hysterical spasm of the oesophagus.
Stomach.–If you have ever seen a typical case of Asafoetida you will wonder where all the air comes from. It comes up in volumes: choreic jerking of the diaphragm, with expulsion of wind like the sound of a small pop-gun going off almost every second. Loud belching: loud eructations of wind from the stomach. flatus not downward, but all upwards always horribly offensive. Meteorism. And liquid stools of most disgusting smell.
Asafoetida is one of the remedies having nightly aggravations.
The direction of Asafoetida, then, is from within, out. The heart feels over full to bursting. The nose as if it would burst. Abdominal distension, as if everything in the body would burst out through the mouth.
Asafoetida has a symptom one has not observed elsewhere, but which one finds recorded in the poisonings, in the Cyclopoedia of Drug Pathogenesy: “undulating twitchings in muscles.” One saw this recently while actually reading up the drug, in a patient; undulating twitchings in upper arm especially; ripples, wavelike, in the arm muscles front and back. The patient seems to have seen them first, rather than felt them. She has received Asafoetida and it will be interesting to hear the outcome. But nerve specialists in London and in Belgium confessed that they had never seen this before: and proceeded to give a rather terrible diagnosis:-which other symptoms did not, so far, seem to bear out.
Asafoetida is one of the drugs that affect the secretion of milk; causing its disappearance *Alumina ph.; its increased flow; even its appearance in the breasts of non-pregnant, or elderly, women; as in a woman of 50, where “the breasts swelled and secreted a milky fluid”.