Fenugreek, known in India as methi (trigonella foenum graecum) is one of the oldest medicinal plants known to man, its recorded use extending back to the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt. The plant is an annual legume which grows one to two feet tall with a yellow flower. Its fruit is in the form of smell brownish yellow seeds in sickle shaped, thin pods about two inches long. It can be easily identified by its characteristic odour which is quite strong and reminds one of curry powder, of which it is a major ingredient. It is a very welcome resident in any herb garden as, by its nitrogen fixing action, it tends to improve rather than deplete the soil where it is grown. It should, however, be kept well away from herbs such as garlic, chives and onions as they will adversely affect its growth.
The seeds are the strongest part of the plant and the most widely used, containing approximately six percent of the alkaloid trigonelline. This herb promotes menstruation and stimulates the flow of milk in nursing mothers. It is demulcent (soothing to the mucus membranes), nutritive, diuretic (promotes urination), emollient (soothing to irritated skin), tonic, expectorant (assists in the removal of bronchial mucus) and carminative (relieves flatulence). It has the ability to positively influence high cholesterol levels and is an effective solvent of mucus.
The most common and effective way of preparing fenugreek is to make a tea by either grinding the seeds and infusing in boiling water or first soaking them for a few hours then gently simmering for ten minutes. Use approximately a level teaspoon of the seed per cup of water and vary the strength according to taste. Fenugreek tea may take some getting used to, but don't be discouraged by the flavour; simply add a little lemon juice and honey. Gradually, as you acquire a taste for the tea, you may even come to find that you enjoy it plain.
Fenugreek tea, in doses of up to six cups per day, is specific in the treatment of T.B. and its nutritive action greatly speeds recovery. It is very effective in the treatment of all respiratory tract ailments such as bronchitis, asthma, colds, flu, and also in the relief of fever. Its soothing, healing effect on the digestive tract will be appreciated in cases of peptic end gastric ulcers, indigestion, flatulence, colitis, etc. It is an extremely useful adjunct to medical and dietetic treatment of cardiovascular conditions such as arteriosclerosis because of its action on cholesterol. It is a general tonic and cleansing remedy. Taken regularly, the herb may be smelled in the perspiration as it increases elimination through the skin, aiding in any program of detoxification. When used for any of the above mentioned conditions, several cups of the strong tea should be taken daily; vary the dose according to individual need. The tea may also be used as a gargle for sore throats and laryngitis. Applied externally to eczema and prickly heat, it reduces itching.
This tea may be effectively used in the performance of such yogis techniques as neti and laghoo shankhaprakshalana for the treatment of specific conditions. In both cases the tea is used unsweetened. For neti, add a little self and use the tea lukewarm.
You will find it has a remarkably soothing effect and at the same time helps to brisk up and expel mucus, making it vary useful in such conditions as sinusitis and hay fever. In the case of laghoo shankhaprakshalana, simply vary the salt proportions according to whether the area which requires attention is the urino-genitel area or the digestive tract. More salt will decrease the absorption of the fluid from the colon while less salt will put the emphasis effect on the kidneys, bladder, etc. where it can help in cases of mild nephritis and cystitis.
A poultice which is effective in relieving pain and assisting the healing of boils, swollen glands, wounds and backache is made by grinding the seeds to a powder and mixing into a paste with bran, freshly ground chili, powdered charcoal and hot water. Where there is severe irritation of the skin, make up the same paste but leave out the chili and substitute a few drops of oil of lavender. This second poultice is particularly good where there is persistent itch. The seeds ground to flour have been used for thousands of years as a cosmetic base in the form of paste applied to the skin.
In India sweets made from powdered fenugreek, gum Arabic and brown sugar are given to mothers for about three months after delivery to ensure the flow of milk and to strengthen the blood. The same sweet is taken by all during the winter months to increase resistance.
The sprouted seeds ere a tasty addition to salads, breads, soups, etc and are very nutritious. They also contain an effective concentration of the reputed cancer preventive, vitamin B17 Indeed, the sprouted seed is probably the easiest way to get the most out of the herb and the juice of the sprouts is particularly good for people suffering from chronic, debilitating diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
This master herb is an effective preventive of disease as it greatly increases the overall vitality of the organism and all aspects benefit. Everyone would be well advised to drink a cup of this tea daily and to make the sprouted seeds a regular part of the diet as prevention is always better than cure.