The Romans, Greeks and ancient Egyptians all cultivated fenugreek for its culinary and medicinal value, and today this tender annual plant has come right back into fashion.
Apart from all the antioxidants, what else do the seeds contain?
Along with all the antioxidants, fenugreek seeds have been found to contain protein, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, and diosgenin (which is a compound that has properties similar to estrogen) while other active constituents include alkaloids, lysine and L-tryptophan plus the steroidal saponins (diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin).
The health benefits of fenugreek are many
Diabetes - fenugreek seed has been found to reduce fasting blood sugar levels and improve glucose tolerance in patients with both types 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Healthy cholesterol – fenugreek seed has also been shown to significantly improve blood cholesterol levels including serum total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Sexual health - fenugreek has long been understood to increase libido as the seeds are rich in diogenin, a substance that mimics the activity of estrogen.
Digestion - When eaten, fenugreek seeds release mucilage, creating a soothing effect on the digestive organs, reducing gastric inflammation, reflux, flatulence and heartburn.
Skin inflammation - fenugreek is an effective topical treatment for skin problems such as abscesses, boils, burns, eczema and gout. Make a poultice of crshed seed warmed in water and apply.
Childbirth and lactation - fenugreek has long been believed to stimulate uterine contractions, speeding up and easing childbirth while also boosting milk production in nursing mothers.
Coughs, fever and flu symptoms - fenugreek has traditionally been used to ease coughing, reduce fever and relieve the accompanying flu symptoms. The seeds are combined with honey and lemon to make a soothing tea.
Menopause symptoms - fenugreek has natural estrogens making it effective in treating the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, anxiety and insomnia.
Cancer - Some studies have suggested that diogenin, found in fenugreek, may have anti-carcinogenic properties.
Fiber – with its rich fiber content, fenugreek is very useful in treating constipation (helping to avoid anal fissures and hemorrhoids) while acting as a preventive against cardiovascular disease.
Chapped lips - powdered seeds when mixed with petroleum jelly will soothe.
How do you make fenugreek tea?
This is made by grinding the seed and stirring 1 teaspoonful into a cup of boiling water and steeping until pleasantly warm. Sip slowly.
Fenugreek in the kitchen and the garden
- You can buy the seed from health shops or online and it can be grown indoors on trays or sprouted.
- Plant outside in the summer straight into the ground and thin the seedlings to about 2 inches apart as fenugreek is difficult to transplant. The plants like a sunny position with a fertile, well drained soil.
- Pick the leaves as required. The sprouts can be used in salads or for juicing. When the plant is a little older, cook as a vegetable with spinach or beans. It is especially tasty when added to curry dishes.
- Harvest the seeds when they ripen. Use for your next crop or roasted and crushed to use in curries.
- Fenugreek is great to plant as a green crop for those depleted soil areas in the garden and once they have reached maturity, dig the whole plants into the ground.
- Good as a companion plant for tomatoes, beans, lettuce, squashes and cucumbers, helping to keep insects away.
Along with other powerful herbs and spices, such as cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne pepper, fenugreek is a culinary spice that contributes a wealth of health benefits and can be safely consumed in moderate amounts by adding to food, making your own teas or taken in the form of supplements.