A Star Among Spices

By TheHindu on 03 Jun 2015 | read

Tips on wonder seed, fenugreek, believed to be nature's ancient cure

Fenugreek has the distinction of being one of the most ancient spices known to mankind and certainly, one of the healthiest. With its strong, bitter flavour, it is usually roasted and ground with other spices to make a delicious curry for many Indian dishes.

The rich golden colour of its seeds often belies its rather bitter taste. Fenugreek has been regularly used as a digestive aid and was first cultivated over 3000 years ago in Assyria. Today, it is available all over the world and is one of the most widely grown medicinal plants. With the ability to detox and cleanse the system, as well as improve immunity, there’s more to fenugreek than just adding flavour to food.

Journey across the world

The versatile nature of fenugreek is fascinating. The seeds are still used in Egypt to prepare tea. They are boiled, sweetened and strained to make the concoction which also doubles up as a popular health drink, served during bitter winters in coffee shops.

In parts of the Middle East, fenugreek, despite its rather bitter aftertaste, is used in a variety of sweet confections, especially in a semolina cake called the helba, which is studded with fenugreek seeds. It is a long-standing tradition for the Jewish community to eat semolina during the first or second night of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Fenugreek seeds are added to soups and as condiments in cuisines across the world.

Health Potential

Fenugreek has proven medical benefits. A research published in ‘Nutrition Research’ 14 years ago, was established that when 25 gm of powdered fenugreek seeds were administered to patients with Type 2 diabetes who consumed it twice daily at lunch and dinner, in addition to diabetes therapy, their average fasting glucose showed significant decrease (from 151 mg/dl to 112 mg/dl) after just 6 months. Glucose values one and two hours after meals also declined.

Apart from controlling diabetes, fenugreek has been known to keep cholesterol in check. Studies indicate a reduction in serum cholesterol concentrations in diabetic patients. In addition, reduction in total cholesterol and low density lipid cholesterol was noted in healthy volunteers. So, even if you don’t have cholesterol yet, fenugreek can help keep you healthy.

For lactating mothers, this spice is a boon, because it is believed to increase milk supply. Folk medicine has attributed it with many wholesome properties—fenugreek has been used by many cultures as a digestive tonic; even Ayurvedic medicine recommends it in curries to stimulate the liver.

It is also a natural cure for heartburn and acid reflux as it coats the lining of the stomach and intestine. It is also believed to rid one of dandruff and soothe skin eruptions.

In Nature’s pharmacy, fenugreek is certainly a star!