This ayurvedic herb's name comes from the Farsi aza (resin) and the Latin foetidus (smelly), and its fetid odor was thought to repel illness. Known primarily as a spice, asafoetida is used in ayurvedic medicine to promote gastrointestinal function. It's a digestive stimulant that relieves intestinal cramping from gas; it also promotes laxative action and can eliminate intestinal parasites. The plant is also a potent antioxidant, and research suggests it may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Asafoetida is used commonly in Indian cooking but less so as an herbal medication. There are no reports of side effects in adults, but it should not be given to infants or used by pregnant or nursing women. Because it's a heating herb, it's inappropriate for heat-related conditions like fever or inflammation.