Persian Asafoetida vs. Sagapenum: Challenges and Opportunities

Document Type : Review


1 Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.

2 Department of Phytopharmaceuticals (Traditional Pharmacy), School of Pharmacy, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.

3 Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran. Phytopharmaceutical Technology and Traditional Medicine Incubator, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.

4 Department of Biology, School of Science, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran.

5 Department of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, School of Pharmacy, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.

6 Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.

7 Department of Phytopharmaceuticals (Traditional Pharmacy), School of Pharmacy, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran. Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.


Asafoetida and sagapenum as valuable Iranian oleo-gum-resins from Ferula spp. (F. assa-foetida, F. persica, F. foetida and F. alliacea) have received interest during the history for producing valuable perfumes and common spices or as pharmaceutical agents. The aim of the present work was to characterize sources of asafoetida and sagapenum, according to botanical aspects, traditional and conventional medicine and phytochemical data. Available publications have been gathered from databases up to May 2019, and common Persian literatures were reviewed. We showed that sources for asafoetida and sagapenum should be differentiated botanically according to basal leaves, size of rays, fruits and petals. Furthermore, despite similarities, volatile sulfur components in F. assa-foetida are disulphides, in F. persica tri/tetra/pentasulphides, and in F. alliacea trisulphides. In the case of coumarins, conferol, conferone, farnesiferol A and B, samarcandin and samarcandin acetate are so far reported from F. assa-foetida and F. persica, and asacoumarin A from F. assa-foetida and F. foetida samples; while, persicaosides A-D have been reported only from F. persica. Moreover, farnesiferol C as the major coumarin in F. assa-foetida and mogoltavidin in F. persica would be new pharmacopeia markers. However, coumarins and essential oils similarities and differences among Ferula species should be more studied in a comparative research. Such studies would be essential for determining reliable sources and minimum requirements for standardizations of worldwide valuable wild growing medicinal and economical plants.


