Active Ingredients. - Besides resin, gum and other unimportant substances, which constitute the chief bulk, asafoetida contains a variable quantity of volatile oil, upon the presence of which its odor and its properties essentially depend. The usual quantity is about 3.5 to 4.5 per cent. The composition of the oil, according to Hasiwetz, is a mixture of 2 (C2H11)S, and C6H10S. When newly distilled, like the essential oils of horseradish and black mustard, it contains no oxygen. It is lighter than water, and at first is colorless, but exposure to the air causes it to acquire a yellow tinge and also to become acid. The odor is very powerful, and, as evaporation proceeds rapidly, it is soon perceived at a long distance. The taste is at first mild, afterwards bitter and acrid. Phosphorus is probably one of its elements, and sulphur certainly, sulphuretted hydrogen being disengaged during the process of boiling. It dissolves in all proportions of alcohol and ether, but requires more than 2,000 times its weight of water for the aqueous solution. When the asafcetida itself is rubbed with water, the gummy matters dissolve, the resin and the volatile oil are suspended, and an emulsion is formed. The resinous matter is soluble in alcohol; and, if the alcoholic solution be mixed with water, a milky fluid is formed, owing to the deposition of the hy-drated resin.

Physiological Action. - The first complete investigations into the action of asafoetida appear to have been those made by Jorg. He ascertained that distinct effects followed the administration of a single grain, but that in different individuals there is very various susceptibility to its influence, and that even the characteristic smell of the drug, which has been asserted to be very evident in the secretions after employing it medicinally, is by no means constantly present. The administration of small doses causes alliaceous eructations, which often continue for twenty-four hours, showing what a length of time the medicine is retained in the stomach; the digestion is impaired; there are burning sensations in the fauces; there is pain, fulness, and oppression of the stomach; the abdomen becomes distended with flatus, which, when discharged, is of a very fetid and disagreeable character; there is frequent inclination to evacuate the bowels, and the discharge is thin and watery. The urine is not augmented in quantity, but becomes acrid, and communicates a sense of burning. The pulse at the same time is quickened; the head becomes more or less affected with flying pains, often attended by much giddiness; and various nervous and hysterical phenomena make their appearance. Jorg's statement that the menstrual period is advanced has been confirmed by numerous observations. The sexual desire also becomes excited. Like the pulse, the respiration becomes quickened, and the secretion of the bronchial membrane is promoted.

In larger doses, say ten to thirty grains, asafoetida increases the secretions both of the pulmonary organs and of the abdominal ones, especially those of the liver and bowels, the peristaltic action of which it augments. Appetite and digestion are quickened; morbid secretions of the mucous membrane are improved in quality; and if intestinal worms be present, they are expelled.

To persevere with the medicine too long has a tendency, however, to enfeeble the digestive organs; while larger doses than those indicated cause colic and heat in the abdomen, attended by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Upon all parts of the organic system, asafoetida in moderate doses appears, in short, to operate as a wholesome stimulant; and, especially in hysterical subjects, among other good results, it leads to improvement of vision and enlivening of the spirits. That these favorable results do not follow in all cases is quite likely, since a predisposition to benefit by this medicine appears essential; and possibly, in the majority of cases in which it may be employed, it may play, like other nervines, a part very subordinate.

Therapeutic Action. - Acting on the nervous system as a stimulant and powerful anti-spasmodic, asafoetida becomes useful in hysterical convulsive affections. Whooping-cough, asthma, and other nervous disorders are likewise usefully treated with it. According to Sydney Ringer, it is valuable in the flatulence of young children, when unconnected with constipation or diarrhoea, a teaspoonful being given every half-hour of a mixture consisting of a drachm of the tincture to half a pint of water. Sydney Ringer states at the same time that when flatulence has constipation or diarrhoea for its accompaniment the asafoetida does little good. In hysterical tympanitis, asafoetida may be administered with much benefit in the form of enema, or it may be taken internally. It is useful again in certain forms of chronic bronchitis and whooping-cough, by reason of its expectorant power; also in globus hystericus, and in hysterical cough. After all, in nervous affections nothing more must be expected of asafoetida than that it shall palliate certain symptoms. Substantial cures can only be looked for from medicines of greater energy. In old chronic catarrhs, especially when accompanied by spasmodic cough and by occasional difficulty of respiration, asafoetida alone, or combined with ammonia, gives decided relief.

Dr. Garrod says that he is "inclined, from the result of much observation, to regard asafoetida as one of the most valuable remedies of the materia medica; far above all other ordinary antispasmodics;" and he thinks "the value of the drug is chiefly due to the sulphur oil contained in it."

Preparations and Dose. - Asafoetidae, err. v. - xv. (.30 - 1.);

Mistura Asaf.,

Asafoetida Narthex Asafcetida 32

- j. (15. - 30.); Tinct. Asaf., 3 ss. - j. (2. - 4.); Pil.

Asaf.; Pil. Aloes et Asat. - dose of either No. 1 - 3; Suppositona Asaf.; Emplast. Asaf.