Fenugreek is a small annual plant cultivated worldwide in the Fabaceae family with small oval leaflets that grow in triplets. It has small white flowers and long sickle like seed pods that produce fragrant seeds, smelling similar to maple syrup. It grows best with full sun in fertile, well drained, neutral to slightly acidic soils. It doesn’t do well when transplanted, so sow them about 1/4 deep 5-6 inches apart in sunny garden beds or in warm window boxes. They take about 6 weeks to produce mature seeds, and can be harvested and dried when the pods are mature, but before then begin to crack.
Fenugreek is a warming herb that affects the digestive, urinary, respiratory, and reproductive systems, acting as a stimulant, rejuvenative, tonic, expectorant, aphrodisiac, and diuretic. It’s been used as a medicinal herb since the time of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. It’s a good tonic for those recovering from illness, nervous tension, and fatigue. It is a good remedy for chest phlegm and excess catarrh, and is a mild demulcent, soothing the respiratory and digestive linings. It can help bronchitis and makes a good gargle for sore throats. It’s also shown to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, making it useful for late-onset diabetes. Typically, fenugreek is prepared as a decoction or a tincture; to remedy the bitter taste, anise seeds can be added to decoctions.
Fenugreek seeds can be added to curries and stews to help promote digestion, or sprouted and eaten to ease indigestion and calm the liver. The sprouts are high in iron and can be added to salads and vegetable dishes. The leaves, sightly bitter, can also be eaten, raw or cooked, and are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Indian cooking. It’s also known to promote breast milk flow, breast growth (especially with sprouted seeds), and aid hair growth, and when soaked in water, the seeds produce an emollient oil that softens the skin and tones the scalp. A teaspoon of the powdered seed in milk is a daily Aryuvedic tonic for health. Externally, fenugreek seeds can also be powdered and made into a poultice for use on boils and hard to heal sores and ulcers.
1-2 ml of a tincture, three times daily, or 1.5 teaspoons of the seeds infused in one cup of water, three times daily. To improve the flavor, add 1 teaspoon of aniseed. Fenugreek should not be used by pregnant women, as it can be an abortifacient, uterine stimulant, and promote vaginal bleeding. However, it can be helpful for menopausal women suffering from hot flashes.
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