Fenugreek

Trigonella foenum-graecum, Papilionaceae. The leaves (fresh and dried) and dried seeds (ground or bruised) are the parts of the plant used.

If gathering the leaves pull out the whole plant when it is in flower and before the seed pods begin to set.

If harvesting the seed, pick the sickle shaped pods individually just as they start to turn brown. Dry them by spreading them on newspaper or in paper bags. When the pods are completely dry they will split thus releasing the seeds.

Functions of fenugreek

The seeds have been shown to lower blood sugar levels which means they may be useful in treating late onset diabetes. Fenugreek:

  • has great use in local healing and reducing inflammation in conditions, such as wounds, boils, sores, fistulas and tumors.
  • can be taken to help bronchitis and as a gargle to sooth sore throats. An infusion from the seeds can reduce a fever.
  • contains bitters which make it useful in soothing disturbed digestion. It reduces acidity, increases the appetite and eases the pain of stomach problems such as diarrhea and gastroenteritis.
  • is a strong stimulator of milk production for breast feeding mothers, for which it is perfectly safe. It also has a reputation for stimulating breast development. An infusion from the leaves and stems is used to ease labour pain once the labour has started. A decoction made from the seeds or an infusion from the leaves and stems will ease a painful menstrual period.
  • poultice made from the ground seed can be used to ease the pain and inflammation of gout. It can also be used with inflammatory skin conditions, such as boils and acne.
  • drunk as an infusion made from the seeds acts as a general tonic.

Notes on fenugreek

  • Small amounts used in cooking are generally safe but do not take internally in medicinal doses during pregnancy.

Dosages

Decoction: to increase milk production, gently simmer 1- 2 teaspoonsful of the seeds in a cup of water for 10 minutes. Drink a cup three times per day. To make the drink more pleasant add 1 teaspoonful of aniseed to this mixture.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

Grow fenugreek from the seed in spring. The seed germinates easily. Fenugreek will grow in most soils, but prefers humus rich, well drained soils in an open sunny position. The plants tend to be small and thin so plant enough seeds to ensure a reasonable crop of the seeds.

References

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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