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erbal Medicine Materia Medica


© David L. Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH

Trigonella foenum-graecum


Names: Foenugreek

Habitat: North Africa, India, cultivated worldwide.

Part Used: Seeds.


  • Volatile oil, containing3-hydroxy-4, 5-dimethyl-2-furanone, dihydrobenzofuran, dihydroactinidiolide, muurolene, elemene, selinene
  • Alkaloids, including trigonelline, gentianine and carpaine
  • Saponins, based mainly on the sapogenins diosgenin and its isomer yamogenin, gitogenin and tigogenin
  • Flavonoids, including vitexin and its glycosides and esters, isovitexin, orientin, vicenins l and 2, quercetin and luteolin
  • Mucilage; mostly a galactomannan
Actions: Expectorant, demulcent, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, tonic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, hypotensive.

Indications: Fenugreek is a herb that has an ancient history. It was rarely used in Britain during the hay day of herbal medicine due to difficulties in obtaining the spice. Since becoming easily available it has often been overlooked because herbal tradition rarely mentioned it. For a comprehensive discussion of Fenugreek you must refer to an herbal or materia medica of Ayurvedic medicine. Its limited use in Britain demonstrates its value as a vulnerary, healing and reducing inflammation in conditions such as wounds, boils, sores, fistulas and tumors. It can be taken to help bronchitis and gargled to ease sore throats. Its bitterness explains its role in soothing disturbed digestion. It is a strong stimulator of milk production in mothers, for which it is perfectly safe, and has a reputation of stimulating development of the breasts.

Preparations & Dosage: Poultice; for external use, the seeds should be pulverized to make a poultice. Decoction: to increase milk production, gently simmer l l/2 teaspoonfuls of the seeds in a cup of water for l0 minutes. Drink a cup three times a day. To make a more pleasant drink, add l teaspoonful of Aniseed to this mixture.

Tincture: take l-2ml of the tincture three times a day.

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Trigonella

FenugreekAbdo MS al-Kafawi AA Experimental studies on the effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum.

Planta Med 1969 Feb;17(1):14-8Ahsan SK Tariq M Ageel AM al-Yahya MA Shah AH Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum and Ammi majus on calcium oxalateurolithiasis in rats.

J Ethnopharmacol 1989 Oct;26(3):249-54Ajabnoor MA Tilmisany AK Effect of Trigonella foenum graceum on blood glucose levels in normal and alloxan-diabetic mice.

J Ethnopharmacol 1988 Jan;22(1):45-9Elmadfa I Koken M [Effect of vitamin E and protein quality on the hemolytic effect ofTrigonella sapogenins in rats]

Z Ernahrungswiss 1980 Dec;19(4):280-9 (Published in German)Ghafghazi T Sheriat HS Dastmalchi T Barnett RC Antagonism of cadmium and alloxan-induced hyperglycemia in rats by Trigonella foenum graecum.

Pahlavi Med J 1977 Jan;8(1):14-25Mishkinsky JS Goldschmied A Joseph B Ahronson Z Sulman FG Hypoglycaemic effect of Trigonella foenum graecum and Lupinus termis (leguminosae) seeds and their major alkaloids in alloxan-diabetic and normalrats.

Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther 1974 Jul;210(1):27-37

About The Author
Whilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary......more
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