Ibn al-Qayyim described fenugreek in his book on "The Prophetic Medicine" as a leguminous herb. He said that some of the health benefits of this plant could be gained from drinking a concoction of fenugreek seeds, which he said could help to:
- Sooth a sore throat;
- Clear the respiratory tract;
- Help conditions like asthma, bronchitis, colic and breathing difficulties;
- Ease hemorrhoids and constipation;
- Relieve an stomach upset;
- Strengthen the heart.
He suggested applying a hot cooked fenugreek concoction to skin eruptions and cold sores to sooth and soften them, and using it for washing hair. This is probably due to the saponin present in fenugreek, which is a naturally-occurring compound that foams when mixed with water.
Ibn al-Qayyim also recommended cooking fenugreek with dates, honey or figs and eating this on an empty stomach to dissolve phlegm and relieve a persistent cough.
What Is fenugreek?
Fenugreek (botanical name Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant in the family Fabaceae, and is known in Arabic as hulba, and in Urdu as methi. It is used both as a herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seeds).
Fenugreek is rich in vitamins A and C, and iron and phosphorus. Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of the polysaccharide (a complex carbohydrate) galactomannan. They are also a source of saponins (naturally-occuring chemical compounds).
Some of the health benefits of fenugreek include:
- Breast Milk: fenugreek seeds are widely used as a galactagogue (milk producing agent) by nursing mothers to increase breast milk. Studies have shown that fenugreek is a potent stimulator of breast milk production.
- Cancer: in recent research, fenugreek seeds were shown to protect against cancers of the breast and colon.
- Diabetes: several studies have demonstrated the anti-diabetic effects of fenugreek seeds and their improvement of most of the metabolic symptoms associated with type-1 and type-2 diabetes.
- Heart Health: studies have shown that regular intake of fenugreek seeds can lower the risk of heart attack.
Tips on Using Fenugreek
- Fenugreek can be used as fresh or dry leaves, or as whole or ground-up seeds to spice up food.
- Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted to make a delicious, spicy salad ingredient high in vitamins A and C and amino acids.
- Fenugreek is easy to grow yourself at home. The seeds should be planted in late Spring and should germinate within a week and be ready to use in 6-12 weeks.
References for further reading
- Swafford S, Berens B. Effect of fenugreek on breast milk production. ABM News and Views 2000;6(3): Annual meeting abstracts Sept 11-13, 2000.
- A. Amin et al. (2005). "Chemopreventive activities of Trigonella foenum graecum (fenugreek) against breast cancer". Cell Biol Int 29 (8): 68794.
- E. Basch et al. (2003). "Therapeutic applications of fenugreek". Altern Med Rev 8 (1): 2027.
- S. Kaviarasan et al. (2006). "Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seed extract prevents ethanol-induced toxicity and apoptosis in Chang liver cells". Alcohol Alcohol 41 (3): 267273.
- J. Raju and R.P. Bird et al. (2006). "Alleviation of hepatic steatosis accompanied by modulation of plasma and liver TNF-alpha levels by Trigonella foenum graecum (fenugreek) seeds in Zucker obese (fa/fa) rats". International Journal of obesity 30 (8): 12981307.
- J. Raju et al. (2004). "Diosgenin, a steroid saponin of Trigonella foenum graecum (fenugreek), inhibits azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt foci formation in F344 rats and induces apoptosis in HT-29 human colon cancer cells". Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 13 (8): 13921398.
- K. Srinivasan et al. (2005). "Plant foods in the management of diabetes mellitus: spices as beneficial antidiabetic food adjuncts". International Journal of Food Sciences and nutrition 56 (6): 399414.
- V. Thirunavukkarasu et al. (2003). "Protective effect of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seeds in experimental ethanol toxicity". Phytother Res 17 (7): 737743. Prasanna M. Hypolipidemic effect of fenugreek: A clinical study. Indian J Phramcol 2000;32:346.
- Sharma RD, Sarkar DK, Hazra B, et al. Hypolipidaemic effect of fenugreek seeds: A chronic study in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Phytother Res 1996;10:3324.