Asafoetida. U. S. (Br.)

Asafoetida. U. S. (Br.)

Asafetida. Asafoet. [Gum Asafetida]

"The gum-resin obtained by incising the rhizomes and roots of Ferula Asafoetida Linne and Ferula foetida Regel and of some other species of Ferula (Fam. Umbelliferae), indigenous to Persia and adjacent countries, and yielding not less than 60 per cent. (or if powdered 50 per cent.) of alcohol-soluble constituents." U. S. "Asafetida is an oleo-gum-resin obtained by incision from the root of Ferula foetida, Regel, and probably other species of Ferula." Br.

Asafetida, Br.; Stercus Diaboli, Cibus Deorum; Gummi resina Asafoetida; Asa foetida, Asse-fetide, Assafoetida, Fr.; Asa foetida, P. G.; Asant, Stinkasant, Teufelsdreck, G.; Assa fetida, It.; Asafetida, Sp.; Ungoozeh, Pers.; Hilteet, Arab.; Hing, India; Angusa-kema, Afgh.

Ferula Asafoetida was first described from actual observation by H. Falconer, who found it near Kashmir, and has long been successfully cultivated in the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. It is distinguished by the greater height of the stem (6 to 10 feet), and by the numerous stem leaves furnished with wide sheathing petioles. The flowers are pale yellow, and the oval fruit thin, flat, foliaceous, and reddish brown, with pronounced vittae. It yields a milky juice having a powerful odor of asafetida.

Ferula foetida is a coarse umbelliferous plant, growing from five to seven feet high, with a large fleshy root, the crown of which is covered with coarse bristly fibers, and gives origin to large bipinnate radical leaves and a nearly naked stem which has only a few bipinnate leaves without wide sheathing petioles, and ends at the top in very numerous umbels. The flat-winged fruit have the vittae almost obsolete. This plant was first discovered in the sandy desert near the sea of Aral, by Lehmann, in 1844. Bunge found it in Persia about twenty years later. It would seem to be native all through Afghanistan.

It is possible that asafetida is obtained from various species of Ferula, yet the bulk of the drug probably comes from the official plants. Among the other plants yielding asafetida is Ferula Narthex Boiss. While this is disputed by Aitchison yet it appears that it is the source of the gum-resin obtained from certain portions of Afghanistan. Tschirch describes this plant with illustrations in S. W. P., 1910, p. 289. E. M. Holmes's discussion of the asafetida plants (P. J., ser. iii, xix, 1888-1889) still remains one of our chief sources of information on the subject. (See also article on the sources of the fetid gum-resins by James Small, P. J., 1913, vol. xc, p. 287.) Ferula Jaeschkeana Vatke, which has been believed to be the source of asafetida, according to E. M. Holmes, has, at least in its dried state, not the slightest odor of asafetida, and yields a strongly celery-scented juice. (P. J., 1894, xxv.)

The asafetida plants are indigenous to Western Afghanistan and Eastern Persia. In 1687 the collection of asafetida was witnessed by Kaempfer, whose description of the method is very similar to that given by H. W. Bellew in 1872, and by J. E. T. Aitchison in 1884. According to Aitchison, the high plains of Afghanistan, two to four thousand feet above the sea, are arid and bare in winter, but in the early summer are covered with a thick growth of Ferula foetida, Dorema ammoniacum, and Ferula glabaniflua. The great cabbage-like heads of the asafetida plant, representing the primary stage of the flower heads covered over by the stipules of its leaves, are eaten raw by the natives as a sort of green. In June the asafetida is obtained. The root stock is first laid bare to the depth of a couple of inches, those plants only which have not reached their flower-bearing stage being selected. A slice is then taken from the top of the root stock, which is immediately covered with twigs and clay, forming a sort of dome, with an opening towards the north, so that the sun cannot get at the exposed root. About five or six weeks later, a thick, gummy, not milky, reddish substance found upon the exposed surface of the root in more or less irregular lumps is scraped off with a piece of iron hoop or removed with a slice of the root and at once placed in a leather bag. The asafetida is conveyed to Herat, where it is adulterated with red clay before being sent into commerce. It is brought to this country directly from India, whither it is conveyed from Bushire and down the Indus, or it is shipped first to London and then to America. It sometimes comes in mats, but more frequently in cases, the former containing eighty or ninety pounds, the latter from two hundred to four hundred pounds. Asafetida is sometimes also imported in casks.

