Asafetida, B.P. Asafetida.

Related entries: Galbanum - Sagapenum - Sumbul

Asafetida (Asafoetida, U.S.P.) is a gum-resin obtained from the root of Ferula foetida, Regel (N.O. Umbelliferae), and probably from the roots of other species growing in Eastern Persia and Western Afghanistan. In the cortex of the stem and root are numerous, large, schizogenous ducts, containing a milky emulsion which exudes when the ducts are wounded. The drug is collected by cutting off the stem close to the crown of the root. The juice exudes and hardens, forming the gum-resin, which is then scraped off. The drug is conveyed to Bombay, where it is sorted before being exported to Europe. Asafetida should be kept in well-stoppered bottles in a cool place. It cannot be dried and powdered without loss of part of its volatile constituents. The gum-resin occurs either in tears or masses, but the tears alone are official. These are usually flattened, from 12 to 25 millimetres in diameter, and either separate or in more or less compact masses. The colour, which darkens on keeping, varies from pale yellowish-white to dull grey. The tears are tough at ordinary temperatures, but become harder when cooled and softer when warmed. They are opaque and milky white, or yellow and translucent internally; but, when broken, the freshly fractured surface gradually darkens, becoming first pink and subsequently reddish-brown. Asafetida has a powerful and persistent alliaceous odour, and a bitter, acrid, alliaceous taste. It forms a white emulsion when triturated with water. The drug may occur in reddish masses (lump asafetida) which, however, are often very impure, leaving as much as 50 per cent. of ash, or even more. Some varieties of asafetida yield no umbelliferone, but they seldom reach the London market.

Constituents.—The chief constituents of asafetida are about 62 per cent. of resin, 25 per cent. of gum, and 7 per cent. of volatile oil. The resin consists of asaresinotannol, partly free and partly combined with ferulic acid. The volatile oil contains in the lower boiling fraction two terpenes, one apparently identical with pinene, while from the higher boiling portions the disulphides C7H14S2 and C11H20S2 have been separated. The drug also contains free ferulic acid, water, and small quantities of various impurities. If a small fragment be boiled for a few minutes with strong hydrochloric acid, the liquid—after dilution with an equal volume of water, and filtration—should exhibit a blue fluorescence when dropped into excess of ammonia, the colour being due to umbelliferone produced by the action of the acid. Pure tear asafetida should contain from 65 to 75 per cent. of substances soluble in alcohol, and yield about 3 to 5 per cent. of ash, but good commercial qualities of the drug may contain not more than 60 per cent. of substances soluble in alcohol, and yield as much as 10 per cent. of ash.

Action and Uses.—Asafetida is used as an expectorant in chronic bronchitis, and as a carminative in flatulence. It is employed generally, in hysterical and allied conditions, to produce a subjective effect through its unpleasant smell and taste. Used as an enema, it removes intestinal flatulence. The drug is associated with aloes in Pilula Aloes et Asafetidae, and with galbanum and myrrh in Pilula Galbani Composita. Tinctura Asafetidae contains the resin and volatile oil, the gum being insoluble in the 70 per cent. alcohol used in its preparation. Spiritus Ammoniae Fetidus is an alcoholic solution of the volatile oil and resin, to which ammonia has been added; the resin gives it a diuretic action. When it is desirable to cover the taste and odour of asafetida, it should be administered in pills. The best excipient is water, and the pills should be coated first with a thin layer of acacia (by moistening with mucilage of gum acacia and afterwards drying), and then with sandarac pill varnish; or the pills may be pearl-coated. The official pills may be treated in the same way with advantage. Pills containing asafetida should be well varnished before silvering, otherwise the sulphuretted oils of the drug turn the silver black. Asafetida is often given with valerianates in pills. It may also be given in the form of an emulsion; such emulsions keep best in a concentrated form, and can be diluted by the patient. The tincture is frequently given in mixtures, often with tincture of valerian; mucilage of gum acacia must be added to suspend the resin which separates when the tincture is mixed with water.

Dose.—3 to 10 decigrams (5 to 15 grains).


Emulsum Asafoetidae, U.S.P.—EMULSION OF ASAFETIDA.
Asafetida, in selected tears, 4; distilled water, sufficient to produce 100. Average dose.—16 mils (4 fluid drachms).
Enema Asafetidae, B.P.C.—ENEMA OF ASAFETIDA. Syn.—Enema Fetidum; Lac Asafetidae.
Tincture of asafetida, 3.12; mucilage of starch, to 100. Used to relieve flatulent distension of the bowel, the quantity sufficient for one enema is 120 mils (4 fluid ounces).
Enema Asafoetidae, B.P., 1885.—ENEMA OF ASAFOETIDA.
Asafetida, 30 grains; distilled water, 4 fluid ounces. Rub the asafetida in a mortar, add the water gradually to form an emulsion.
Mistura Asafetidae Composita, B.P.C.—COMPOUND ASAFETIDA MIXTURE.
Asafetida, 5 grains; liquid extract of cascara sagrada, 10 minims; ammonium carbonate, 4 grains; with infusion of valerian, in 1 fluid ounce. This is a laxative mixture with a nauseous smell and taste, for use specially in hysterical and nervous conditions, with the object of producing a profound psychical effect. Dose.—15 to 30 mils (½ to 1 fluid ounce).
Pilulae Asafetidae, B.P.C.—ASAFETIDA PILLS.
Each pill contains 3 grains of asafetida, with hard soap and distilled water. Used for flatulent indigestion of nervous origin. Dose.—1 or 2 Pills.
Pilulae Asafoetidae, U.S.P.—PILLS OF ASAFETIDA.
Asafetida, 20 grammes; hard soap in fine powder, 6 grammes; distilled water, a sufficient quantity. To make 100 pills. Average dose.—2 pills.
Tinctura Asafetidae, B.P.—TINCTURE OF ASAFETIDA.
Asafetida, bruised, 20; alcohol (70 per cent.), sufficient to produce 100. Tincture of asafetida is used in hysterical disorders on account of its unpleasant smell and taste. It is carminative and expectorant. When mixed with water, the addition of mucilage of gum acacia is necessary, to the extent of one-eighth of the bulk of mixture. Dose.—2 to 4 mils (½ to 1 fluid drachm).
Tinctura Asafoetidae, U.S.P.—TINCTURE OF ASAFETIDA, U.S.P.
Asafetida, well bruised, 20; alcohol (95 per cent.), sufficient to produce 100. Average dose.—1 mil (15 minims).

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.