Fenugreek: The Versatile Herb

Words: Dr Chaithra S RAO

“Amma, my hair lacks lustre and volume.” “Amma, my face feels dry and dull.” “Amma, I’m in my periods and cramping.” “Maa, I am lactating scantily.” “Mom, I’m severely constipated.” “Ma, how is it that you are able to have good blood sugar control without medicines?”

My battery of questions to my mother from the never-emptying array of problems in my mind resulted in just the same answer almost always — the one and only fenugreek [methi]. The one-small-big-step, or ultimate home solution, for a myriad of issues, ranging from health concerns to cosmetics.

Fenugreek is an aromatic, bitter spice [herb] that is most familiar to the Indian household — thanks to its culinary value and the therapeutic role it plays as a simple, yet effective. kitchen remedy.

Many Uses

Fenugreek is famed for its anti-diabetic, also cosmetic uses — a remedy for skin and hair conditions, laxative, and every [wo]man’s health-promoting remedy.

Fenugreek goes by the botanical name, Trigonella foenum graecum, or methika [Sanskrit], methi [Hindi], menthe, or menthya [Kannada], metthi [Konkani], vendayam [Tamil], menthulu [Telugu], methi [Marathi], uluva [Malayalam], and methi [Bengali].

The parts of the herb majorly used are the seeds, fresh green leaves, and dried leaves. This useful herb, or pañcāṅga — the whole plant — including the roots, stem, leaves, flowers and fruits can be used as medicine, and they all are edible too. Fenugreek is one of the constituents of the ‘panchphoron’ [five-spice-mix] used in Bangla cuisine.

In Ayurveda, fenugreek seeds are valued for the following properties — unctuous, aromatic, digestive, carminative, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, and for providing strength and vigour. Fenugreek has also been praised for its value in increasing breast milk [galactogogue], besides its ability to induce uterine contractions. Fenugreek has a soothing effect on the gut mucosa owing to its mucilage — especially the soaked seeds and greens — in simple heartburn due to acidity — as also for inflammation and other conditions of the gut, like irritable bowels, ulcerative colitis and so on. One ought to essentially experience its fervour to know this multifaceted friend called fenugreek, grandma’s secret kitchen remedy for good health.

Fenugreek Register

Fenugreek, the power-packed nutrient has high water content with salts, dietary fibre, low fat and carbs. A rich source of folates, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, vitamin C and vitamin A, fenugreek also contains manganese, selenium, copper, zinc and iron. The leaves are rich in vitamin K.

Fenugreek should be a part of your daily diet. It can be infused in tea, or as powder, to deriving its rich phytonutrients.

The potent hypoglycaemic fenugreek contains one unique amino acid, four hydroxyisoleucine, probably the only plant found to be possessing it, which is also supposed to increase insulin secretion. It actively helps in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.

Fenugreek powder, singly, or in combination, can be consumed for easing high blood sugar.

Lady’s friend. Fenugreek is an important herb in every woman’s life. It has its significance in health and cosmetics too. Thanks to all its phytonutrients, fenugreek helps in the overall health of women. It helps in combating anaemia, menstrual cramps, pre-menstrual syndrome and perimenopausal issues. It has diogenin, which has oestrogen-like effects. Cosmetically, fenugreek has a vital role to play in the context of skin and hair. Hair oils infused with fenugreek are an all-time favourite in the conventional Indian household. Hair packs formulated with soaked and ground fenugreek are one of the best natural hair conditioners.

Use fenugreek in the form of powder, laddoos, or tea.

Constipation/diarrhoea. It may be surprising to some, but fenugreek is one such spice that is useful both in constipation and diarrhoea.

Use fenugreek powder, or tea, including the seeds and greens, in your daily diet. It aids bowel movement and the same powder with curd, or buttermilk, is useful in diarrhoea. As an anti-lipidaemic, fenugreek contains steroidal saponins. It helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from fatty foods and, thus, maintains lipid balance.

Use fenugreek as a powder, singly, or in combination, as a part of your cuisine.

The household cosmetic. Fenugreek is one of the favourites in Indian homes for hair fall, dryness of hair and dandruff — all common issues. It is also useful in skin conditions and to improving complexion and diminishing skin scars and dark spots.

Use fenugreek seeds soaked in water overnight and ground as a face pack, or hair pack. Fenugreek powder can be utilised for the same purpose too, or in combination with other herbs, for enhanced effect.

Emmenogogue. Fenugreek induces menstrual flow. It can be used in scanty menses and in regulating the flow. It is one of the best home remedies for increasing the production of breast milk during the puerperal period. It tones up the reproductive system post-labour too.

Use methi laddoos, or halwa, in puerpera.

Fenugreek in food. The literal meaning of fenugreek is ‘Greek Hay.’ It is an important spice in global cuisine.

  • Fenugreek is used as a seasoning agent in many of the Indian spice mixes and also in tempering
  • Sprouted fenugreek is used as a salad. It is best relished with the addition of grated coconut, chillies, seasoned with oil, and lemon juice. Sprouts may also be cooked and incorporated into various dishes
  • Fenugreek leaves fritters are fries in a rice batter with mixed ground spices
  • Fenugreek dosa. Pancakes/crepes are made with a black gram-based batter, or rice-based spicy batter
  • Kasuri methi, Dried fenugreek is used in tadka dal, lentil recipe and many other recipes, as a seasoning agent to add that unique flavour to the dish
  • Fenugreek leaves with lentils. A gravy-based lentil fenugreek recipe is popular in the subcontinent
  • Fenugreek parantha. Fresh fenugreek leaves are chopped and added to wheat flour, made into a dough and rolled into discs and roasted on a griddle
  • Fenugreek rasam is a recipe where fenugreek seeds are boiled, added with a little jaggery and seasoned, and served with hot rice
  • Fenugreek is also used to cure meat and is exclusively used in Greek recipes for curing beef called pastourma.

Other Uses

Fenugreek tea. Boil 10-25gm of fenugreek seeds [whole, or crushed] in about 200ml of water, simmer it for about 5 minutes, filter and consume hot. Sugar/jaggery/milk can be added [optional].

Fenugreek powder. Lightly roast fenugreek seeds and powder them, once cool.

Fenugreek is one potent herb, a tad bitter to the palate, yet sweet for good health. It is one spice too that enhances taste and improves overall health. It is one of the best detoxifiers, no less. It cleanses the blood, reduces burning sensation, hydrates the skin, hair and body, and helps in keeping illness under check. Incorporating fenugreek seeds, fresh greens and dried leaves in your diet will enhance the flavour of the diet and the overall flavour of your life.

Remember that fenugreek should be dry roasted to avail all of its aromatic principles.

Important. Consult your healthcare provider for the right dosages of fenugreek for you and also to know the ‘best’ combination of herbs that are specifically good for you.

Caveat. Fenugreek may sometimes induce bleeding in certain individuals. Pregnant women should avoid its use.

Dr CHAITHRA S RAO, BAMS, has a clinical experience of ten years in Ayurvedic medicine. She’s also trained in medicinal plant identification — botanical illustrations — folk medicine [Daithota Parampara], and ethnobotany, under the tutelage of [Late] Vaidya Venkatram Daithota. Her other interests include medicinal plant cultivation, farming, reading and analysing ancient literature, writing, bioecology, exploring traditional Indian cuisine, formulating medicines and preparations, veterinary sciences, conceptualising, thinking and brainstorming, aside from a great love for nature. Dr Rao is also the founder-partner, Ayurveda physician, and diet and lifestyle advisor, at Ayurvedeeyam, Bengaluru.

[This article was first published March 27, 2022].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven  +  one  =  

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.