Fenugreek is a versatile herb. As well as being widely used as a spice by a variety of cultures, it is also used as a medicinal herb.
Fenugreek is also known by the botanical name Trigonella foenum-graecum and is used as a medicinal as well as a culinary herb. Like many herbs, fenugreek has a long history and heritage. Many ancient civilizations used the herb with the Egyptians being said to use fenugreek as part of the embalming or mummification process and the ancient Romans used fenugreek as cattle fodder.
Traditionally, fenugreek was grown in southern Europe, the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. Today however, its growth is widespread throughout the world.
The seeds have a bitter taste and are an important ingredient in many Indian curries. Unlike other spices that are used whole or crushed in curries, fenugreek is often ground and used as part of a masala. Fenugreek has a natural heat and this, combined with its bitterness, gives it a highly distinctive flavor.
Fenugreek as a Medicinal Herb
Fenugreek has long been believed to have medicinal qualities and it has had some pretty diverse uses ranging from being regarded as a breast enlarger, through to aiding childbirth or to relieve sickness and nausea. Different cultures have had their own specific uses of fenugreek. The global increase in interest in herbal remedies and medicinal herbs has resulted in the pulling together of information to give us a more complete picture of the herb's potential uses.
It is extremely important to note, however, that as with all herbal remedies and supplements expert advice should be sought if there is any doubt at all about the efficacy of an herb. The side effects of herbal remedies can be just as significant as those of chemical remedies and our bodies and those of our loved ones are too precious to take risks.
The Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is said to have a number of interesting benefits. Although fenugreek has a long history as a medicinal herb, much of its use has been as folk medicine. There has been little in the way of clinical testing or trials to support any benefits or provide scientific evidence. Three of the most researched benefits of fenugreek have some exciting possibilities:
- Help lower blood sugar and therefore used to treat diabetes
- Increase milk supply in nursing mothers
Fenugreek Side Effects
There are purported to be few side effects connected to the use of fenugreek as long as the maximum dosage guidelines are followed. A qualified natural health practitioner will be able to advise on what are safe levels for an individual to take and will take other factors into account such as your medical history.
Many authorities suggest that given the herb's long use as a childbirth aid, it should not be taken by pregnant women.
Fenugreek is widely available and is an affordable herb. An organic version of the herb is often available. Fenugreek as a medicinal herb is found as dried leaves, in powdered form, capsules, pills and as a tea. Fenugreek can be found extensively online and most of the main natural health websites offer the herb. These include:
Before taking any herbal remedy or medicine, it is useful to carry out further research to allow you to make a well informed decision as to the potential benefits and side effects of a herb. Fortunately, there are a wealth of excellent specialist websites that offer detailed information about medicinal herbs such as fenugreek. This includes references to studies and clinical trials that back up any claims. Some websites that offer more detailed information about fenugreek are:
Fenugreek as a Culinary Herb
Anyone who is interested in Indian cuisine will be familiar with fenugreek as a culinary herb. Many recipes are straightforward to replicate at home and with a little forward planning a feast can be prepared fit for a mogul! Some interesting recipes that would make a delightful Indian meal include:
- Aloo Methi - A spicy potato and fenugreek dish.
- Indian Butter Chicken - a recipe by the owner of the India Cuisine restaurant in Seattle, Washington, that uses dried fenugreek seeds.
Cooking with fenugreek is an excellent way to combine the unique tastes with the positive qualities of the herb.
Fenugreek is an interesting herb with a long heritage. Understanding more about fenugreek, its uses, benefits and side effects can help you decide whether it is going to play a part in your natural health routine.