The Latin name Fenugreek means ‘Greek hay’ because through history this bulk herb has mainly been used as animal fodder. Other names include Foenugreek, Goat’s Horn, and Bird’s Foot. Fenugreek grows wild in India, North Africa, and the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe. Both the seeds and leaves are used because of their nutritional value.
Fenugreek is a member of the bean family. It grows one to two feet tall, with white or pale yellow flowers. The pods are thin and sword-shaped (notice the name Goat’s Horn?), and are four to six inches long with ten to twenty seeds in each. The plant matures in about four months. Then the entire plant is pulled up, dried, and used.
Fenugreek is available whole and dried, or as a dull yellow powder ground from the roasted seeds. If you like all the technical jargon, fenugreek contains alkaloids, lysine and L-tryptophan, steroidal saponins (diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin) and mucilaginous fiber. Fenugreek is a natural source of iron, silicon, sodium, and thiamine. Fenugreek is also an excellent source of selenium, an anti-radiant that helps the body utilize oxygen.
Fenugreek herbs are great for the digestive system. It contains a large amount of fiber. This type does not dissolve but swells when it comes in contact with fluids. This works it a natural laxative. Fenugreek also lowers blood pressure.
Fenugreek is able to regulate blood sugar levels and to lower levels of harmful cholesterol. When taken with meals, fenugreek can slow the rate of sugars’ absorption in the body. One amino acid found in fenugreek may cause an increase in the production of insulin when blood sugar rises. However, it is used with insulin, not in place of it. A poultice of fenugreek may sooth irritated skin and relieve surface aches and pains. It is also used for boils, cysts, and other complaints.
Fenugreek was used back in ancient Egypt to combat fever. Fenugreek fights infection, relieves congestion, and reduces inflammation. Fenugreek contains properties that are ideal for treating sinus problems and lung congestion. Excess mucus and phlegm are loosened and removed. Fenugreek reduces coughing and stimulates perspiration that in turn will reduce a fever. It is also beneficial for treating allergies, bronchitis, and congestion.
A tea can be made by soaking a teaspoon of seed with two cups of water for five minutes. A coffee is also made in India from the seeds. The leaves are used in meat curries, both fresh and dried. A spicy bread is made with fenugreek powder added to the flour.
The poultice is made by mixing two ounces of fenugreek seed powder with a quart of hot water. Then let the mixture stand until it makes a thick gel. About one ounce with each meal or up to three ounces per day is a common dosage of the seeds to help with lowering cholesterol or treating diabetes. As a tincture, three to four ml of fenugreek is recommended three times per day. Fenugreek tea is made by soaking two ounces of seeds in about five ounces of cold water for at least three hours. Then remove the seeds and drink either hot or cold.
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