Asant or asa fcetida was used during antiquity as a spice and as a medicament. As such it is mentioned in Sanskrit and other writings, e. g. in the Susruta (Comp. p. 16). The Egyptians and Hebrews do not appear to have used it. According to Garcia (De aromatibus), the silphion of the Greeks, and the laserpitium of the Romans, are identical with asa foetida.7) Among the later references it is first found in the writings of the Persian geographer Istachri1) of the 10. century, and those of the Sicilian geographer Edrisi2) of the 12. century. It is also mentioned as medicament in the writings of Ibn Baitar3) of the 11. century, and of Platearius4) of the 12. century. In a tariff list of Pisa of 1305 asa foetida is mentioned as an article that is imported from Aden via the Red Sea and Meditteranean route.5) Its geographic source and botanical origin were first ascertained in 1684 - 1685 by Adalbert Kasmpfer6) of Lemgo.
1) Valerii Cordi Historia de plantis. Lib. XI, cap. 135, fol. 158. - Fluckiger, Dokumente zur Geschichte der Pharmazie. 1876. pp. 23, 46, 54, 63, 72, 83, 85. - Petri Andreae Matthioli Commentarii in sex iibros Ped. Dioscoridis, De materia medica. Veneti 1554. fol. 1169.
2) Hieronymus Brunschwig, Liber de arte destillandi. De simplicibus. 1500. fol. 20.
3) Buchner's Repert. f. d. Pharm. 76 (1842), 167.
4) Berl. Berichte 15 (1882), 1741.
5) Bull. Soc. chim. II. 39 (1883), 114.
6) Berl. Berichte 29 (1896), 1181.
7) Sigismund, Die Aromata. Leipzig 1884. p. 45.
In the mediaeval treatises on distillation, asa foetida is not used by itself, but as an ingredient in the distillation of spirituous balsams.7) The volatile oil of asa foetida is apparently first mentioned in the price ordinance of Strassburg of 1685.