An Ancient Medicinal Spice
Best known and used as a culinary spice, Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) has a slightly bitter taste likened to celery, maple syrup or burnt sugar. Although it is used extensively in tonics, spice blends and Indian cuisine, Fenugreek is more than just a cooking ingredient. Recorded in an ancient papyrus, its early use by the Egyptians dates back to 1500 B.C., where it was used as an embalming spice. History has shown Fenugreek may have remarkable health and medicinal uses, from easing digestive problems, to stimulating milk production in lactating mothers, to easing inflammation and a whole lot more.
Fenugreek, also known as methi, is an annual herbaceous plant native to Southern Europe, the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. Growing up to 3 feet tall, its trifoliate leaves can be eaten raw as salad or used in cooking. Small white flowersdevelop into long, slender, sickle-like yellowish-brown pods which yield 10 to 20 Fenugreek seeds. The unique flavor and aroma of these yellow to brown rhombic seeds comes from the compound sotolon.
Fenugreek seeds are dried and can be used whole or ground to a fine powder. Not only is it a popular spice used in traditional ethnic cuisine, Fenugreek can also be used as a dye, as a forage plant and for medicinal purposes.
Nutrients and Benefits
Fenugreek seeds are loaded with nutrients including lysine, L-tryptophan, pyridine, alkaloids (tigonelline), thiamine, flavonoids, amino acids, sapogenins, volatile oils, vitamins and minerals such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon and sodium.
One of the oldest known medicinal spices, Fenugreek may have a wide range of health benefits including:
- Aiding digestion and helps promote gastro-intestinal health
- Helping maintain heart health and healthy weight due to the presence of the natural soluble fiber, galactomannan
- Stimulating appetite - may be useful for those looking to gain weight
- Regulating blood sugar levels by slowing down sugar absorption and stimulating insulin production due to the presence of certain amino acids
- Maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels due to its high saponin content
- Helping relieve respiratory congestion - Fenugreek is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help break down phlegm
- Providing relief from PMS and menopause due to the presence of diosdenin and isoflavones known to have estrogen-like properties
- Stimulating milk production in lactating mothers
- Relieving muscular pain and swelling