Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) belongs to the group of leguminous plants (Fabacae) and papilionaceous plants. It is an old cultivated plant of Southwest Asia and the eastern Mediterranean as far as China. It is already proven to have been used in the Neolithic, while in ancient Egypt it was used in cultic acts. Charlemagne and Hildegard von Bingen, as well as Mohammed, knew of and appreciated it highly. The main growing areas today are southern France, Turkey, Morocco, India and China. It is now spreading wild into central Germany. Pastor Kneipp praised it as “the best of all remedies known to me for dissolving tumors and ulcers”.
The annual, herbaceous plant prefers locations with plenty of sunlight. It grows to a height of 50 to 80 cm and forms a long tap root with fibrous side roots. The upright, tender, round stems are branched and carry their large leaves in loose arrangements of three leaflets (“clover”), which spread into the periphery as an expression of much vegetative power. The small, whitish or yellowish-white flowers are hidden between the upper leaves. Flowering time is April to July. Fenugreek holds its fruits individually or in pairs upward from the leaf axils, against gravity. The pods are approx. 10 cm long, narrow, curved like horns, up to 0.5 cm wide and lead to a tip that is up to 3 cm long. Each pod contains 10–20 hard, furrowed, predominantly ochre-yellow fruits of approx. 5 x 3 mm in size, ripening from July to September.
These fruits are dried and then ground for medical use. The whole plant emits an incessant, intense, characteristic, very spicy smell, especially the grated fruit. The picture is that the flowers are modestly small, but the flowering process runs through the whole plant, especially the seeds. So also here, as in the leaflets, we find a striving into expansion, into the periphery.
A word about the fruit: they contain approx. 30% mucilage as an expression of special etheric power, lipids, up to 30% proteins, up to 3% steroid saponins, bitter substances and little essential oil, but this oil contains approx. 50 components.
According to the German Commission E, the indications are “loss of appetite (internal use) and local inflammation (external use as a poultice)”.
The herb has always been a characteristic spice of Indian and Arab cuisine.
According to the above description, fenugreek is nourishing, stimulates the metabolism, perceives the metabolism (bitter substances). Its mucilage makes it a latent reserve of great warmth.
Indications and application