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Illustration Trigonella foenum-graecum0 clean.jpg
Scientific classification edit
: [[Template:Taxonomy/Trigonella]]
Binomial name
Template:Taxonomy/TrigonellaTrigonella foenum-graecum
Fenugreek greens

Fenugreek (/ˈfɛnjʊɡrk/; Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae, with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. It is cultivated worldwide as a semiarid crop. Its seeds and leaves are common ingredients in dishes from the Indian subcontinent, and have been used as a culinary ingredient since ancient times.[2] Its use as a food ingredient in small quantities is safe.[3][4]

Although sold as a dietary supplement,[5] there is no clinical evidence that fenugreek has therapeutic properties.[4][5] Commonly used in traditional medicine, fenugreek can increase the risk of serious adverse effects, including allergic reactions.[4][5]


Fenugreek is believed to have been brought into cultivation in the Near East. It is uncertain which wild strain of the genus Trigonella gave rise to domesticated fenugreek. Charred fenugreek seeds have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq (carbon dated to 4000 BC) and Bronze Age levels of Lachish, and desiccated seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamen.[6] Cato the Elder lists fenugreek with clover and vetch as crops grown to feed cattle.[7]

In one first-century A.D. recipe, the Romans flavoured wine with fenugreek.[8] In the 1st century AD, in Galilee, it was grown as a staple food, as Josephus mentions it in his book, the Wars of the Jews.[9] The plant is mentioned in the 2nd-century compendium of Jewish Oral Law (Mishnah) under its Hebrew name tiltan.[10]


The English name derives via Middle French fenugrec from Latin faenugraecum, faenum Graecum meaning "Greek hay".[11]


India is a major producer of fenugreek, and over 80% of India's output is from Rajasthan.[12]


Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek is used as a herb (dried or fresh leaves), spice (seeds), and vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens). Sotolon is the chemical responsible for the distinctive maple syrup smell of fenugreek.[13][4]

Cuboid, yellow- to amber-coloured fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, used both whole and powdered in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, dal, and spice mixes such as panch phoron and sambar powder. They are often roasted to reduce inherent bitterness and to enhance flavour.[14]


Fresh fenugreek leaves are an ingredient in some curries, such as with potatoes in cuisines of the Indian subcontinent to make "aloo methi" ("potato fenugreek") curry.[15]

In Armenian cuisine, fenugreek seed powder is used to make a paste that is an important ingredient to cover dried and cured beef to make basturma.[16]

In Iranian cuisine, fenugreek leaves are called shambalileh. They are one of several greens incorporated into the herb stew ghormeh sabzi, the herb frittata kuku sabzi and a soup known as eshkeneh.

In Georgian cuisine, a related species—Trigonella caerulea called "blue fenugreek"—is used.[17]

In Egyptian cuisine, fenugreek is known by the Arabic name hilba or helba حلبة. Seeds are boiled to make a drink that is consumed at home, as well as in coffee shops. Peasants in Upper Egypt add fenugreek seeds and maize to their pita bread to produce aish merahrah, a staple of their diet. Basterma, a cured dried beef, has its distinctive flavour from the fenugreek used as a coating.

In the same way in Turkish cuisine fenugreek seed powder, called 'çemen', is used to make a paste with paprika powder and garlic to cover dried and cured beef in making pastirma/basturma. (Its name comes from the Turkish verb 'bastırmak', meaning 'to press').</ref>

In Moroccan cuisine, fenugreek is used in Rfissa, a dish associated with the countryside.[18]

Fenugreek is used in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine.[19] The word for fenugreek in Amharic is abesh (or abish), and the seed is used in Ethiopia as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes.[19]

Yemenite Jews following the interpretation of Rabbi Shelomo Yitzchak (Rashi) believe fenugreek, which they call hilbah, hilbeh, hilba, helba, or halba "חילבה", to be the Talmudic rubia.[citation needed] When the seed kernels are ground and mixed with water they greatly expand; hot spices, turmeric and lemon juice are added to produce a frothy relish eaten with a sop. The relish is also called hilbeh; it is reminiscent of curry.[citation needed] It is eaten daily and ceremonially during the meal of the first and/or second night of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana.[20]

In Yemen, a small amount of Oud Al Hilba (عود الحلبة), which appears to be the same as Ashwagandha, is traditionally added to ground Fenugreek seeds before they are mixed with water to prepare the Hulbah paste. This is believed to aid in digestion and more importantly to prevent or lessen the maple-syrup smell that usually occurs when consuming Fenugreek.

