Scientific: Trigonella foenum-graecum [WikiPedia]
Appearance: Fenugreek is an erect annual plant of the Fabaceae or the bean family. It has hairy, green and round stems with few leaf stalks and can grow to be about two feet tall (60 cm). It has trifoliate leaves and blooms white flowers tinged with violet in the early summer. The flowers develop into long brown pods which contain the fenugreek seeds. The seeds give strong special aroma not unlike maple syrup with a hint of celery.
Parts Used: The leaves and seeds. The leaves are picked in the summer and used fresh. The seeds are collected when they are ripe, dried and used in decoctions, pastes and powders.
Common Uses: Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal plants known to man and has been used for hundreds of years both in Eastern and Western herbal medicine. It has been touted as a panacea, something that could cure all ailments, by many cultures around the world. In modern times, the interest in the herb in the Western world has primarily been because of the alkaloid trigonelline found in the plant, which has been shown to have some potential in the treatment of liver and cervical cancer.
Recent scientific research has found that fenugreek seeds can help to reduce cholesterol in the blood. It is the herb’s unique fibre composition and the high content of saponins that are thought to be responsible for both the glucose-lowering and cholesterol-lowering effects.
It is used to treat diabetes in adults. Both clinical and laboratory research have shown that the herb contains many substance that help to lower blood sugar levels in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Fenugreek seeds contain diosgenin, a substance similar to the female sex hormone estrogen, and other plant phytoestrogens which are thought to promote breast growth in women. Diosgenin is used extensively in the pharmaceutical industry, including in the production of cortisone preparations and oral contraceptives. However there is no scientific proof that can confirm that fenugreek seeds can enlarge breast tissue and more studies are needed. Fenugreek seeds contain hormone precursors that can increase milk production in nursing mothers and it is widely used for insufficient lactation.
The leaves of fenugreek contain the substance choline and the seeds are an excellent source of the antioxidant beta carotene. Both substances may be helpful for memory loss, Alzheimer’s and to slow down the ageing process. Additionally, choline can be used to treat arteriosclerosis because of the ability to remove accumulated fat (cholesterol) from the artery’s walls. Tea made from the seeds has been used for a long time to treat lung disease such as bronchitis and asthma. It is also considered a good herbal remedy for sore throat and coughs. A mucus like substance found in the seeds has soothing properties by forming a barrier that protects the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract against mechanical and chemical irritation.
Some other traditional applications of the herb has been as healing agent, to remove tumours, treat infected wounds and due to its anti-inflammatory properties it has also been used to treat hemorrhoids, gout, rheumatism, muscle pain, treat halitosis and aching joints.
The seeds might be effective against roundworms and they contain some chemicals that have insect repellent properties and can be used as an insecticide.
- Keeps blood sugars, HbA1C, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in check
- Raises HDL (good) cholesterol
- Has abundant phytochemical compounds including choline, trigonelline diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin and neotigogens
Alternatives and Adjuncts:
Topic Specific Research:
- Fenugreek Seeds – Side Effects and Benefits [Ref]
- Fenugreek Herb [Ref]
- What Is Fenugreek Good For? [Ref]
- A review on therapeutic potentials of Trigonella foenum graecum (fenugreek) and its chemical constituents in neurological disorders: Complementary roles to its hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, and antioxidant potential. (PubMED) [Ref]
- A small plant with big benefits: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn.) for disease prevention and health promotion. (PubMED) [Ref]
PLEASE NOTE that herbal and other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.