Recently, a popular talk show host, who is also a doctor, recommended fenugreek tea to help soothe digestive problems. Although many people, especially in Western civilization have never heard of this plant, it has actually been used since ancient times for a variety of purposes.

In ancient Eqypt, plant was used to ease childbirth and in ancient China for abdominal pain. In the past few years, this plant has been studied for its potential to lower blood sugar and may eventually be used in some form as a treatment for diabetes.

Always consult with your health care provider before using herbs as medicine, especially if you are already on medication, since herbs can interfere with their efficacy.

What is it?

It is native to India and southern Europe.

Some other names for it include Birds’ Foot, Goat’s Horn, Fenogreco, Greek clover, Greek hay, Trigonella foenum and Woo Lu Bar.

It is a green plant of the bean family whose seeds may be used for medicinal purposes.

The seeds are yellowish and very hard.

It has a fragrance and taste similar to maple syrup, with a bitter aftertaste.

An herbalist would characterize it as “warming, pungent and bitter.”

What is it used for?

It may be used to stimulate milk production in nursing moms. However, it is a uterine stimulant that should be avoided during pregnancy.

It may be useful in lowering blood sugar levels by slowing absorption of sugar and stimulating insulin secretion. If you are diabetic, you should consult your doctor and pharmacist before using it.

It may be used in the form of a poultice (powdered herb is made into a paste, warmed and wrapped in cloth) to treat skin conditions such as cellulitis, gout, eczema, boils and other local pain and swelling.

It is sometimes used as an ingredient in cosmetics and cleansing products.

Imitation maple syrup may contain fenugreek for flavoring.

It has been used since ancient times as an aphrodisiac and potency aid.

It is an ingredient in many curry powders and used to flavor chutneys as well as meat and vegetable dishes in Indian cuisine.

“Halva,” a Middle Eastern confection contains fenugreek.

At this time, at least in Western civilization, it is more often used to treat animals than humans.

Ground seeds can be roasted and infused as a substitute for coffee.

Tea is made by infusing a teaspoon of seed for every two cups of water for about 5 minutes.

It has been used since ancient times to make a yellow dye.

Most applications use the seeds, but in certain parts of the Middle East, the leaves are used as a remedy for PMS and stomach inflammation.

Any cautions?

Most physicians would say that there is not enough scientific evidence to support its medicinal use.

It is not recommended for children.

It may interact negatively with diabetes meds and anticoagulants that are taken to slow clotting of blood. Be sure to consult your doctor and pharmacist about drug interactions.

Although fenugreek is recommended for digestive problems, it may cause bloating, gas and diarrhea when taken internally.

Seeds should be dried and lightly roasted before use.

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