• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

FENUGREEK ( Trigonella foenum-graecum L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Fenugreek
French Fenugrec, Sénegré, Trigonelle
German Bockshornklee, Griechisch Heu
Spanish Alholva, Fenogreco
Italian Fieno greco
Turkish Çemen otu, Kokulu yonca
Japanese コロハ Koruha, フェヌグリークHenu-guriku

FAMILY: Fabaceae

ORIGIN:   : Fenugreek is native to India, China and Southern Europe. It is cultivated in France, Argentina, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia

Green cardamom pods and seeds


Fenugreek is the small stony seeds from the pod of a bean-like plant. The seeds are hard, yellowish brown and angular. Some are oblong, some rhombic, other virtually cubic, with a side of about 3mm.A deep furrow all but splits them in two. They are available whole and dried , or as a dull yellow powder, ground from the roasted seeds.[1]

USEFUL PARTS: The brownish-yellow seeds of fenugreek are the source of the spice. The fresh leaves may be eaten raw in salads, or can be prepared like spinach.

SENSORY PROPERTIES: Bitter and aromatic. Its flavour is powerful, like burnt sugar.


Fenugreek seeds contains only minute quantities of an essential oil. In the essential oil, 40 different compounds were found, furthermore, n-alkanes, sesquiterpenes, alkanoles and lactones were reported.

The dominant aroma component in fenugreek seeds is a hemiterpenoid γ-lactone, sotolone (3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone), which is contained in concentrations up to 25 ppm. It supposedly forms by oxidative deamination of 4-hydroxy-isoleucine. Sotolone has a spicy flavour and was also found a key flavour in fermented protein seasonings, e.g., Maggi sauce. Toasted fenugreek seeds owe their altered, more nutty flavour to another type of heterocyclic compounds, the so-called pyrazines.

Fenugreek leaves were found to contain small amounts of sesquiterpenes (cadinene, α-cadinol, γ-eudesmol and α-bisabolol). (Journal of Essential Oil Research, 16, 356, 2004)

Among the non-volatile components of fenugreek seeds, the furostanol glycosides are probably responsible for the bitter taste; among the several more compounds yet identified, steroles and diosgenin derivatives (of potential interest for the pharmaceutical industry) and trigonellin (N-methyl-pyridinium-3-carboxylate, 0.4%) are most worth noting. [2]

The composition of fenugreek seed on an average:

Moisture: 6.3 % Calcium: 1.3 % Niacin: 6.0 mg/100 g
Protein: 9.5 % Phosphorus: 0.48 % Vitamin C: 12.0 mg/100g
Fat: 10.0 % Iron: 0.011 % Vitamin A: 1040 I.U. /100 g
Fiber: 18.5% Sodium: 0.09 % Calorific value: 370 calories/100g
Carbohydrates: 42.3 % Potassium: 1.7 % Vitamin B1:0.41 mg/100 g Gums: 23.06 %
Total ash: 13.4 % Vitamin B2:0.36 mg/100 g. Mucilage: 28.00 %.

Source: http://www.indianetzone.com/1/fenugreek.htm


The general use of fenugreek is in curry powders and figuring in many spice mixtures. The leaves are both used fresh and dried in meat curries and vegetable dishes.

Flour mixed with ground fenugreek makes a spicy bread. The roasted ground seeds are infused for a coffe substitute or adulterant. A tea can be made by with a little use of seed and with water.

Dry roasting of fenugreek can enhance the flavour and reduce the bitterness. Provided care should be given not to overheat the seeds.

Fenugreek leaves are used in cooking. Commercially, it is used in the preparation of mango chutneys and as a base for imitation maple syrup


It is used as an appetizer, a tonic and an aphrodisiac, and it is included in many foods and beverages. Fenugreek has a long history of dubious indications, including fevers, colic, flatulence, dyspepsia, dysentery, cough, tuberculosis, edema, rickets, leg ulcers, gout, diabetes and baldness. There is little evidence to suggest the spice is toxic or that it has significant anticoagulant or hormonal effects.

It was used by the ancient Egyptians to combat fever and grown in classical times as cattle fodder. In India it is used medicinally, and as a yellow dyestuff. It is also an oriental cattle fodder and is planted as a soil renovator. Fenugreek is a digestive aid. As an emollient it is used in poultices for boils, cysts and other complaints. Reducing the sugar level of the blood, it is used in diabetes in conjunction with insulin. It also lowers blood pressure. Fenugreek relieves congestion, reduces inflammation and fights infection. Fenugreek contains natural expectorant properties ideal for treating sinus and lung congestion, and loosens & removes excess mucus and phlegm.

Fenugreek is also a good source of selenium, an anti-radiant which helps the body utilize oxygen. Fenugreek is a natural source of iron, silicon, sodium and thiamine. Fenugreek contains mucilagins which are known for soothing and relaxing inflamed tissues. Fenugreek stimulates the production of mucosal fluids helping remove allergens and toxins from the respiratory tract. Acting as an expectorant, Fenugreek alleviates coughing, stimulates perspiration to reduce fevers, and is beneficial for treating allergies, bronchitis and congestion. In the East, beverages are made from the seed to ease stomach trouble. The chemical make-up is curiously similar to cod liver oil, for which a decoction of the seed is sometimes used as a substitute.

Fenugreek may also increase the number of insulin receptors in red blood cells and improve glucose utilization in peripheral tissues, thus demonstrating potential anti-diabetes effects both in the pancreas and other sites. The amino acid 4- hydroxyisoleucine, contained in the seeds, may also directly stimulate insulin secretion.


[1] http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/fenugree.html