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.This plant is also used commonly both as a food and spice, being one of the aromatic herbs, it is used in traditional medicinal uses. It is very much well known in Egypt for a long time ago. Egyptian papyri mention the plant as one necessary for the mummification process. Its common name is fenugreek or Greek hay seed or bird’s foot. Its botanical name is Trigonella foenum-graecum. Its arabic name is Hilba, hilbeh. 



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The parts used are mostly the seeds. However, sometimes the fresh leaves are used in cooking by Indians or dried and used as flavoring.

Fenugreek Seed

It is indigenous to the eastern Mediterranean countries, India and Africa, even up to China.

A wide range of uses were found for fenugreek in ancient times. Medicinally it was used for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis, bronchitis, and digestive problems. Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract.

Its name is taken from Latin Trigonella which corresponds to the Greek  trigonon meaning “triangle”, probably refering to the triangular shape of the flowers. The Latin species name foenum graecum means “Greek hay”, referring to both the intensive hay fragrance of dried fenugreek herb and its Eastern Mediterranean origin.

The herb is bitter and aromatic. Dry roasting can enhance the flavour and reduce the bitterness, provided care is taken not to overheat the seeds.

 Its main constituent is mucilage, two alkaloids trigonelline and choline- phosphates, lecithin and nucleoalbumin. Its essential oil is quite minute in quantity but contains many components such as n-alkanes, sesquiterpenes, alkanoles and lactone  and many others. Fenugreek seeds contain alkaloids and proteins, and is high in lysine and L-tryptophan, as well as containing substances called steroidal saponins and mucilaginous fibre. The saponins and fibre are thought to be responsible for many of the benefits of Fenugreek. The steroidal saponins are thought to inhibit cholesterol absorption and synthesis. 


In medicinal uses a preparation where seeds are soaked in water until they swell and form a thick paste is used to prevent fevers, is comforting to the stomach and has been utilized in diabetes. In combination with conventional medicine e.g. insulin, it is helpful in gout, diabetes and neurasthenia.

The saponins are thought to inhibit cholesterol absorption and synthesis, and may also have a positive effect on blood sugar control in people who suffer from diabetes. In terms of weight control, the soluble fibre in fenugreek seeds can reduce dietary fat absorption by binding to fatty acids as well as create a sensation of "fullness" and reduced appetite. Thus it is a good agent for reducing serum cholesterol.

The herb affects cholesterol levels in the same fashion as Pectin. Fenugreek also contains saponins. The saponin-containing plant fibres could inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol much the same as Alfalfa saponins do (i.e. by absorbing bile acids and increasing the loss of bile acids by fecal excretion, which then leads to an increased conversion of cholesterol into bile acid by the liver).


It is a very well known galactogogue, which is widely used in folk medicine from a very long time ago.

Fenugreek seeds are also considered one of the cleansing herbs used on the body to eliminate built up waste materials, toxins and fat from the arteries.

Fenugreek is also used in anaemia as it contains good amount of vitamin B. Also used in rickets and scrofula.


Alcoholic tinctures are used to prepare emollient cream, ointments and plasters while the mucilage is use externally as a poultice for skin infections such as abscesses, boils and carbuncles.

It is administered as a poultice, ointment, infusion or tincture.


 Fenugreek is very widely used as culinary herb and considered safe as a food supplement. It is used as a flavoring for both human and animal feed. However, because fenugreek has potential uterine stimulating properties which could potentially lead to miscarriage, it should not be used during pregnancy in any form.

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