Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop, and its seeds are a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent.
Fenugreek has three culinary uses: as a herb (dried or fresh leaves), as a spice (seeds), and as a vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens). Sotolon is the chemical responsible for fenugreek's distinctive sweet smell.Distinctive cuboid-shaped, yellow-to-amber colored fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent. They are used in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes such as panch phoron and sambar powder. They are used both whole and in powdered form and are often roasted to reduce their bitterness and enhance their flavor.
The seeds of fenugreek are commonly used to add flavor to the ethnic dishes of Middle Eastern cuisines. Because of its rich content of alkaloids and natural estrogens, as well as its ability to reduce high blood sugar levels, fenugreek is receiving much attention as a medicinal herb. Recent studies have verified fenugreek's effect on blood sugar, as well as its capacity to restore healthy cholesterol levels, lending credence to the claims of herbal medical traditions, in which fenugreek has been an active player for centuries.
Fenugreek and diabetes - In clinical trials, fenugreek seed reduced fasting blood sugar levels in patients with both type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (insulin resistant) diabetes. In an Indian study, diabetic patients were given fenugreek seed powder for a period of ten days. These patients showed significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels and improved glucose tolerance.
Fenugreek and healthy cholesterol - Diabetic patients studied in the cllinical trials described above also showed significant improvement in blood cholesterol levels. Serum total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides were all reduced.
Fenugreek and sexual health - Fenugreek has long been understood to increase libido. The seeds are rich in diogenin, a substance that mimics the activity of estrogen.
Fenugreek and digestion - When fenugreek seeds are eaten, they release mucilage, creating a soothing effect on the digestive organs. This mucilage forms a protective coating on the lining of the stomach and intestine, reducing gastric inflammation, reflux and heartburn.
Fenugreek relieves skin inflammation - Research has shown that fenugreek is an effective topical treatment for skin problems such as abscesses, boils, burns, eczema and gout.
Fenugreek eases childbirth and promotes lactation - Fenugreek has long been believed to stimulate uterine contractions, speeding and easing childbirth. The herb also boosts milk production in nursing mothers.
Fenugreek relieves fever and eases flu symptoms - Fenugreek has traditionally been used to reduce fever and relieve flu symptoms. The seeds are often combined with honey and lemon to make a soothing tea.
Fenugreek eases menopause symptoms - Because of its natural estrogens, fenugreek is effective in treating the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, anxiety and insomnia.
Fenugreek may help prevent cancer - Some studies suggest that diogenin, found in fenugreek, may have anti-carcinogenic properties. Fenugreek is also effective as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger.
Fenugreek is rich in fiber - Fenugreek's rich fiber content make it useful in treating constipation, and as a preventive against cardiovascular disease.
Because it is a food substance, fenugreek may be safely consumed in moderate amounts, either added to food, or in the form of supplements. Along with other powerful herbs and spices, such as cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne pepper, fenugreek is a culinary spice that contributes a wealth of health benefits.
Read More at Wikipedia