What is fenugreek? This oddly named plant is a semi-arid crop that is used both as an herb (its leaves) and spice (its seed, which are more popularly known as “methi”). It thrives in several countries, including Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh Egypt, France, China, and India, which is the biggest Fenugreek-producing country in the world.
As a healing herb, fenugreek leaves when boiled and consumed as tea are said to cure the common cold and relieve arthritic pains, although this is not based on concrete scientific research. In India, it is said that not many people have arthritis, and it is believed that that is because Indians often and frequently consume fenugreek. They said that drinking a cup of tea using Fenugreek leaves could relieve the discomfort of arthritis.
Still in India, people swallow raw fenugreek seeds, about 2 to 3 grams, with warm water supposedly to heal body pains. It is believed to be most effective when taken early in the morning before brushing one’s teeth or drinking coffee. Before going to sleep in the evening, a few fenugreek seeds may again be taken with warm water to fight constipation, due to the seed’s high dietary fiber content.
The small stony fenugreek seed is cube-like or oblong in shape and yellow to amber in color. They contain protein, vitamin C, potassium, niacin, and diosgenin.
Meanwhile, in China, fenugreek seeds, referred to as “Hu Lu Ba”, are believed to cleanse the kidney, disperse cold, and soothe different kinds of pain, specifically hernia or groin pains. They are taken raw or toasted. It is one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs by Chinese medicine men.
The most popular medicinal purpose of fenugreek is as a galactogogue or milk-producing agent for lactating mothers. Studies have proven that fenugreek can increase breast milk production by as much as 900%. Fenugreek capsules are produced and sold in health food stores primarily as a supplement for the production of breast milk. Some commercially-produced fenugreek capsules also claim to combat diabetes for its supposed ability to reduce serum glucose and improve glucose tolerance.
Fenugreek is sought-after also for its culinary purpose and rich, spicy flavor. The seeds are used to make curry powder, pickles, and pastes. Although the plant itself is bitter in taste, its leaves and seeds are used to produce flavoring for maple syrups. It tastes like cumin when toasted. Generally, this popular Indian crop has a powerful, aromatic and bittersweet taste, which is a well-loved combination of flavors in South Asia. Indians also love roasted ground fenugreek seed coffee.
Finally, are there side effects? What is fenugreek not good for? So far, there are not many known adverse effects of this herb except for a few observed minor side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea. These are minor concerns considering the good that fenugreek does to so many of its users. However, pregnant women should not take it since this herb is known to induce labor. Other than those, fenugreek is perfect and helpful for most of its users.