Posted by admin | Posted in Fenugreek | Posted on 29-08-2010

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Trigonella foenum-graecum is from the Fabaceae family.

This herb goes under a variety of names including Bird’s foot; Greek hayseed; Methi. Fenugrec, fenugreek, Sénegré, trigonelle (French); Ziegenkraut, Bockshornklee, Griechisch Heu (German); fieno greco (Italian); alholva, fenogreco (Spanish); bockhornsklöver (Swedish); hu lu ba (Chinese); Abish (Amharic); Hulba, Hilbeh (Arabic; Chaiman (Armenian); Mithiguti (Assami). And there are many more.

Description: It is an erect, aromatic annual with trifoliate leaves. In spring and summer, solitary or paired yellow-white flowers tinged violet at the base are followed by beaked pods with yellow-brown seeds. The height reaches 24 inches with a spread of 12-18 inches

Cultivation: Fenugreek prefers full sun and fertile, well drained, alkaline soil. Sow thickly in rows 9 inches apart in spring for main crop and throughout the summer for young salad leaves. Use 15-22 kg seed per hectare. Thin to 4 inches apart; difficult to transplant. Pick young leaves as needed. Cut whole plant in autumn. The legumes are harvested before the full ripening off the seeds, which contain the alkaloid trigonellin and traces of ethereal oils. Dry the leaves and seed.

History: Fenugreek is native all over the Mediterranean region, in southern Asia, where it may have originated, and in the Horn of Africa. Romans imported fenugreek from Greece, where they found it to be as common as hay which gives it the second part of its species name. First term in its species name refers to the plant’s triangular leaves. The German name indicates that its seed-pods look like goat-horns and its leaves resemble clover.

Ancient Egyptians ate it as a vegetable, using the seeds to make incense and to embalm mummies. They also roasted the seeds as a coffee as well as using it medicinally. It had little importance for cooking but it was cultivated later on a fairly large scale as a medicine. The leaves contain courmarin, which gives them the sweet hay scent when dried. Cows enjoy its taste and the plant has been added to bad hay to make it more attractive fodder. Scent of the hay passes into the milk of cows.

Seeds were once thought to cure baldness. They were roasted and gobbled by women in harems, who hoped to make certain regions of their body hair more handsome.

Benedictine monks introduced the plant to central Europe and Charlemagne promoted it in the ninth century. It was grown in England in the 16th century. Long been a favorite of the Arabs and it was studied at the School of Salerno by Arabic physicians. Avicenna prescribed it for diabetes, a use it retains to this day, and it is now also used to lower blood pressure, in the oral contraceptive pill and in veterinary medicine.

It is a main ingredient in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.

Constituents: 28% mucilage, fatty oil, saponins, choline, lecithin, phyosterols and an alkaloid, trgonelline

Properties: It is a yang tonic, nutritive, carminative, uterine stimulant, locally demulcent, alterative, anti-inflammatory, digestive tonic, promotes milk flow, lowers blood sugar levels, aphrodisiac, aerial parts are antispasmodic

Energetics: bitter, warm, pungent

Meridians/Organs affected: liver, kidney

Medicinal: Uses have been an aid to digestion and to treat inflammations. Its seeds are high (40%) in mucilage, an emollient soothing to the skin and used as an emulsifier in drugs and food. The seeds also contain diosgenin, a steroid that can be converted to pregnenolone (a steroid formed during the synthesis of hormones) and progesterone, the anti-estrogen hormone secreted by pregnant women. The seeds are reported to contain chemicals that inactivate trypsin and chymotrypsin, enzymes making it possible for your body to digest protein. But there is no evidence that fenugreek used to season food has any such effect. Seeds are high in protein and contain trigonelline, a nitrogen compound found in many legumes. When trigonelline comes in contact with acids or is heated, it yields nicotinic acid (niacin), the B vitamin that prevents pellagra. Grind seed coarsely, infuse and drink as a tonic tea to stimulate digestion and milk flow, ease coughing, flatulence and diarrhea. Make a mushy poultice of crushed seed and hot milk for inflammation, ulcers, swollen glands, sciatica and bruises. Said to be effective in treating fevers. The seeds have galactogenic and anthelminthic properties; the ancients believed them to be aphrodisiac.

Applications: Decoction: Take as a warming drink for menstrual pain, stomach upsets, and, if a nursing mother, to increase milk flow. Disguise the bitter taste with a little fennel. Tincture: take for reproductive disorders and conditions involving kidney qi weakness. Prescribed with other gypoglycemic herbs in late-onset diabetes. Capsules: Prescribed to help control glucose metabolism in late-onset diabetes. Poultice: make the powdered herb into a paste and apply to boils and cellulitis. Aerial Parts are used in infusion: take for abdominal cramps, labor and menstrual pain. May also be made from sprouted seeds.

Research: In one open study of 60 type 2 diabetics, 25 grams per day of fenugreek led to noteworthy improvements in overall blood sugar control, blood sugar elevations after a meal and cholesterol levels. In a small single-blind controlled study, patients with type 1 diabetes were randomly prescribed with fenugreek at a dose of 50 grams twice daily as part of their lunch and dinner or the same meals without the powder, each for 10 days. Those on the fenugreek diet had significant decreases in their fasting blood sugar.

