In my "The not so modern beginnings of the modern age" post, I mentioned that my sister was trying to locate a sample of the herb asefetida. My 89 year old grandmother believes it was a miracle cure-all during her childhood. According to grandma, the herb was mixed with corn syrup and given as a tonic to children. Schoolchildren all over the United States were forced to wear bags of the herb around their necks in order to ward off disease.
My sister succeeded in obtaining a sample of the herb and all I can say is that a washed up whale carcasses rotting in the sun must smell better than this stuff. Imagine the smell of fennel gone terribly, terribly wrong and you will only have a vague sense of this herb's odor. Not only does it smell horrible but it is capable of defying three plastic ziplock bags and it lingers. No wonder people thought it was a cure all. My guess is that no one would get within 100 feet of anyone wearing an asefitda bag making it difficult to spread germs.
Thank goodness for the invention of liquid hand sanitizer.