Other Names: Greek Hay Seed, Bird's Foot
The seeds of Fenugreek have been used medicinally all through the ages and were held in high repute among the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for medicinal and culinary purposes.
Fenugreek tastes bitter and peculiar, not unlike lovage or celery. Odor is similar.
Fenugreek contains iron, choline and lecithin (needed by the liver to metabolize fats and oils) and is high in vitamins A and D. Also contains B Complex Vitamins and glycoside Trigonellin (energy producer).
Medicinal Uses of Fenugreek as an Herb
In Cairo, Fenugreek is used under the name of Helba. This is an Egyptian preparation, made by soaking the seeds in water until they swell into a thick paste. Said to be equal to quinine in preventing fevers; is comforting to the stomach and has been utilized for diabetes. The seeds are soaked in water, then allowed to sprout, and when grown about 2 or 3 inches high, the green is eaten raw with the seeds.
Fenugreek is used to soften and expel mucous. It has antiseptic properties and will kill infections in the lungs. Used with lemon and honey, it will help reduce a fever as well as soothe and nourish the body during illness. The Chinese use Fenugreek to treat sweating and depression in menopause.
Fenugreek has been used to relax the uterus, and for this reason should not be taken by pregnant women.
Fenugreek seeds give a strong mucilage, which is emollient and a decoction of 1 ounce seeds to 1 pint water, used internally in inflamed conditions of the stomach and intestines. Externally it is used as a poultice for abscesses, boils, carbuncles, etc. It can be employed as a substitute for cod liver oil in scrofula, rickets, anaemia, debility following infectious diseases. For neurasthenia, gout and diabetes it can be combined with insulin. It possesses the advantage of being cheap and readily taken by children, if its bitter taste is disguised: 1 or 2 teaspoonful of the powder is taken daily in jam, etc.
Fenugreek water (used for dyspepsia or diarrhea): 1 ounce of seeds simmered in 1 pint (2-1/2 cups) of water in a covered pan for 15 minutes; cool and drink by the wineglassful.
Fenugreek has been approved by Commission E for:
- Loss of appetite.
- Inflammation of the skin.
Chinese Medicine. The herb is used to treat cold pain in the lower abdomen, impotence, and hernia (said to be due to cold 'chi').
Indian Medicine. The herb is used for fever, vomiting, anorexia, coughs, bronchitis, and colitis.
Culinary Uses of Fenugreek
Fenugreek seed herbal tea has a unique maple like flavor; lightly roasted ground seeds in curry; as a substitute maple flavoring; as a sugar substitute; seeds are also eaten sprouted.
Best mixed with other spices like cinnamon, cardamom, etc.
To prepare a tea, leave 0.5 gm drug to steep in cold water for 3 hours, then strain; the tea may be sweetened with honey.
Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. Sensitization is possible through repeated external administration of the herb.
There is a potential for the herb to interact with hypoglycemic drugs that are used to treat diabetes resulting in an exaggerated hypoglycemic effect.
Given its historical use for inducing childbirth, women should use caution when taking fenugreek during pregnancy.
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