Toxicity: Fenugreek is a uterine stimulant, so avoid in pregnancy. The aerial parts may be used in labor. Although no adverse effects are known, if too much is used during nursing, the urine of mother and child may start to have a maple syrup odor, and could potentially lead to a misdiagnosis of ‘maple syrup urine disease.’ Fenugreek contains coumarin-like substances, and should be used with caution along with heparin, warfarin and other anti-coagulants.25 Due to its blood sugar lowering effects, using fenugreek may require a dose adjustment with glipizide and insulin. Insulin-dependent diabetics should seed professional advice before using fenugreek as a hypoglycemic.

FOR DEFECTIVE LACTATION: Combine 2 parts fenugreek seeds and 1 part anise seeds to make 2 teaspoons. Place seeds in 1 cup cold water. Bring to simmer, remove. Let stand 10 minutes. Take 1 cup 3 times daily.

Ritual Uses:  The seed of the herb may be steeped into an elixir, which will bring the wisdom of Apollo into one’s heart. It is used by priests who wish to invoke this Sun Deity, and is also burnt as incense in rituals of his honor.
Fenugreek is known as the plant of increase. It stimulates growth of all kinds. It’s used in fertility spells, in spells to enhance the size of one’s bust, and in spells to enhance the size of one’s bank account, too. Fenugreek provides wealth and protects against poverty

Place some fenugreek seeds in a jar. Every day add a few more. When the jar is full, bury in the earth and start all over again.

Scatter fenugreek seeds discreetly around your house and property to bring wealth.

Pour boiling water over fenugreek seeds to make an infusion. Strain the seeds out and use the liquid in the rinse water used for cleaning your floors.
This potion increases male sexual ability and vigor and may magically remedy impotence as well. Place two teaspoons of dried fenugreek in a cup and cover with boiling spring water. Steep for five minutes, then strain. Add lemon and honey to taste. If the flavor remains too medicinal, try combining with peppermint, also a strong aphrodisiac.

Wash the head with an infusion of fenugreek seeds to protect against demonic possession.

Other uses:
Dye: Boil seed for a yellow dye

Cosmetic Uses:
Seed contains up to 30% mucilage, protein, lecithin, vitamins and other valued conditioners. Infuse for a complexion wash. Powder and mix with oil for chapped lips, or use as a scalp massage for glossy hair. Try soaking seed until gummy and add to hand lotion recipes as an enriching, softening and thickening agent.

Culinary Uses: Taste is somewhat sweet but bitter—it has been compared to burnt sugar—and not very delicious in raw form, developing a nice aroma only when cooked. They should always be lightly roasted before use and grinding or pounding with a mortar and pestle. Overheating turns the seed red and bitter. A heavy iron skillet is ideal for dry-roasting the seeds. Hard to grind, fenugreek seeds are best pounded in a mortar after dry-roasting. It is found as an ingredient in various ready-made curry powders, and in American chutneys, spice mixtures and halva, the sesame-based sweetmeat found in India, Greece and other countries of the Middle East. The Swiss use a related species, Trigonella coerulea, as a cheese spice. Helba, a dish of northern Yemen, is made from boiled seeds, served as a purée with a garnish of fried onion and meat.

Fresh leaves have few culinary uses but sprouted leaves can be tossed into salads and the plant can be eaten as a vegetable when 8 inches tall.
Tastes good with/in: Indian curries of all kinds, Egyptian and Ethiopian breads, Berber spice mix, stews and to coat fried foods. Seeds are sprouted as a salad vegetable which is also eaten as a tonic for the liver, kidneys and male sexual organs. Dried leaves: boiled root vegetables. Seed extracts are used in synthetic maple syrup, and maple, vanilla, caramel and butterscotch flavors for the food industry.

Fenugreek Maple Puffs

1 Tbsp fenugreek seed
½ lb maple sugar
½ lb brown sugar
½ cup water
½ cup chopped dates
½ cup chopped candied orange peel
½ cup raisins
2 egg whites
1 cup English walnuts
Put fenugreek seed in a metal tea ball and boil with the sugar and water. Remove after 5 minutes and continue cooking syrup until it will spin a heavy thread. Beat the egg whites until very stiff, then gradually pour the hot syrup over them, beating constantly. When the mixture begins to stiffen, add the walnuts, dates, orange peel and raisins. Beat until it holds its shape. Place by tablespoonfuls on waxed paper and let stand until firm.

Potatoes with Fenugreek
Serves 4
1 lb new potatoes
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz fresh fenugreek leaves, finely chopped or 2 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp mango powder (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the potatoes and fenugreek leaves and cook gently until golden, 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle on the curry and cook for 5 minutes longer, stir often for an even golden brown color. Season to taste. Serve either hot or at room temperature. (The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices & Flavorings…Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz)

The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, Judika Illes, Harper Collins, 2004
The Lore of Spices, J.O. Swahn, Crescent Books, 1991
The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices & Flavorings, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, Dorling Kindersley, 1992
The Complete Book of Herbs, Lesley Bremness, Dorling Kindersley, 1988
Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Herbs and Spices, Fireside, 1990
The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism, Malcolm Stuart, Crescent Books
The Complete Book of Herbs, Spices and Condiments, Carol Ann Rinzler, Facts on File, 1992
The Master Book of Herbalism, Paul Beyerl
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, 1993

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