is a slender annual herb of the pea family (Fabaceae). Its dried seeds,
used as a food, a flavouring, and a medicine. The seeds' aroma and
taste are strong, sweetish, and somewhat bitter, reminiscent of burnt
sugar. They are farinaceous in texture and may be mixed with flour
for bread or eaten raw or cooked. It was used by the ancient Egyptians
and is mentioned in medical writings in their tombs. The Romans grew
it as fodder for their cattles. Historically, the main usage of fenugreek
was medicinal rather than as a labour. The botanical name trigonella
refers to the angular seeds and foenum graecum translates as 'Greek
hay', which explains its use as cattle feeds.
to India and Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, the plant
is cultivated in central and southeastern Europe, western Asia, India,
and northern Africa. The plants are erect, loosely branched, less
than 3 feet (1 m) tall with trifoliate, light green leaves and small
white flowers. The slender pods are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long, curved
and beaked, and contain ten to twenty yellow-brown seeds--flat rhomboids
characterized by a deep furrow, less than 0.2 inch (1 cm) long. The
seeds are about 0.5 cm in diameter and are irregularly shaped, very
hard, and tan or mustard coloured.
volatile oil content of fenugreek is very small (less than 0.02%).
It also contains fixed oils at about 5% - 7%. They contain the alkaloids
trigonelline and choline and a yellow colouring matter. It is rich
in proteins, minerals and vitamins.
herb is a characteristic ingredient in some curries and chutneys and
the fenugreek extract is used to make imitation maple syrup. Because
of its high nutritive contents, it is an important ingredient in vegetable
and dhal dishes eaten in India. In India, young fenugreek plants are
used as a pot herb. The leaves are widely used, fresh or dried, in
Indian cooking and are often combined with vegetables. Fenugreek seeds
are used in a wide range of home-made or commercial curry powders.
In northern Africa the plants are used for fodder.
and other use
was used in Middle Ages to cure baldness. It is still used in Indonesia
as hair tonic. It is traditionally used to stimulate the metabolism
and there by to control the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients.
It is useful in lowering the blood pressure and because of its high
iron content it is also given in cases of anaemia. Fenugreek is used
medicinally as a digestive aid and to promote lactation in both women
and in cows. The seeds have been used as an internal emollient for
inflammation of the digestive tract and as an external poultice for
boils and abscesses; but their present medical use is principally
confined to the treatment of cows and horses. It contains diosgenin,
a compound used as a starting material for sex hormones in the pharmaceutical
industry. The powder is sometimes used as a dye.