The fruit of the asafetida is said to be sent to India, where it is highly esteemed as a medicine.

Properties.—As usually found in commerce, asafetida is in irregular masses, soft when not long exposed, of a yellowish or reddish-brown color externally, exhibiting when broken an irregular, whitish, somewhat shining surface, which soon becomes red on exposure, and ultimately passes into a dull yellowish-brown. This change of color is characteristic of asafetida, and is ascribed to the influence of air and light upon its resinous ingredient. The masses appear as it composed of distinct portions agglutinated together, sometimes of white, almost pearly tears, embedded in a darker, softer, and more fetid paste. Occasionally the tears are separate, though rarely in the commerce of this country. They are roundish, oval, or irregular, and generally flattened, from the size of a pea to that of a large almond, sometimes larger, yellowish or brownish externally and white within, and not unlike ammoniac tears, for which they might be mistaken except for their odor, which, however, is weaker than that of the masses. A very fine variety of asafetida is spoken of by Bellew as being procured from the leaf bud in the center of the root. It does not come into European commerce, but is the Kandaharee Hing of the Indian bazaars. (P. J., viii, 103.) It occurs in moist flaky pieces and tears, yielding a reddish-yellow oil on pressure, and mostly mixed with the remains of leaf buds. The ordinary asafetida of the Indian bazaars is known in the superior grade as Hing, in the inferior grade as Hingra. The odor of asafetida is alliaceous, fetid, and tenacious; the taste, bitter, acrid, and persistent. The effect of time and exposure is to render it more hard and brittle, and to diminish the intensity of its odor and taste, particularly the former. Kaempfer assures us that one drachm of the fresh juice diffuses a more powerful odor through a close room than one hundred pounds of the drug as usually kept in the stores. The color, which is at first white, becomes pink, and finally the well known brown, on exposure. Asafetida softens by heat without melting, and is difficult of pulverization. Its sp. gr. is 1.327. (Berzelius.) It is inflammable, burning with a clear, lively flame. It yields all its virtues to alcohol, and forms a clear tincture, which becomes milky on the addition of water.

The description in the U. S. P. IX has been considerably enlarged and is as follows: "In a soft mass, sometimes almost semi-liquid, or in irregular, more or less pliable masses composed of agglutinated tears of variable size imbedded in a yellowish-brown or dark brown matrix, or in loose ovoid tears, from 1 to 5 cm. in diameter, the surface sometimes containing streaks of violet, yellowish-red or brownish-red and with a few vegetable fragments; when fresh the mass is either soft or tough, becoming hard and occasionally even brittle on drying; the surface of the freshly fractured tears is milky-white and opaque, changing gradually on exposure to a pinkish or reddish-purple or even reddish-brown; on moistening with water, the tears become milky-white; odor persistent, alliaceous; taste bitter, alliaceous and acrid. Triturate one part of Asafetida with three parts of water; it forms a milk-white emulsion which becomes yellowish on the addition of alkalies. Heat a fragment of one of the tears of Asafetida with sulphuric acid; a reddish-brown solution is formed; greatly dilute the latter with water, filter, and add an excess of any of the alkalies; the solution acquires a blue fluorescence, which becomes more pronounced upon the addition of a slight excess of ammonia water. An alcoholic solution of Asafetida, on the addition of a few drops of phloroglucinol T.S. and a few drops of hydrochloric acid, acquires a cherry-red color. Add a few drops of ferric chloride T.S. to a portion of the alcoholic solution of Asafetida, obtained in the assay process given below; an olive-green color is produced (most foreign resins). Add hydrochloric acid to another portion of the same alcoholic solution of Asafetida until a faint turbidity results; a bluish-green color is developed, which fades on standing (galbanum). Evaporate a quantity of the same alcoholic solution, representing 5 Gm. of Asafetida, to 25 mils, mix it with 25 mils of petroleum benzin, in a separatory funnel, and afterwards add to it twice its volume of water and agitate. The petroleum benzin layer, after washing with water and subsequent separation, exhibits no green color when shaken with 30 mils of a freshly made aqueous solution of copper acetate (1 in 20) (rosin). Mix 2 mils of emulsion, prepared as directed under Emulsum Asafoetida, with 5 mils of water and add 5 mils of sodium hypobromite T.S., so as to form a separate layer; a red color is not produced (ammoniac). The yield of ash of the gum-resin does not exceed 15 per cent. The powder is prepared by drying the gum-resin over freshly-burnt lime or by exposure to currents of warm air until it ceases to lose weight and then reducing it to a powder at a low temperature. Diluents of starch or magnesium carbonate may be added in order to maintain the powdered form. The color of powdered Asafetida is light brown. The yield of ash of powdered Asafetida does not exceed 30 per cent.

