Fenugreek is an erect, strongly scented, annual herb with compound leaves of light green color, yellow flowers and thin pointed pods. It grows up to about 30 to 80 cm in height. The seeds are brownish-yellow and have a peculiar odor.
It has excellent medicinal virtues. Its regular use helps keep the body clean and healthy. The leaves of fenugreek are aromatic, cooling and mild laxative. The seeds exercise soothing effect on the skin and mucous membranes, relieving any irritation of the skin and alleviating swelling and pain.
Fenugreek leaves contain moisture 86.1 percent, protein 4.4 percent, fat 0.9 percent, minerals 1.5 percent, fiber 1.1 percent and carbohydrates 6.0 percent per 100 grams of edible portion. The mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, iron, phosphorous, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C.
Fenugreek seeds contain moisture 13.7 percent, protein 26.2 percent, fat 5.8 percent, minerals 3.0 percent, fiber 7.2 percent and carbohydrates 44.1 percent per 100 grams. The mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorous, carotene, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin. Several alkaloids have been found in fenugreek seeds.
The seeds contain alkaloid trigonelline and choline, essential oil and saponin. Trigonelline has highly toxic action on neuromuscular preparations. The seeds also contain fixed and volatile oil, mucilage, bitter extractive and a yellow coloring substance. Air-dried seeds contain a little amount of trigonelline and nicotinic acid.
Botanical Name- Trigonella foenum graecum
Indian Name- Methi
Below are some of the medicinal properties of fenugreek:
- Tea made from fenugreek seeds is equal in value to quinine in reducing fevers. It is particularly valuable as a cleansing and soothing drink. Fenugreek seeds, when moistened with water become slightly mucilaginous, and hence the tea made from with them has the power to dissolve sticky substance like mucus.
- During the early stages of any of the respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, influenza, catarrh and suspected pneumonia, fenugreek tea help the body to perspire, dispel toxicity and shorten the gestation period of fever. One can take up to 4 cups of the fenugreek tea. The quantity may be reduced as the condition improves. To improve flavor, a few drops of lemon juice can be used. During the treatment, no other food or nourishment should be taken, as fasting aids the body to correct these respiratory problems in a few a days.
- This tea soothes inflamed stomach and intestines, cleansing the stomach, bowels, kidneys and respiratory tract of excess mucus. It is also useful in the healing of peptic ulcers, as the mild coating of mucilaginous matter deposited by fenugreek provides a protective layer for the ulcers, when it passes through the stomach and intestines.
- Fenugreek leaves are useful in the treatment if flatulence, indigestion and sluggish liver. Boiled and fried in butter, they alleviate biliousness. The seeds are also useful in the treatment of colic, flatulence, dysentery, diarrhea and dyspepsia.
- Its tea used as a douche is very effective in treating leucorrhea. The solution is prepared in the same manner as for throat gargle.
- Its leaves help in blood formation. The cooked leaves help prevent anemia and run down condition in girls, usually associated with the onset of puberty and a sudden spurt in growth. The seeds also help in recovering from anemia, being rich in iron.
- Fenugreek seeds help restore the deadened senses of taste or smell. The sense of taste dulls due to improper functioning of the salivary glands which often become clogged with mucus and accumulated juices, causing swelling. Similarly, the sense of smell is obstructed due to prolonged accumulations of mucus and other impurities in the nose where the olfactory nerves, that is, the special sensory nerve of smell are based.
- The tea is also useful in bad body odor. Unpleasant odors emanate from the body due to accumulations of hardened mucus and other toxins in the nasal and oral passages, the gastro-intestinal tract the urinary tract, the blood and the vagina. Fenugreek tea, taken regularly helps remove these accumulations from these spots where mouthwash and soap can never penetrate.
- Fenugreek seeds can also be taken for diabetes. The normal dose is 2 teaspoons of powdered seeds taken daily in broth or milk. Two teaspoons of the seeds can also be swallowed whole daily. Alternatively, they may be soaked in a cup of water at night and the water taken in the morning.
- A gargle made from fenugreek seeds is highly beneficial in ordinary sore throat. For the gargle, the solution should be much stronger than the tea. Two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds are put in a liter of water and allowed to simmer for half an hour over a low flame. It is cooled to room temperature and strained. The entire liquid is used as a gargle.
- A poultice of the leaves can be applied with advantage in external and internal swellings. It is also useful in burns due to its cooling properties.
- Fenugreek seeds fried in ghee are finely powdered, with wheat flour and sugar to prepare a paste (halwa). Taken in small quantity daily, this helps in quick normalization after delivery. The seeds, made into gruel and given to nursing mothers increase the flow on milk.
- A paste of the fresh leaves applied over the scalp regularly before bath, helps hair grow. It helps preserve the natural color and keeps the hair silky. The paste applied on the face every night before going to bed and washed with warm water, prevents one from getting pimples, blackheads, dryness of the face and early appearance of wrinkles. It also improves complexion and makes one look years younger.
- Its seeds are effective in the removal of dandruff. Two tablespoonfuls of the seeds are soaked overnight in water. In the morning, the softened seeds are ground into a fine paste and applied on the scalp and left on for half an hour. The hair is then washed thoroughly with soapnut (rita nut) solution or shikakai. A paste of fresh leaves of fenugreek applied over the scalp regularly before washing the hair also cures dandruff.
- Fenugreek helps in the healing of mouth ulcers. An infusion of the leaves is used as a gargle for recurrent ulcers.