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Fact-check: Asafoetida poses health risks for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers 

Published on Tue 28 Feb 2023 at 12:00

Despite its purported health benefits, asafoetida should be consumed with caution. It is not recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, infants, people with bleeding disorders, epilepsy, hypertension.

By Naveed Ahmad Najar

A growing number of online content creators promote home remedies that claim to provide “natural treatments” for a range of health issues. Not surprisingly, many of them have a huge following that takes these claims at face value. 

For example, a YouTube video titled ‘Benefits of Heeng’ –garnering 86,000+ views when last checked – states that asafoetida (a popular, pungent spice) can alleviate various health problems, such as digestive issues, stomach pain, heart disease and infections, to name some. 

While there’s not enough scientific evidence to prove that asafoetida can cure any of these ailments, studies show that the spice can have harmful side effects in people with certain medical conditions, such as bleeding disorders, epilepsy, hypertension or low blood pressure, as well as in pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. 

Dr Kavita Kore, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Aundh Government Hospital, Pune, recommends consuming small quantities of asafoetida in food. She warns against the consumption of large quantities of raw asafoeteda, which may lead to miscarriage in pregnant women and blood disorders in nursing infants through breastfeeding mothers. 

Dr Nishigandh Athavale, an Ayurvedic practitioner from Maharashtra, concurs that asafoeteda should be used with caution and only after consulting with a certified healthcare professional. Given that asafoetida is commonly used in herbal remedies, especially in Middle Eastern countries and India, it’s important to be aware of the ingredients, particularly in the case of infants.  

All said and done, home remedies may offer a simple and inexpensive way to treat a variety of health problems. However, without robust scientific studies to confirm their efficacy and safety, they often pose hidden health risks.