"Assay.—Introduce about 10 Gm. of Asafetida into a tared, 250 mil Erlenmeyer flask, determine the exact weight of the drug, add 100 mils of alcohol, and having connected the flask with an upright condenser, boil the mixture in the flask during one hour or until the drug is completely disintegrated. Then transfer the contents of the flask to two counterpoised, plainly folded filters one within the other, so that the triple fold of the inner filter is laid against the single side of the outer, and wash the flask and filter with consecutive, small portions of boiling alcohol until the washings no longer produce a cloudiness when dropped into water. Collect and reserve the mixed alcoholic solutions, for the qualitative tests given above. Dry the filters and flask to a constant weight at a temperature of about 115° C. (239° F.). Now determine the weight of the residue on the filter and in the flask and calculate its percentage from the amount of Asafetida originally taken. This percentage of alcohol-insoluble material, when subtracted from 100, gives the percentage of alcohol-soluble constituents contained in the Asafetida." U. S.

"Rounded or flattened tears from twelve to twenty-five millimetres in diameter, or masses containing tears, greyish-white to dull yellow, darkening on keeping. Fresh tears usually tough at ordinary temperatures, hard when cold. Internally yellowish and translucent, or milk-white and opaque; freshly exposed surfaces often slowly become pink, then red, and finally reddish-brown. Odor strong, alliaceous and persistent; taste bitter, acrid and alliaceous. When triturated with water Asafetida forms a white emulsion. When the freshly fractured surface of a tear is touched with sulphuric acid, a bright red or brownish-red color is produced. The tincture obtained by macerating 0.5 gramme of Asafetida with 10 millilitres of alcohol (90 per cent.), filtered, made alkaline with strong solution of ammonia, and then largely diluted with alcohol (90 per cent.), does not exhibit a blue fluorescence (distinction from and absence of galbanum). Contains not more than 50 per cent. of matter insoluble in alcohol (90 per cent.). Ash not more than 15 per cent." Br.

Much commercial asafetida of prime appearance fails to come up to the requirements of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. Large quantities are said to be returned from the United States ports to Europe on account of their failure to contain the proper percentage of material soluble in alcohol, and in reducing the requirements from 60 to 50 per cent. the revisers of the U. S. P. VIII yielded to a slight extent to the necessities of the situation, but the U. S. P. IX raised the percentage of alcohol-soluble constituents to 60 per cent. for asafetida and to 50 per cent. of powdered asafetida. Macerated in water it produces a turbid red solution, and triturated with that fluid it gives a white or pinkish milky emulsion of considerable permanence. Touched with nitric acid (sp. gr. 1.2) the tear becomes of an evanescent green color. In 100 parts, Pelletier found 65 parts of resin, 19.44 of gum, 11.66 of bassorin, 3.60 of volatile oil, with traces of acid calcium malate. J. Polasek examined the pure tears of Asafoetida amygdaloides, finding the following constituents: 61.40 per cent. of resin soluble in ether, which is regarded by him to be the ferulaic acid ester of asaresino-tannol; 0.60 per cent. of resin insoluble in ether, regarded to be free asaresino-tannol; 25.10 per cent. of gum; 6.70 per cent. of volatile oil; 0.06 per cent. of vanillin; 1.28 per cent. of free ferulaic acid; 2.36 per cent. moisture; 2.50 per cent. impurities. Asaresino-tannol has the composition corresponding to the formula C24H35O5. The author has prepared a benzoyl derivative, C24H33O5.C6H5CO, and an acetyl derivative, C24H33O5.CH6CO, which prove it to contain a hydroxyl group—viz., C24H33O4.OH. Umbelliferone was obtained as a secondary product of hydrolysis with sulphuric acid from asaresino-tannol, and was also obtained from ferulaic acid synthetically, guaiacol being produced at the same time. By nitrification of asaresino-tannol, picric acid is produced. (A. Pharm., 1897, ccxxxv, 125, 132.) The odor of the gum-resin depends on the volatile oil, which may be procured by distillation with water or alcohol, and amounts to from 6 to 9 per cent., according to Flückiger. It is lighter than water, colorless when first distilled, but becomes yellow with age, of an exceedingly offensive odor, and of a taste at first flat, but afterwards bitter and acrid. Hlasiwetz (Ann. Ch. Ph., lxxi, 23) considers it a mixture, in variable proportions, of the sulphide and disulphide of a compound radical consisting of carbon and hydrogen (C6H11). Allyl persulphide, which is sublimed when oil of mustard is heated with potassium persulphide, is said by Wertheim to have an extremely intense odor of asafetida, a fact which justifies the supposition that it may be identical with the oil of that gum-resin. (Gmelin, ix, 377.) Semmler, in a later study (Ber. d. Chem. Ges., 23, p. 3530, and 24, p. 78), states that it contains pinene and a second terpene in smaller amount, and in the higher boiling fractions, a disulphide, C7H14S2; a disulphide, C11H20S2; a body (C10H16O)n; a disulphide, C8H18S2; and C10H18S2.

