Your Friend, Fenugreek! Words: Lakshmi Harilela
Fenugreek known as methi in Ayurvedic medicine, is classified as a bitter, medicinal herb, plant or spice. It is comprised of the the seeds, leaves and the twigs, these are mainly used for cooking, although there are many other uses of this powerful herb. In Indian cuisines there are popular dishes that incorporate methi leaves and seeds into them, examples include the popular ‘methi aloo’ (fenugreek leaves with potato) and some various curry bases which are considered tasty and nutritious. The seeds and leaves in particular are considered to be the more nutritional and medicinal part of the plant, thus are used in various Ayurvedic medicines and treatments. There are references to fenugreek in Egyptian times, as the plant was used to embalm the mummies.
Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, favored fenugreek as one of his favorite medicinal herbs to use. In fact even nowadays it is used for nursing mother’s to increase their milk flow. For women that breastfeed they usually see a difference in their milk production within 24 to 72 hours of taking it, this is an indication of how powerful and potent this healing herb can be. Not only used for the production of milk in breast feeding women, but also used to ease the anxiety of childbirth itself, fenugreek is said to stimulate the uterine contractions that induce childbirth.
Fenugreek seeds have a high vitamin A and C count as well as containing iron, calcium and trace minerals. The seeds are considered great sources of protein and carbohydrates. For digestive issues such as digestive inflammation, heartburn or gastritis, fenugreek seeds soaked in water overnight can relieve such symptoms. It can also aid in the prevention of constipation and digestive disturbances or ulcers in the mouth or stomach. This is probably the reason why in Ayurvedic cooking, the seeds and leaves are used quite generously. A great Ayurvedic secret is soaking the seeds in water overnight and mixing it with grated ginger and ingesting a little before the meal for the digestion. This works especially well for those with little digestive fire or ‘agni’ as Ayurveda terms it.
Fenugreek has antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties, and if the seeds are soaked overnight and pulsed into a paste, the paste can be placed on the body for relief of inflammation from pain or swelling. With the addition of honey, this very same paste can be used as an acne treatment, especially for cystic type acne. It draws out toxins from under the epidermis and tones the outer layers of the skin. That is why in India fenugreek oil can be used for the skin or hair as a beauty aid. Adding honey to the mixture not only escalates its benefits, but makes it tastier as it can be used on the face as a mask or ingested internally. With the high vitamin C content, it gives skin the glowing beauty that is desired by many women.
Being well known as as a liver detoxifier, the tiny fenugreek seeds can help purify the blood and help the blood clot faster. In addition, fenugreek can benefit those with high blood pressure or hypertension. Speaking of blood, it is also used amongst diabetics as it has the ability to reduce glucose levels as well as triglycerides and serum cholesterol levels. It also aids in PMS and menopausal symptoms and can deliver overall relief from period cramps and/or hot flushes. This indicates that it has a calming effect on the body, the muscles and the endocrine and hormonal systems of the body.
In highly polluted cities, there is always a risk of any respiratory infections. Fenugreek is the ingredient to use for dispelling mucus from entire respiratory tract. It is this very property that makes fenugreek unique, not to mention the fact that those that suffer from chronic sinusitis can benefit from taking fenugreek, as it clears the pathways of the sinuses, much like a nasal cleanse with salt. Sinusitis is increasing in areas of heavy or dense pollution, and it is advised to do a nasal cleanse daily with a saline solution, fenugreek coupled with a daily nasal cleanse can rid the body of any sinus or chronic rhinitis problems for good. Most people revert to steroid sprays, but if they slowly wean off them, a saline spray and fenugreek can not only decrease the nasty symptoms, but can cure the problem altogether and replace the harsh steroid sprays. With all this in mind, it is no wonder why fenugreek is well respected as a great medicinal herb.