Nutritional profile

Template:Infobox nutritional value

In a 100 gram reference amount, fenugreek seeds provide 1,350 kilojoules (323 kcal) of food energy and contain 9% water, 58% carbohydrates, 23% protein, and 6% fat, with calcium at 40% of the Daily Value (DV, table). Fenugreek seeds (per 100 grams) are a rich source of protein (46% DV), dietary fiber, B vitamins, and dietary minerals, particularly manganese (59% DV) and iron (262% DV) (table).

Dietary supplement

Fenugreek dietary supplements are manufactured from powdered seeds into capsules, loose powders, teas, and liquid extracts in many countries.[4][5] Powders may also be used as a topical medication or dressing for skin wounds or eczema.[4] There is no high-quality evidence that these products have any clinical effectiveness.[4][5]

Animal feed

Fenugreek is sometimes used as animal feed. It provides a green fodder palatable to ruminants. The seeds are also used to feed fish and domestic rabbits.[21]

Food additive

Fenugreek seeds and leaves contain the molecule sotolone, which imparts the aroma of fenugreek and curry in high concentrations, and maple syrup or caramel in lower concentrations.[4][13] Fenugreek is used as a flavoring agent in imitation maple syrup or tea, and as a dietary supplement.[5]


Constituents of fenugreek seeds include flavonoids, alkaloids, coumarins, vitamins, and saponins; the most prevalent alkaloid is trigonelline and coumarins include cinnamic acid and scopoletin.[3] Research into whether fenugreek reduces biomarkers in people with diabetes and with pre-diabetic conditions is of limited quality.[22]

As of 2020, there was no high-quality evidence for whether fenugreek is safe and effective to relieve dysmenorrhea[4][23] or improve lactation during breastfeeding.[24] Studies of fenugreek are characterized as having variable, poor experimental design and quality, including small numbers of subjects, failure to describe methods, inconsistency and duration of dosing, and non-recording of adverse effects.[23][24]

Because research on potential biological effects of consuming fenugreek has provided no high-quality evidence for health or anti-disease effect, fenugreek is not approved or recommended for clinical use by the United States Food and Drug Administration.[4][5]

Traditional medicine

Although once a folk remedy for an insufficient milk supply when nursing, there is no good evidence that fenugreek is effective or safe for this use.[4][5][24] There is no good evidence it is useful in traditional practices for treating dysmennorhea, inflammation, diabetes, or any human disorder.[4][5][23]

Adverse effects and allergies

Use of fenugreek has potential for serious adverse effects, as it may be unsafe for women with hormone-sensitive cancers.[4][5] Fenugreek is not safe for use during pregnancy, as it has possible abortifacient effects and may induce preterm uterine contractions.[3][4]

Some people are allergic to fenugreek, including those with peanut allergy or chickpea allergy.[3][4] Fenugreek seeds can cause diarrhea, dyspepsia, abdominal distention, flatulence, perspiration, and a maple-like smell to sweat, urine or breast milk.[3][4][5] There is a risk of hypoglycemia particularly in people with diabetes, and it may interfere with the activity of anti-diabetic drugs.[3][4] Because of the high content of coumarin-like compounds in fenugreek, it may interfere with the activity and dosing of anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs.[3][4]

Fenugreek sprouts, cultivated from a single specific batch of seeds imported from Egypt into Germany in 2009, were implicated as the source of the 2011 outbreak of Escherichia coli O104:H4 in Germany and France.[25] Identification of a common producer and a single batch of fenugreek seeds was evidence for the origin of the outbreaks.[26]


