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Fenugreek - Natural remedy of the month

   December 2009 


fenugreekFenugreek is one of those herbs that we have probably heard of but don’t really know much about. Its strange name doesn’t help and it is not a mainline herb that we all have in our kitchens.

Nevertheless fenugreek is a very important herb that has been around for a long time – references to fenugreek have even been found in records from Egyptian tombs. It was prized for its medicinal powers as well as for its flavour.

The herb is native to western Asia and also to Mediterranean areas, although today it is grown all over the world. It is a small annual with clover-like leaves and yellow-white flowers, but it is the fenugreek seed that is the important part of the plant.

In the past it was used for a huge range of problems, from indigestion and respiratory infections to arthritis and even kidney complaints.

Now its uses have been brought back to mainly dealing with digestive disorders and also to help heal skin wounds and infections. Some use fenugreek to calm coughs and in a gargle in warm water to soothe a sore throat.

Fenugreek is very popular in India where it is used in curries, and a number of clinical studies there have produced results showing fenugreek can help lower cholesterol and also be beneficial for people with diabetes, lowering blood glucose levels.

However, problems have also been association with fenugreek including an interference with the body’s ability to absorb iron. High doses can also cause nausea and upset stomachs.

The most popular use of fenugreek is in cooking – most of us will have had it at some point as it is a very common ingredient in curry powder. The seeds today are usually sold ready ground, and it has a taste a little like burnt maple, a slightly sweet and also bitter flavour with a vegetable hint. Fenugreek needs to be used with caution but can be a useful addition to many recipes as well as curry.

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