Fenugreek consists of the dried ripe seeds of a small, southern European herb known technically as Trigonella foenum-graecum L., a member of the family Fabaceae. It is variously referred to as trigonella or as Greek hayseed. The seeds contain up to 40 percent of a mucilage causing them to be used in various poultices and ointments intended for external application. Fenugreek has also been administered internally for stomach ailments, again due to its soothing mucilaginous properties. Small animal studies have revealed a number of potential therapeutic applications of the seed. These include its use in treating baldness, cancer, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, inflammations, microbial and fungal infections, and stomach ulcers.
In India, fenugreek seeds have traditionally been used as a treatment for diabetes. Various studies have identified hypoglycemic activity of various fenugreek seed extracts in rabbits, rats, and dogs. The effects have been attributed to a number of components, including a defatted seed faction, nicotinic acid, coumarin, and trigonelline. Fenugreek does contain a number of steroidal sapogenins, including yamogenin and diosgenin, which could contribute to some traditional therapeutic applications for the herb. Several small, and mostly uncontrolled, human studies have shown a reduction in plasma glucose concentrations and insulin responses in non-insulin-dependent diabetics. The mechanism of action is not clearly understood. A recent study showed that fenugreek seeds significantly lowered serum cholesterol levels (14 percent reduction) in a twenty-four-week study with sixty non-insulin-dependent diabetics.
The taste of the seed, somewhat reminiscent of maple sugar, accounts for its use as a spice and a flavoring agent, especially in imitation maple syrup. Fenugreek is soothing, flavorful, and even nutritious.
Fenugreek is often used in herbal medicine in North Africa, the Middle East, and India, being esteemed as a remedy for a wide variety of conditions. The nourishing seeds are given during convalescence and to encourage weight gain, especially in anorexia. They are also helpful in lowering fever, with some authorities comparing their ability to that of quinine. The seeds' soothing effect makes them of value in treating gastritis and gastric ulcers. They are used to induce childbirth and to increase breast-milk production. Fenugreek is also thought to be antidiabetic and to lower blood cholesterol levels. Externally, the seeds may be applied as a paste to treat abscesses, boils, ulcers, and burns, or used as a douche for excessive vaginal discharge. The seeds also freshen bad breath and help restore a dulled sense of taste. In China, fenugreek is used as a pessary to treat cervical cancer.
Other medical uses
- Hantavirus, High Triglycerides.
- Add freshly chopped young leaves to salads, vegetable bean soups, stews, and cauliflower and potato dishes. Use sparingly, as the leaves are rather bitter.Use ground fenugreek seeds in your favorite curry dishes. Ground seeds are an essential ingredient of curry powders, oriental sauces, and spice mixtures, and halvah, the delicious Jewish sweetmeat.Flavor pickles, chutneys, especially mango, with fenugreek seeds, either ground or whole.Sprout the seeds to add to salads or sandwiches. Simply cover the bottom of a container with a thin layer of seeds. Rinse seeds, and leave overnight in a bowl of cold water. In the morning, put the seeds in a plastic container and place it in a warm, dark spot. Rinse the sprouts twice a day to keep them fresh. After each rinse, return the container to its warm location. You should have fresh sprouts ready for eating in about 4 days. (If you notice any fungus growing on the seeds or sprouts, discard them.)Fenugreek seeds or extracts are used commercially to flavor pickles, baked goods, candy, condiments, chewing gum, soft drinks, gelatins, pudding, ice cream, icing, and syrups, such as maple, caramel, butterscotch, and vanilla.In India, roasted seeds are used as a coffee substitute.