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Old Feb 8 2007, 10:35 AM   #1
Gidget2
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Default Inspiration for Numbweed?

As we all know, numbweed is something of a big stinky plant to mess with in order to get the beneficial ointment that is so unbelievably effective at 'numbing' external pain.

I was looking at some plant stuff earlier (for some inexplicable reason LOL) and came across a lovely umbellifer called Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida). As you may guess from the name, it's a bit whiffy!

Anyway, a resin-like gum can be extracted from the dried sap of the stem and roots, but is used a spice which can be used as a digestivre aid. It's odour (which is kind of sulfurous) is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers otherwise the aroma, which is nauseating in quantities, will contaminate other spices stored nearby. However, its smell becomes much milder in cooking.

Numbweed, as we know, exists only on Pern and is a native. It is a swamp-grower, stinks to high-heaven when its being stewed, but the resulting product doesn't smell as bad.

I know the immediate differences between the two, but could asafoetida have served, perhaps, as a Terran inspiration for Anne's creation of numbweed?

Oh, here is some science for anyone who is interested:

Dried asafetida consists mostly of a resin (25 to 60% of the total mass, 60% of which are esters of ferula acid) and a complex carbohydrate part (25 to 30%). The essential oil (10%) contains a wealth of sulfur compounds, mainly (R)-2-butyl-1-propenyl disulphide (50%), 1-(1-methylthiopropyl) 1-propenyl disulphide and 2-butyl-3-methylthioallyl disulphide. Furthermore, di-2-butyl trisulphide, 2-butyl methyl trisulphide, di-2-butyl disulphide and even di-2-butyl tetrasulphide have been found. (Phytochemistry, 23, 899, 1984)

The essential oil contains also some terpenes (α-pinene, phellandrenes) and hendecylsulphonyl acetic acid. Ethers of sesquiterpenes with coumarins have also been identified (farnesiferoles).
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Old Feb 8 2007, 03:09 PM   #2
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Default Re: Inspiration for Numbweed?

It does sound possible. Then again, Anne might have come up with the idea all on her own, unless she was very interested in researching lots of plants first...
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Old Feb 8 2007, 05:42 PM   #3
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Default Re: Inspiration for Numbweed?

I rather doubt it. Asafoetida doesn't have the topical analgesic properties of numbweed, isn't really a sap, and numbweed apparently just stinks while being cooked down. If you've ever smelled asafoetida, it stinks all the time. In fact it's profoundly foul. I ran into it once, in a powder form, in a natural food coop back in Dover, and opened the jar out of curiosity. Lesson learned. Won't be doing that again.
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Old Feb 8 2007, 08:27 PM   #4
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Default Re: Inspiration for Numbweed?

Could be a combination of Asafoetida with other plants e.g. Aloe Vera. After all, Ms Mccaffrey could have picked several different plants to combine into one, so it's the same but different. Possible.
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Old Feb 9 2007, 03:25 AM   #5
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Default Re: Inspiration for Numbweed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anareth View Post
I rather doubt it. Asafoetida doesn't have the topical analgesic properties of numbweed, isn't really a sap, and numbweed apparently just stinks while being cooked down.

That's what I was trying to say when pointing out the obvious differences between them - asafoetida is a digestive aid not an analgesic. But the powder you get in stores is made from dried sap from the roots and stems.

I think that all of the numbweed plant is used in the preparation of the ointment, isn't it? So presumably the beneficial part of the plant must be in the stem, root and leaves - possibly stored in the sap?

And I think Anne must have had some degree of plant knowledge (either already or researched) as she makes the Pernese rely almost entirely on natural remedies.

Yes, perhaps it is a mix of different plants
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