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Friday, May 25, 2007


Fenugreek is the ripe seed of the plant Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (Family Leguminosae). Fenugreek has the following properties: digestive, expectorant, fever-reducing, aphrodisiac, male tonic, pain-relieving, demulcent, emollient, promoting milk flow, uterine stimulant, and hypoglycemic. The most common traditional uses include fever, sore throat, bronchitis, mouth ulcers, chapped lips, chronic cough, gout, neuralgia, sciatica, swollen glands, skin sores, furuncle, irritations, impotence, spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, kidney ailments, beriberi, hernia, and abdominal pain.

Fenugreek has been used since ancient times as a medicine and food or spice in Egypt, India and the Middle East, but has been adopted by the Chinese for only about a thousand years. While the Chinese consider fenugreek as a warming herb, other cultures use it to treat fevers and other "hot" conditions (e.g. swollen glands, sore throat, skin sores, furuncle) that are normally treated in Chinese medicine with coooling herbs.

None of the scientific studies on fenugreek published so far appear to have any relevance to its traditional uses except, perhaps, its chemistry. Chemically, it is rich in steroid precursors (from which steroid drugs can be produced), flavonoids (many of which have strong antioxidant properties), mucilage (maybe the demulcent and emollient principle), protein and other nutrients (amino acids, vitamins A, B1 and C, etc.). These compounds may contribute to its traditional properties.

Also, a statement in an early 16th Century Chinese herbal advising pregnant women not to use fenugreek seems to have some rationale, as it has been found to stimulate animal uteruses in the laboratory. But don't be prematurely alarmed! Fenugreek is a major ingredient of currry which has been safely used over centuries by billions of people, many of whom were no doubt pregnant. The key, as always, is the amount ingested. Again, let's not forget the word "moderation".

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including fenugreek on page 26. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit www.earthpower.com.

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