The stikking healer. Also called hingisch, laser, laser-pitium, silphium, king, cyrenaicua succus, hindisch, devil's dung. It is the fetid concrete juice of a plant which grows in Persia, and other parts of the eastern countries. Kempfer says, that the plant resembles lovage, and that it is the root which yields the gummy juice. See Kempfer's Amoenitates Exoticae. It is the juice of the ferula asafaetida Lin. Sp. Plant. 356. Wildenow 539, Sp. 11. Nat. order umbellatae. Philosophical Transactions, vol. Ixxv. The plant, however, greatly differs from that described by Kempfer. This juice is whitish at first, but it gradually becomes browner and harder. The best pieces that are brought into Europe are of a pale and yellow red colour, variegated with white masses or tears. This gum hath a strong fetid smell, like that of garlic, and a nauseous bitter biting taste, which it loses by keeping. Its smell and taste reside in the resinous part, which is 1/3 of the whole; spirit is therefore its best menstruum, though water extracts the greatest part of it by the aid of the gummy matter, consisting of 2/3 In distillation with water the impregnation is strong, and a pale coloured essential oil is received; the remaining decoction affords a bitter extract. In the East, as by the ancients, it was used as a condiment, and has been thought an aphrodisiac.
As a medicine it is the strongest; of all the deob-struent, fetid, warm gums; some suppose it more diaphoretic and expectorant than the gum ammoniacum, and more useful as a carminative and an emmenagogue than any other of the fetid gums. When it disagrees, the milder gums of similar efficacy should be used in its stead. The next to it is the gum galbanum; which, if too strong, must give way to the gum sagapenuro, or to the still milder gum ammoniacum, or to myrrh, or to the wild valerian root, which is still milder. In flatulencies, and all the symptoms called nervous, it acts as an anodyne and antispasmodic; though sometimes the addition of opium greatly improves its efficacy. It is by far more quick in its effects than any other of the fetid gums; and it is the speediest in relieving the anxieties and oppressions of the precordia, which frequently attend nervous disorders, and nervous fevers: but in such cases its efficacy is also increased by joining it with opium, and sometimes, if not too nauseous, with valerian: one part of the first to two parts of the last may be a general proportion. Large doses of asafoetida, with a blister on the back, have relieved in epilepsies, and in palsies that succeed epilepsies. In the nervous asthma, joined with an equal quantity of the gum ammoniacum, it greatly relieves; but it sometimes fails, and then the bark is to be tried.
In hysteric complaints, fetids are only palliatives; in hysteric suffocations, a plaster of asafoetida 3 vi and caniphor 3 ss, mixed, by far excels those made of the gum galbanum; for camphor softens all the resins, and renders them more soluble. In hooping-cough it has been highly commended; and may probably be very useful, for its expectorant powers are considerable, and it is an excellent antispasmodic. In croup it has been also employed. When it cannot be given by the mouth, it may be safely and advantageously administered in clysters, from a scruple to the youngest children,, to three drachms to adults, in from two to four ounces of water, and in this state it is an effectual destroyer of ascarides. We cannot find that it has been in any other respect useful as an anthelmintic. Externally it has been reckoned an useful application in bubo and paronychia. In nervous cases it acts as an anodyne sometimes where opium fails, and without leaving any lowness on the spirits: and where neither succeeds separately, they often answer if joined. Cullen's Mat. Med. The dose of the powder is from ten to thirty grains.
The officinal preparations are, the pil. e gummi, consisting of two parts of galbanum, opoponax, myrrh, and sagapenum (each), and one part of asafoetida. We have found however the asafoetida, with soap and a small portion of aloes, a better form. Dissolved in spirits, it is more useful and quick in its operations. Of the fixed alkaline salt, a pound and a half is employed in disengaging the alkali of a pound of sal ammoniac, and this mixture is distilled with four ounces of asafoetida from three quarts of proof spirits. This - is the volatile, fetid spirit of the dispensatories. The tincture consists of four ounces of the gum to a quart of spirit of wine.