The resin is, according to Hlasiwetz and Barth (Ann. Ch. Ph., cxxviii, 61), a mixture containing ferulaic acid, C10H10O4, crystallizing in iridescent needles, and obtained by precipitating the alcoholic solution with lead acetate, washing the precipitate, and decomposing it with diluted sulphuric acid. Submitted to dry distillation, the resin yields umbelliferone, C9H6O2, and blue-colored oils. Fused with potassium hydroxide, ferulaic acid yields oxalic acid and carbon dioxide, several acids of the fatty series, and protocatechuic acid. The resin itself treated in like manner, after it has been freed from gum, yields resorcinol. Tschirch (Harze und Harzebehalter, 1900, p. 234) states that the resin is the ferulaic ester of asaresino-tannol containing some free ferulaic acid, and some vanillin, which latter is a product of the oxidation of the ferulaic acid.

Impurities and Adulterations.—Asafetida is often purposely adulterated; it frequently comes of inferior quality, and mixed with various impurities, such as sand and stones. It is generally conceded to be the worst adulterated drug upon the market, the chief adulterant being gypsum. Portions which are very soft, dark brown, or blackish, with few or no tears, and indisposed to assume a red color when freshly broken, should be rejected. We have been informed that a case seldom comes without more or less of this inferior asafetida, and of many it forms the larger portion. It is sold chiefly for horses. A factitious substance, made of garlic juice and white pitch with a little asafetida, has occurred in commerce. Asafetida is said to be sometimes mixed with wheat or barley flour or with earthy matters at the place of its production, the impurities sometimes exceeding 30 per cent. The gum-resin imported from the Persian Gulf and Bombay is largely adulterated with sand and other gum-resins. Hingra of the Bombay bazaars is a very stony variety, composed largely of earthy matter. Gaul has recently reported having met with an asafetida containing 45 per cent. of sand. Patch (Proc. A. Ph. A., 1905, p. 183) has found asafetida on the market which yielded 62, 62.5 and 73.3, respectively, of material insoluble in alcohol. The Belgian inspectors reported in 1905 finding as high as 75 per cent. of ash in some commercial samples. In spite of these figures Gehe & Co. report that the quality of the available asafetida has materially improved.

J. U. Lloyd, after examining a large number of samples of commercial asafetida, was convinced that it is impracticable to obtain the crude drug of the official standard, gypsum, carbonates, and other insoluble matters being present in large amounts. He did not find white turpentine or rosin in any of the samples; exhausting asafetida with alcohol and evaporating the alcohol carefully, he obtained an extract for which he proposed the name of Purified Asafetida. (Ph. Rev., 1896.) H. William Jones (Y. B. P., 1900, 503) purifies asafetida by pouring a concentrated alcoholic solution into water slightly acidulated with hydrochloric acid, collecting the precipitate, washing and drying it.

