An essential oil obtained from the seed is used as a food flavouring in imitation maple syrup, vanilla compositions, liquorice, pickles etc. It also has medicinal virtues. The ground up seeds can also be used as a substitute for maple syrup. Leaves - raw or cooked. Very aromatic, in small quantities they can be added to salads, otherwise they are used as a potherb, a flavouring for root vegetables, an ingredient of curries etc. Seedpods - cooked. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.A soothing tea is made from the leaves and the seed.
The crushed seed, mixed with oil and massaged into the scalp, is recommended for glossy hair. An infusion of the seed, used as a skin lotion, is said to be good for the complexion. A good green manure crop, it is fast growing and vigorous, producing a lot of bulk and fixing a large quantity of atmospheric nitrogen.A yellow dye is obtained from the seed.
The seed and leaves are anticholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, carminative, demulcent, deobstruent, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, galactogogue, hypoglycaemic, laxative, parasiticide, restorative and uterine tonic. The seed yields a strong mucilage and is therefore useful in the treatment of inflammation and ulcers of the stomach and intestines. Taken internally, a decoction of the ground seeds serves to drain off the sweat ducts. The seed is very nourishing and body-building and is one of the most efficacious tonics in cases of physical debility caused by anaemia or by infectious diseases, especially where a nervous factor is involved. It is also used in the treatment of late-onset diabetes, poor digestion (especially in convalescence), insufficient lactation, painful menstruation, labour pains etc. The seeds freshen bad breath and restore a dulled sense of taste. Externally, the seeds can be ground into a powder and used as a poultice for abscesses, boils, ulcers, burns etc, or they can be used as a douche for excessive vaginal discharge. The leaves are harvested in the growing season and can be used fresh or dried. The seeds are harvested when fully ripe and dried for later use.Compounds extracted from the plant have shown cardiotonic, hypoglycaemic, diuretic, antiphlogistic and hypotensive activity. One of its constituent alkaloids, called 'trigonelline', has shown potential for use in cancer therapy. The seed contains the saponin diosgenin, an important substance in the synthesis of oral contraceptives and sex hormones, whilst saponins in the plant have been extracted for use in various other pharmaceutical products.
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Plants are hardy to about -15°c. Fenugreek is widely cultivated for its edible seed in warm temperate and tropical regions, there are some named varieties. Seed production is more problematic in Britain due to the cooler and moister summers. The seed is ripened intermittently over a period of some weeks making harvesting more complicated. Plants take about 16 weeks to mature in warmer climes, probably about 4 weeks longer in Britain.This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Problems, pests & diseases
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Polycultures & Guilds
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