Main Subjects

[1] Iranshahy M, Iranshahi M. Traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida oleo-gum-resin): a review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011; 134(1): 1-10.
[2] Sattar Z, Iranshahi M. Phytochemistry and pharmacology of Ferula persica Boiss.: a review. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2017; 20(1): 1-8.
[3] George CK. Asafoetida. In: Peter KV, Handbook of herbs and spices. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing, 2012.
[4] Tehran Chamber of Commerce I, Mines & Agriculture. Asafoetida [Accessed 2019]. Available from:
[5] Editorial board. Iranian herbal pharmacopoeia. 1st ed. Tehran: Food and Drug Deputy of Health Ministry, 2002.
[6] Mozaffarian V. Identification of medicinal and aromatic plants of Iran. 2nd ed. Tehran: Farhang-e-Moaser, 2012.
[7] Zargari A. Medicinal plants. 6th ed. Tehran: Tehran University Publications, 1996.
[8] Aghili M. Makhzan-al-advia. Tehran: Tehran University of Medical Sciences Publication, 2009.
[9] Biruni A. Seydaneh fit teb. Tehran: Iranian Academy of Persian Language and Literature Press, 2004.
[10] Bak AI. Mojam al-Asma al-Nabatat. Tehran: Research Institute for Islamic and Complementary Medicine, 2004.
[11] Nafisi MAA. Pezeshki nameh. Tehran: Research Institute for Islamic & Complementary Medicine, 2004.
[12] Dymock W, Warden C, Hooper D. Pharmacographia Indica. 1st ed. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1893.
[13] Hooper D. Useful plants and drugs of Iran and Iraq. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1937.
[14] Mozaffarian V. Umbelliferae. In: Flora of Iran. 1st ed. Tehran: Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands, 2007.
[15] Mahendra P, Bisht S. Ferula asafoetida: traditional uses and pharmacological activity. Pharmacogn Rev. 2012; 6(12): 141-146.
[16] Kameli Z, Alizadeh A, Aboutalebi A. Bitter and sweet Ferula assa-foetida L. essential oil composition from Iran and its comparison with Ferula assa-foetida L. used in India. Int Res J Appl Basic Sci. 2012; 3(5): 919-923.
[17] Iranshahi M, Amin G, Sourmaghi MS, Shafiee A, Hadjiakhoondi A. Sulphur‐containing compounds in the essential oil of the root of Ferula persica Willd. var. persica. Flavour Fragr J. 2006; 21(2): 260-261.
[18] Kasaian J, Asili J, Iranshahi M. Sulphur-containing compounds in the essential oil of Ferula alliacea roots and their mass spectral fragmentation patterns. Pharm Biol. 2016; 54(10): 2264-2268.
[19] Barzegar A. Purification and structure elucidation of coumarins derivatives and sulfur compounds from roots and root culture, and chemotaxonomy of Ferula species. Ph.D. thesis. School of Pharmacy, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran, 2019.
[20] Kajimoto T, Yahiro K, Nohara T. Sesquiterpenoid and disulphide derivatives from Ferula assa-foetida. Phytochemistry. 1989; 28(6): 1761-1763.
[21] Iranshahi M, Amin G, Shafiee A. A new coumarin from Ferula persica. Pharm Biol. 2004; 42(6): 440-442.
[22] Abd El‐Razek MH, Wu YC, Chang FR. Sesquiterpene coumarins from Ferula foetida. J Chin Chem Soc. 2007; 54(1): 235-238.
[23] Bagirov VY, Gasanova RY, Burma O, Ban'kovskii AI. Coumarins of Ferula szovitsiana and F. persica. Chem Nat Compd. 1977; 13(2): 279-280.
[24] Banerji A, Mallick B, Chatterjee A, Budzikiewics H, Breuer M. Assafoetidin and ferocolicin, two sesquiterpenoid coumarins from Ferula assafoetida regel. Tetrahedron Lett. 1988; 29(13): 1557-1560.
[25] Abd El-Razek MH, Ohta S, Ahmed AA, Hirata T. Sesquiterpene coumarins from the roots of Ferula assa-foetida. Phytochemistry. 2001; 58(8): 1289-1295.
[26] Hanafi-Bojd MY, Iranshahi M, Mosaffa F, Tehrani SO, Kalalinia F, Behravan J. Farnesiferol A from Ferula persica and galbanic acid from Ferula szowitsiana inhibit P-glycoprotein-mediated rhodamine efflux in breast cancer cell lines. Planta Med. 2011; 77(14): 1590-1593.
[27] Razavi SM, Janani M. A new ester coumarin from Ferula persica wild, indigenous to Iran. Nat Prod Res. 2015; 29(8): 717-721.
[28] Asghari J, Atabaki V, Baher E, Mazaheritehrani M. Identification of sesquiterpene coumarins of oleo-gum resin of Ferula assa-foetida L. from the Yasuj region. Nat Prod Res. 2016; 30(3): 350-353.
[29] Iranshahi M, Mojarab M, Sadeghian H, Hanafi-Bojd MY, Schneider B. Polar secondary metabolites of Ferula persica roots. Phytochemistry. 2008; 69(2): 473-478.
[30] Lee CL, Chiang LC, Cheng LH, Liaw CC, Abd El-Razek MH, Chang FR, Wu YC. Influenza A (H(1)N(1)) antiviral and cytotoxic agents from Ferula assa-foetida. J Nat Prod. 2009; 72(9): 1568-1572.
[31] Buddrus J, Bauer H, Abu-Mustafa E, Khattab A, Mishaal S, El-Khrisy EAM, Linscheid M. Foetidin, a sesquiterpenoid coumarin from Ferula assa-foetida. Phytochemistry. 1985; 24(4): 869-870.
[32] Cha MR, Choi YH, Choi CW, Kim YS, Kim YK, Ryu SY, Kim YH, Choi SU. Galbanic acid, a cytotoxic sesquiterpene from the gum resin of Ferula asafoetida, blocks protein farnesyltransferase. Planta Med. 2011; 77(1): 52-54.
[33] Amalraj A, Gopi S. Biological activities and medicinal properties of asafoetida: a review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017; 7(3): 347-359.
[34] Upadhyay PK. Pharmacological activities and therapeutic uses of resins obtained from Ferula asafoetida Linn.: a review. Int J Green Pharm. 2017; 11(2): 240-247.
[35] Bandyopadhyay D, Basak B, Chatterjee A, Lai TK, Banerji A, Banerji J, Neuman  A, Prange T. Saradaferin, a new sesquiterpenoid coumarin from Ferula assafoetida. Nat Prod Res. 2006; 20(10): 961-965.
[36] El-Razek MHA, Ohta S, Hirata T. Terpenoid coumarins of the Genus Ferula. Chem Inform. 2003; 34(22): 689-718.
[37] Hajimehdipoor H, Esmaeili S, Ramezani R, Jafari Anaraki M, Mosaddegh M. The cytotoxic effects of Ferula persica var. persica and Ferula hezarlalehzarica against HepG2, A549, HT29, MCF-7 and MDBK cell lines. Iran J Pharm Res. 2012; 8(2): 113-117.
[38] Iranshahi M, Amin G, Amini M, Shafiee A. Sulfur containing derivatives from Ferula persica var. latisecta. Phytochemistry. 2003; 63(8): 965-966.
[39] Wallis TE. Textbook of pharmacognosy. 4th ed. London: CBS publishers, 1946.
[40] Nabavi S, Ebrahimzadeh M, Nabavi S, Eslami B, Dehpour A. Antioxidant and antihaemolytic activities of Ferula foetida Regel (Umbelliferae). Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2011; 15(2): 157-164.
[41] Gundamaraju R. Evaluation of anti-helmintic activity of Ferula foetida “Hing- a natural indian spice” aqueous extract. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2013; 3(3): 189-191.
[42] Javaid R, Aslam M, Javaid R, Nizami Q, Javed K, Azhar M. Extract of Ferula foetida Regel reverses gentamicin-induced nephrotoxicity in rats. Excli J. 2012; 11(1): 760-766.
[43] Safaeian L, Ghannadi A, Javanmard SH, Vahidian MH. The effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Ferula foetida stems on blood pressure and oxidative stress in dexamethasone-induced hypertensive rats. Res Pharm Sci. 2015; 10(4): 326-334.
[44] Kanani MR, Rahiminejad MR, Sonboli A, Mozaffarian V, Kazempour Osaloo S, Nejad Ebrahimi S. Chemotaxonomic significance of the essential oils of 18 Ferula species (Apiaceae) from Iran. Chem Biodivers. 2011; 8(3): 503-517.
[45] Duan H, Takaishi Y, Tori M, Takaoka S, Honda G, Ito M, Takeda Y, Kodzhimatov OK, Kodzhimatov K, Ashurmetov O. Polysulfide derivatives from Ferula foetida. J Nat Prod. 2002; 65(11): 1667-1669.
[46] Evans WC. Trease and Evans pharmacognosy. 16th ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009.