  1. [{{#property:P1421|}} "{{#Property:P225}}"]. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-03-13. {{citation}}: Check |url= value (help)
  2. Debaggio, Thomas; Tucker, Arthur O. (2009). The Encyclopedia of Herbs. Timber Press. ISBN 9781604691344. Archived from the original on 2 July 2023. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Ouzir, M; El Bairi, K; Amzazi, S (2016). "Toxicological properties of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum)". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 96: 145–54. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2016.08.003. PMID 27498339.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 "Fenugreek". Drugs.com. 20 December 2020. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 "Fenugreek". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Library of Medicine. 14 April 2020. Archived from the original on 13 April 2020. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  6. Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria; Weiss, Ehud (2012). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in Southwest Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 122.
  7. Cato the Elder. De Agri Cultura. p. 27.
  8. Curry A (February 2010). "A 9,000-Year Love Affair". National Geographic. 231 (2): 46.
  9. Josephus, De Bello Judaico, book 3, chapter 7, vs. 29. The prepared relish made from ground fenugreek seeds is very slimy and slippery, and was therefore poured over ladders as a stratagem to prevent the enemy's ascent.
  10. Commentators Maimonides and Ovadiah di Bertinoro on Mishnah Kil'ayim 2:5; Terumot 10:5; Orlah 3:6; ibid. 10:6; Ma'aserot 1:3, ibid. 4:6; Ma'aser Sheni 2:2–3; Niddah 2:6.
  11. "Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Archived from the original on 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  12. V. A. Parthasarathy, K. Kandinnan and V. Srinivasan (ed.). "Fenugreek". Organic Spices. New India Publishing Agencies. p. 694.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "3-Hydroxy-4,5-dimethylfuran-2(5H)-one; CID=62835". PubChem, US National Library of Medicine. 3 March 2019. Archived from the original on 15 June 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  14. "BBC - Food - Fenugreek recipes". Archived from the original on 2017-01-18. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  15. Fenugreek. National Library of Medicine (US). 2021-08-16. PMID 30000838. Archived from the original on 2022-05-21. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  16. Wani, Sajad Ahmad; Kumar, Pradyuman (2018-04-01). "Fenugreek: A review on its nutraceutical properties and utilization in various food products". Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences. 17 (2): 97–106. doi:10.1016/j.jssas.2016.01.007. ISSN 1658-077X.
  17. "Trigonella caerulea Sweet Trefoil, Blue fenugreek PFAF Plant Database". pfaf.org. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  18. Idrissi, Abdelbaar Mounadi (2018-12-18). "Anny Gaul: "The Cuisine of the City of Tetouan"". Tangier American Legation Museum. Archived from the original on 2022-05-19. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Gall, Alevtina; Zerihun Shenkute (November 3, 2009). "Ethiopian Traditional and Herbal Medications and their Interactions with Conventional Drugs". EthnoMed. University of Washington. Archived from the original on March 19, 2019. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  20. This is based on the assumption that the Aramaic name רוביא corresponds to it. (Karetot 6a; Horiyot 12a) Rabbenu Nissim at the end of Rosh Hashana, citing the custom of R Hai Gaon. This follows Rashi's translation of רוביא, cited as authoritative by Tur and Shulchan Aruch OC 583:1. But Abudirham interprets רוביא as black-eyed peas.
  21. Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., Lebas F., 2018. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/242 Archived 2018-03-28 at the Wayback Machine
  22. Gong, J; Fang, K; Dong, H; Wang, D; Hu, M; Lu, F (2 August 2016). "Effect of Fenugreek on Hyperglycaemia and Hyperlipidemia in Diabetes and Prediabetes: a Meta-analysis". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 194: 260–268. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.08.003. PMID 27496582.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Pattanittum, Porjai; Kunyanone, Naowarat; Brown, Julie; Sangkomkamhang, Ussanee S; Barnes, Joanne; Seyfoddin, Vahid; Marjoribanks, Jane (2016). "Dietary supplements for dysmenorrhoea". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016 (3): CD002124. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002124.pub2. PMC 7387104. PMID 27000311.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Foong, Siew Cheng; Tan, May Loong; Foong, Wai Cheng; Marasco, Lisa A; Ho, Jacqueline J; Ong, Joo Howe (2020-05-18). "Oral galactagogues (natural therapies or drugs) for increasing breast milk production in mothers of non-hospitalised term infants". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2020 (5): CD011505. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011505.pub2. ISSN 1465-1858. PMC 7388198. PMID 32421208.
  25. McKenna, Maryn (2011-07-07). "E. coli: A Risk for 3 More Years From Who Knows Where". Wired.
  26. King, L. A.; Nogareda, F.; Weill, F.-X.; et al. (2012). "Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 Associated With Organic Fenugreek Sprouts, France, June 2011". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 54 (11): 1588–1594. doi:10.1093/cid/cis255. ISSN 1058-4838. PMID 22460976.

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