The amazing healing powers of Asafoetida

What is Asafoetida?

Asafoetida, also known as Narthex or Hing, its powder is commonly used in Indian cooking.  Recognized by its overwhelming odour when raw, which has given rise to at least one of its many popular names, “devil’s dung”
Asafoetida is a plant from the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, parsley, dill, celery, fennel,  Most similar in appearance to fennel, asafoetida smells like rotting feet, which causes many cooks to feel nervous about using the herb.
This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment and in pickles. Its odour, when uncooked, is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise the aroma will contaminate other spices stored nearby. However, its odour and flavor become much milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic.
Asafoetida is an herbal medicine used to treat nervousness, bronchitis, and gas pain. Other names for Asafoetida include: Ferula foetida, Devil’s Dung, and Giant Fennel. Asafoetida is a species of Ferula native to Iran. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2 m tall, with stout, hollow, somewhat succulent stems 5-8 cm diameter at the base of the plant. Asafoetida is the dried latex exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula , which is a perennial herb..
The leaves are 30-40 cm long, tripinnate or even more finely divided, with a stout basal sheath clasping the stem. The flowers are yellow, produced in large compound umbels. There are two main varieties of asafoetida. Milky white asafoetida and Red asafoetida. Asafoetida is acrid and bitter in taste and emits a strong disagreeable pungent odour due to the presence of sulphur compounds therein.

Benefits and Uses of Asafoetida

  • It is used to help relieve flatulence, abdominal pains, and digestive disorders and will kick-start peristalsis to prevent constipation.
  • Asafoetida is commonly used to treat bloating and gas to prevent flatulence, but it also quells stomach cramps, eases indigestion, and relieves constipation.
  • Asafoetida combines the properties of a stimulating antispasmodic with those of an efficient expectorant, making it a valuable remedy in spasmodic affections of the respiratory tract, as whooping-cough, asthma, etc.
  • It is powdered and mixed with ghee and rice and served to women after childbirth.It helps in relieving toothache.
  • Using the dried gum, this herb helps relieve headache pain and shows promise in treating migraines and tension headaches when mixed with water.
  • Efficient in preventing snake bites and repelling insects when mixed with garlic.
  • Asafoetida used for food stagnation, weak digestion, intestinal parasites and flatulence as well as asthma, whooping cough and chronic bronchitis.
  • It is also a laxative , especially useful in cases of flatulence.
  • Asafoetida was one of the most commonly prescribed herbs for the treatment of hysteria and for many symptoms associated with mood swings and depression.
  • Benefits of Asafoetida seed treatment for jowar becomes immune to drought conditions, increase in resistance to diseases, increase in crop yield.

Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup

This is nice and easy and delicious! I found this recipe from about.com and thought I should share it with you.
Tom Yum Thai Spicy Soup Recipe with a vegetarian twist. Tom Yum Soup is currently under study for its ability to boost the immune system and help fight off cold and flu viruses. This vegetarian version is easy to make, and just as healthy (if not more so!) than the original recipe. Make this easy soup today as an appetizer, for lunch, or as a nutritionally complete dinner. You’ll love how it warms you up from the inside!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 cups good-tasting vegetable or faux chicken stock (makes 4 servings)
  • 1-2 stalks lemongrass, minced (see link below), OR 3-4 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass (available at Asian stores)
  • 3 whole kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Asian food stores)
  • 1-2 cups soft tofu, sliced into cubes
  • 1-2 red chilies, sliced, OR 1/2 tsp. dried crushed chili, OR 1-2 tsp. chili sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, sliced into thin matchstick-like pieces
  • 1 cup fresh mushroom (I used shiitake), sliced
  • 2 cups baby bok choy, leaves separated or chopped if large, OR substitute broccoli or bell pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 can good-quality coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. soy sauce (use wheat-free for gluten-free diets)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil + 1/3 cup fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped

Preparation:

  1. For complete instructions on how to buy and cook with lemongrass, see: All About Lemongrass: Your Guide to Buying, Preparing, and Cooking with Lemongrass.
  2. Pour stock into a soup pot. If making the stock from cubes or powder, but sure to make it strong (if it tastes good on its own, it will make for a better Tom yum soup!). Now add the prepared lemongrass, plus the lime leaves, chili, garlic, and galangal or ginger. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, or until broth is very fragrant.
  3. Add the mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.
  4. Add the bok choy and cherry tomatoes. Gently simmer 1-2 more minutes (bok choy should remain on the crisp side).
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the coconut milk, sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice. Finally, add the soft tofu and gently stir.
  6. Do a taste-test, adding more chili or chili sauce if not spicy enough. If not salty enough, add more soy sauce or a little more stock cube/powder or salt. Add 1 more tsp. sugar if too sour. If too salty or sweet, add another squeeze of lime juice.
  7. To serve, ladle soup into bowls with fresh basil and coriander sprinkled over. Enjoy!

Vitamins Alert!

Do we get enough vitamins from the food we eat? How much vitamins do we need and how do we know if we have enough? These are the common questions that are running through our mind, especially the health conscious.
Being a vegetarian, a large part of my diet is vegetables, beans, pulses and toufu. But after reading articles and having some feedback from other vegetarian friends, they gave me the impression that Vitamin B, especially B12 may be lacking in our diet. So I googled on Vitamin B and here it goes, thought I should share with more people:

What are the Vitamin Bs?

The primary group of the B vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cyanocobalamin). In addition, there are numerous sub-groups of the Vitamin B family which are considered less pertinent to human needs, but important to other organisms and some animals.  These include B4 (adenine), B8 (inositol), B13, (orotic acid), B17 (amygdalin), B20 (carnitine), and more.

Food sources

Some foods which are considered to be high in some of the Vitamin B group are chili peppers, lentils, bananas, potatoes, and tempeh (soy based).  In addition, molasses and brewer’s yeast are good sources of B vitamins.
Oats, barley, wheat bran, avocado, salmon, Brazil nuts (and other nuts) are more good sources of B vitamins.
Dairy products and eggs are high in vitamin B12. For vegans, fortified cereal, fortified soymilk and brewer’s yeast are sources of B12 which are required in trace amounts.

The Need for Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is needed for cell division and blood formation. Neither plants nor animals make vitamin B12. Bacteria are responsible for producing vitamin B12. Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foods contaminated with vitamin B12 and then the animal becomes a source of vitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms or have vitamin B12 added to them. Thus, vegans need to look to fortified foods or supplements to get vitamin B12 in their diet. Although recommendations for vitamin B12 are very small, a vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem leading ultimately to anemia and irreversible nerve damage. Prudent vegans will include sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Vitamin B12 is especially important in pregnancy and lactation and for infants and children.

Importance of Vitamin B

The Vitamin B group is beneficial and even necessary for healthy bodies in numerous ways, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Supports healthy metabolism.
  • Helps maintain healthy skin and muscle tone.
  • Improves immune system function.
  • Improves nervous system function.
  • Helps promote cell growth and division, including red blood cells.
  • Helps combat symptoms of stress, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

Deficiencies in certain B vitamins can result in such illnesses as beriberi, anemia, heart disease, and birth defects.