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Monday, August 1, 2011


Fenugreek Leaves and Seeds
Photo by: healthandsoul

OCast senigrech, L. Trigonella foenum-graecum, Fr. fenugrec, Eng. fenugreek (Greek hay). It is a plant with trifoliate leaves and three-cornered leaflets. Like red clover, it is a native of southern Asia but grows all over the Mediterranean and from Morocco to Tunisia. It was documented in the Egyptian Papyrus Ebers, which states that it was used as incense and, therefore, is called “the plant of incense.” The Greeks used this legume as fodder and in northern Africa it is given to horses only. Cows are not allowed to eat it as the bitter flavor passes into the milk. In cookery, the leaves have been used to flavor cheeses and the seeds are added to syrups and sauces as they have a sweet, spicy taste. 

It is thought the Arabs brought the plant to Al-Andalus from Africa. They studied the plant for medical uses in Cordova but the Chinese were one step ahead of them. They recommended it in cases of masculine impotency, for its vitamin and mineral value, especially calcium, and for its taste, which is like celery. 

Arabs seem to have passed on the belief that it increases the appetite and helps restore health and body weight. They prescribed that the leaves be ground into powder and mixed with olive oil and honey. They recommended that adults take it once a day or various times a day with hot milk, flavored with anise or mint. The plant is rich in proteins, which are easily assimilated. 

Today, it is known to reduce cholesterol, risk of heart attacks and is beneficial for type-2 diabetics. In concentrated jelly form, it is added to hot baths to alleviate hemorrhoids. Hispano Arabs boiled fenugreek in water and applied it to cankers and cracked lips. The fresh leaves and seeds are aromatic, tonic and carminative. The seeds are used to check diarrhea and dyspepsia. 

The plant came to be known in Central Europe through Benedictine monks who used it medicinally and in cookery. In the 9th C., it was one of the plants Charlemagne promoted. Gázquez quotes Andrea Palladio, 14th C Italian architect, instructing that the leaves should be gathered in June and dried. It came to signify money. [Alonso, Martín. 1994:III:N:3742; Ency Brit. 1998:4:Delusion:788:2a; ES: Herbs. Oct 8, 02; Font. Plantas. 1999:241:366; Gázquez. Cocina. 2002:94; Simonetti. 1991:140; and Stuart 1987:274]



1 cup boiling water
1 tsp fenugreek seeds


steep seeds in water for three hours at least, remove seeds and drink.

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