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Fenugreek (Uluhal) purifies menstrual blood in women

fenne.jpg (21476 bytes)(by Namini Wijedasa/The Island)

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is also called Greek hay in English and is identified in Sinhala as uluhal. In India, it is called methi. Its Sanskrit labels are medhika or chandrika.

Although originally from south-eastern Europe and western Asia, fenugreek grows today in many parts of the world, including India, northern Africa, and the United States. The seeds of fenugreek contain the most potent medicinal effects of the plant.

The herb is widely used in cooking as it adds a distinctive flavour to food, is an appetiser and lends a good aroma to curries. However, it is also observed that food spoils faster once fenugreek is added though its oil is used as a fungicide to protect food.

Dr. Lakshmi Senaratne, chief scientist (Ayurveda) at the Bandaranaike Memorial Ayurveda Research Institute, advises that fenugreek seeds be roasted before being added to curries. It gives a better flavour and smell than the raw version. The seeds contain Vitamin A, B1, C, iron and minerals.

Uluhal alleviates vatha and kapha but increases pitta, Dr. Senaratne said. The whole plant is used in medicinal preparations. The seeds and paste of leaves are beneficial in treatment of oedema and burning sensation. Fenugreek gives a good motion and reduces pain and constipation. It is a good laxative and is also used to treat loss of appetite, indigestion, worm infestation and piles. It purifies the blood, stimulates blood circulation, is an expectorant and reduces phlegm.

In women, fenugreek strengthens and contracts the uterus and purifies menstrual blood. It is effective for skin diseases. The seeds reduce fever and promotes body strength. For the latter, add half to one teaspoon of uluhal to kola kenda (porridge) and eat. It increases nutrients and taste in the porridge.

For pain, diabetes and bowel disorders, prepare a curry with garlic and roasted fenugreek seeds and eat for a period of time.

According to the Web site <www.holistic-online.com>, steroidal saponins account for many of the beneficial effects of fenugreek, particularly the inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis. It says that the seeds are rich in dietary fibre, which may be the main reason it fenugreek can lower blood sugar levels in diabetes.

Fenugreek is identified as being widely beneficial in the treatment of diabetes. Dr. Senaratne advises patients to take a teaspoonful of fenugreek powder daily. Water in which fenugreek seeds has been boiled is also beneficial in reducing blood sugar and in alleviating thirst in patients suffering from diabetes.

For dandruff and falling hair, boil the seeds alone or with raw nelli and lime and wash hair.

Holistic_Online says that a wide range of uses were found for fenugreek in ancient times. Medicinally it was used for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis, bronchitis, and digestive problems. Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract. Fenugreek was, and remains, a food and a spice commonly eaten in many parts of the world.

The Web site says that fenugreek is a restorative, is mucilaginous and emollient. It treats atherosclerosis, constipation, diabetes and high cholesterol. The typical range of intake is 5-30 grams with each meal or 15-90 grams all at once with one meal, the site states. Use of more than 100 grams of seeds daily can cause intestinal upset and nausea. Otherwise, however, fenugreek is extremely safe.

In a special paper concentrating on treatment for diabetic patients, nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada says that the seeds of fenugreek comprise a potent bunch of phytochemicals that prove beneficial for diabetics and those with high blood lipids, a condition which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease.

He observes that in one study, powdered extracts of the seeds (5 g per day over three months) produced favourable changes in blood-sugar levels of patients with minor Type II diabetes and reduced both total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels among heart disease patients. Healthy subjects showed no effects.

Earlier studies in Type I diabetics found that a much heftier dose (100 g per day) over a 10-day period reduced blood-sugar levels while improving blood lipids. When germinated fenugreek seeds were ingested (18 g per day for 30 days) by vegetarians with high total blood cholesterol, significant drops in all "unfriendly" lipids were seen without a change in HDL (good) cholesterol, the "friendly" lipids.

Fenugreek is a cooling in and good for general debility and anorexia of convalescence. It treats boils and is warming to the digestive tract. It absorbs toxins and relieves menstrual pains. The seeds contain hormone precursors that increase breast-milk and restores hair growth. The herb delays the glucose absorption by the intestine thereby reducing the after-meals glucose peak level.

The Web site <www.unaniherbalist.com> notes that fenugreek is a good source of nicotinic acid and that the seeds contain 30 per cent protein. It prevents hair fall, contains lecithin and promotes hair growth. The seeds are mildly diuretic and are effective in reducing weight. The site also observes that fenugreek seeds are used externally in poultices for boils, abscesses and ulcers, and internally as emollient for inflammations of the intestinal tract.

Meanwhile, Ayurveda has identified fenugreek for its efficacy in controlling dysentery (fenugreek seeds help to neutralise the toxins produced by dysentery causing bacteria). Seed powder treats acidity, constipation, gastric problem and spasmodic pain.

As observed earlier, fenugreek has beneficial effects on hair growth, lustre and health. Indian beautician, Dr. Smitha Yavagal suggests the application to scalp of coconut oil in which the seeds of fenugreek have been soaked under direct sunrays for seven days. This, she says, is known to prevent hair loss.

She has another home remedy: Take one part Bengal gram, one part green gram and half part fenugreek seeds. Powder them coarsely. This mixture can be used to wash your hair. It does not remove the natural oil from the hair and thus prevents dryness of hair.

To encourage hair growth, make a paste using fenugreek powder and coconut milk. Rub briskly on scalp, cover with plastic cap, leave on 30 minutes. Wash with gentle shampoo.

Another Web site which wrote on ancient recipes for skin polishing, has a formula for a fenugreek facial scrub: two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds, one tablespoon of plain, live yoghurt. Soak the seeds in the yoghurt for an hour, then blend coarsely into a paste. Gently rub this onto the face and neck using circular movements and wash off after 15 minutes.

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