A few years ago a new method was proposed for the detection of adulteration in asafetida which depended upon the combining power of the purified resins with the lead in a standard solution of lead acetate. This method, the details of which will be found inJ. A. C., vol. ii, p. 86, is called the lead number and has hardly been in use long enough to warrant its adoption as an official method. Some observers, including Rippetoe (A. J. P., 1913, p. 199) find it to be subject to fluctuations as yet unexplained. Harrison and Self (Ph. J., 1912, 205) present what they term a preliminary report on the investigation of this drug for the purpose of suggesting an improved method of standardization. They claim that there is good reason to believe that the virtues of asafetida are due not only to the volatile oil, but to the sulphur containing constituents of the volatile oil. They give abundant analytical data in support of their views and as showing how adulterations with other gum-resins may be readily detected. They state that if a gum-resin contains not less than 1.5 per cent. of sulphur it may unhesitatingly be pronounced as genuine asafetida. Bernegau and E'we propose a method for estimating asafetida in commercial tablets, pills, etc., depending upon extractions with hot chloroform under specified conditions. (Proc. P. P. A., 1912, p.305.)

Asafetida is sometimes kept in a powdered state, but this is objectionable, as the drug is thus necessarily weakened by the loss of volatile oil, and is more liable to adulteration. Powdered asafetida is best prepared by exposing the gum-resin to a low temperature for several hours or several days.

Uses.—Asafetida appears to have been used in the East from the earliest times of which we have any record and notwithstanding its repulsive odor is at present much used in India and 'Persia as a condiment. It is by some believed to have been imported into Europe as far back as the second century, but the earliest undoubted reference to it in European medical literature is in the twelfth century. Although it is without doubt capable of being absorbed from the intestinal tract in greater or lesser quantities there is no convincing evidence that after its absorption it exercises any distinct effect upon the system. Pidoux took a half an ounce at one dose without perceptible effects not ascribable to its local action. It has in the past been supposed to exercise a stimulant action upon the cerebral centers. The evidence in favor of this view is based upon the beneficial effects which have followed its administration in hysteria and conditions of nervous exhaustion. Its effects in these conditions, however, is entirely explicable on the grounds of the psychical impression made by taking a drug of so powerful odor and taste. On the other hand as a local stimulant to the mucous membranes, especially of the alimentary tract, it is a remedy of much value, thus it is a favorite carminative in the treatment of flatulent colic; it is often useful as an addition to laxative drugs in various types of constipation. There is evidence that after its absorption the volatile oil of asafetida is eliminated through the lungs and consequently it has been used as a stimulating expectorant in various forms of bronchitis, in whooping cough, and in asthma.

When used internally in adults it is generally preferable to administer it in the form of a pill on account of its disagreeable taste. In colic., especially in infants, it is often administered per rectum. For this purpose the emulsion of asafetida in the proportion of from one-half to one fluidounce to a pint of water may be employed.

Asafetida may be given in pill or emulsion. The tincture is official, and is much used. It may also sometimes be conveniently used in the form of a suppository, or plaster. (See Emplastrum Asafoetidae, 18th ed. U. S. D., p. 238.) A syrup has been recommended in which the fetid odor of the drug is disguised by the use of the infusion of wild cherry bark. (See A. J. P., 1871, p. 397.)

J. W. Wood prepared syrup of asafetida by dissolving 256 grains of asafetida in two fluid-ounces of glycerin by the aid of a gentle heat and straining. He then dissolved 15 drops of oil of wintergreen, 5 drops of oil of cinnamon and 1 drop of oil of bitter almond in 3 fluidrachms of 95 per cent. alcohol, and added to it the above, together with enough syrup to make one pint. Each teaspoonful represents two grains of asafetida. (A. J. P., 1874.)

Dose, of asafetida, five to ten grains (0.32-0.65 Gm.).

Off. Prep.—Emulsum Asafoetidae, U. S.; Pilula Aloes et Asafoetidae, Br., N. F.; Pilulae Asafoetidae, U. S.; Spiritus Ammoniae Fetidus, Br.; Tinctura Asafoetidae, U. S., Br.; Mistura Magnesiae, Asafoetidae et Opii (from Tincture), N. F.

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.