Friday, February 8, 2008

Fenugreek - Trigonella foenum-graecum - (Medicinal Herbs)

Botanical: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Family: Leguminosae (legume) - Fabaceae (pea)

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) or menthya (Kannada) or Venthayam (Tamil) or menthulu (Telugu) or Methi (Bangla,Marathi) belongs to the family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is used both as a herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed). It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop. It is frequently used in curry.

The name Fenugreek or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay". Zohary and Hopf note that it is not yet certain which wild strain of the genus Trigonella gave rise to the domesticated Fenugreek but believe it was brought into cultivation in the Near East. Charred Fenugreek seeds have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq, (radiocarbon dating to 4000 BC) and Bronze Age levels of Lachish, as well as desiccated seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamen.

Ancient Egyptians would eat the greens of this plant as a vegetable and use the seeds as incense to aid childbirth and as part of their embalming rituals. Women in harems would eat Fenugreek seeds in the belief that they would become more desirable. Today, Fenugreek is known to support the respiratory system. It contains natural expectorant properties ideal for treating sinus and lung congestion, and loosens and removes excess mucus and phlegm.

Fenugreek stimulates the production of mucosal fluids helping remove allergens and toxins from the respiratory tract. Acting as an expectorant, Fenugreek alleviates coughing, stimulates perspiration to reduce fevers and is beneficial for treating allergies, bronchitis and congestion. It is not only used to relieve congestion, but also to reduce inflammation and fight infection. Fenugreek is also an excellent source of selenium, an anti-radiant, which is believed to help the body utilize oxygen.

It is also a natural source of silicon, sodium and thiamine. Fenugreek contains mucilagins which are known for soothing and relaxing inflamed tissues. The steroidal saponins account for many of the beneficial effects of Fenugreek, particularly the inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis. The seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which may be the main reason it is also thought to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes.

USES: Fenugreek seed has been used for stomach upset, swelling (inflammation) of the upper air passages or throat, appetite, for lowering blood sugar, and for softening the stool. It also has been used as a gargle to relieve sore throat, and as an external dressing for swelling (local inflammation). Some herbal/diet supplement products have been found to contain possibly harmful impurities/additives. Check with your pharmacist for more details regarding the particular brand you use. The FDA has not reviewed this product for safety or effectiveness. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details.

SIDE EFFECTS: Stomach upset may occur when a large quantity of Fenugreek has been used. If this effect persists or worsens, contact your doctor promptly. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

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