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Fenugreek

Trigonella foenum graecum

Known as methi in India, Fenugreek is an annual herb with dark green colour compound leaves. Seeds are brownish in color and have typical odor. They are in long seed vessels i.e. pods. Leaves and seeds are edible part of the plant which have food as well as medicinal value.

Including fenugreek in diet is a normal practice in India and neighboring countries. Ayurved recommends shat-rasatmak ahar (food including 6 types of juices). These are madhur (sweet),amla (sour), lavana (salty), tikta (bitter), katu (pungent) and kashay (astringent). If we will deliberately include all the 6 juices our diet, then the diet will be a really balanced diet which ultimately will give us long life and good health. Fenugreek contains tikta rasa (bitter juice) which helps in cleaning accumulated ama (toxins in body) thus helping in maintenance of our health.

It is said that tikta rasa food substances like fenugreek help in reducing med-dhatu (fatty tissue) which in turn helps in reducing weight. The leaves of fenugreek in cooked form help in indigestion and relieve flatulence. In post fever convalescence and in dyspepsia (hampered digestion by any reason) they help in restoring digestive system. To some extent they help in improving functions of liver and this is the reason a soup of fenugreek with few other edible herbs is given in conditions like kamala ( a type of Jaundice).

The herb is rich in vitamins and minerals. Leaves and seeds contain calcium, phosphorus, few vitamins from B-complex group in addition to vitamin C. It is also rich source of iron. Both leaves and seeds should be included in normal diet of family, especially diet of growing kids, pregnant ladies, puberty reaching girls and elder members of family because they have haematinic (i.e. blood formation) value.

One ayurvedic school says, substances which have tikta rasa (bitter juice) have diaphoretic properties. A decoction or a herbal tea prepared out of fenugreek and few other substances is used as a diaphoretic mixture in few Indian tribes. Fenugreek has mild laxative property which also helps cleaning ama (toxins) chocked in body systems thus helping restoration from illness. A poultice prepared from fenugreek and few other substances helps soothing irritation of skin and in addition reduce swelling of the part. Soutikshastra (ayurvedic gynecology and midwifery) has recommended use of fenugreek in promoting lactation in breast feeding mothers.

One ayurvedic sanhita (mega book) says fenugreek helps in improving digestive tract functions and should be regularly used as a cleansing agent. It further says, fenugreek helps in cleaningama (toxins) and clogged mucous in respiratory and digestive systems. According to this book, fenugreek is also useful in healing of different ulcers in digestive tract. In chronic problems like ulcerative colitis etc. fenugreek is claimed to give protective coating to digestive tract thus helping in giving relief.

Another school of ayurved has claimed the results in diabetes mellitus. One teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds are soaked in water for whole night and this water should be taken empty stomach in the morning is a suggestion.

We normally eat food which contains madhur (sweet), amla (sour) and lavana (salty) rasa only. This makes diet deficient. Substances like fenugreek help us in adding 4th rasa i.e. tikta. They also help us in re-activating all the 6 senses which our tongue has.

In short fenugreek has cleansing properties. It helps in balancing our diet because its bitter juice is equally important constituent of diet. It also helps for reduction of weight. A decoction or an herbal tea prepared out of fenugreek and other substances is a proven diaphoretic mixture. Fenugreek increases iron levels in pregnancy and improves lactation after delivery. Leaves are rich source of vitamins and minerals.

By Dr. Satish Kulkarni

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1 comment to Fenugreek

  • Adam

    Fenugreek seeds smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup. Fenugreek leaves are eaten in India as a vegetable.

    Fenugreek is taken by mouth for digestive problems such as loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, inflammation of the stomach (gastritis). Fenugreek is also used for diabetes, painful menstruation, polycystic ovary syndrome, and obesity. It is also used for conditions that affect heart health such as “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) and for high blood levels of certain fats including cholesterol and triglycerides.

    Fenugreek is used for kidney ailments, a vitamin deficiency disease called beriberi, mouth ulcers, boils, bronchitis, infection of the tissues beneath the surface of the skin (cellulitis), tuberculosis, chronic coughs, chapped lips, baldness, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and exercise performance.

    Some men use fenugreek for hernia, erectile dysfunction (ED), male infertility, and other male problems.

    Women who are breast-feeding sometimes use fenugreek to promote milk flow.

    Fenugreek is sometimes used as a poultice. That means it is wrapped in cloth, warmed, and applied directly to the skin to treat local pain and swelling (inflammation), muscle pain, pain and swelling of lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), pain in the toes (gout), wounds, leg ulcers, and eczema.

    In foods, fenugreek is included as an ingredient in spice blends. It is also used as a flavoring agent in imitation maple syrup, foods, beverages, and tobacco.

    In manufacturing, fenugreek extracts are used in soaps and cosmetics.

    How does it work?
    Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.

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