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
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
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
The seeds might be effective against roundworms and
they contain some chemicals that have insect repellent properties and
can be used as an insecticide.
Alternatives and Adjuncts:
Topic Specific Research:
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.
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