Learning about Spices
What is a spice?
Why were spices important?
Sources of spices
Perfumes and Incenses 
Use of spices as aphrodisiacs
Use of spices as medicines
Culinary herbs
A spice timeline

Table of Spices
Allspice (Pimento)
Anise
Black Pepper
Cardamom
Cassia
Chile Pepper
Chocolate
Cinnamon
Clove
Coriander (Cilantro)
Cumin
Dill
Fennel
Fenugreek
Frankincense and Myrrh
Galangal
Garlic
Ginger
Horseradish
Licorice
Mustard
Nutmeg and Mace
Onion
Saffron
Sugar
Sumac
Tamarind
Turmeric
Vanilla

Contacts and Acknowledgments
Common Name FENUGREEK FENUGREEK
Click image to enlarge
Genus SpeciesTrigonella foenum-graecum
FamilyFabaceae
Origin Near East (especially Lebanon and Syria), Southeast Europe, India and China
Cultivated France, Argentina, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia
  
  
  
  
  
Description The herb Trigonella foenum-graecum, is a reminder that the Romans imported it from Greece as a desirable crop, “Greek hay”, that was used as a cattle food. However, the seed became a popular spice and has long been used as a nourishing dietary herb in the Middle East to which it is native, and in India and the Far East. It is more familiar in many countries as a component of curry powder, to which it contributes a curry-like taste. It is also used raw or roasted to give flavor to mango chutney and to imitation maple syrup and to some artificial licorice preparations. Other constituents impart a strong celery-like odor, and they are utilized in the fragrance industry.

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. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.
Useful Parts The seeds of fenugreek are the source of the spice, but the sprouts may be eaten raw in salads.
Medicinal Properties The seed is a source of the steroidal saponin diosgenin, which can be used to manufacture many pharmaceuticals, such as progesterone. The chemical trigonelline is converted into niacin when the seed is roasted. The seeds also provide a mucilaginous fiber content that may benefit the bowel. Of more current interest is the evidence that fenugreek has a minor hypoglycemic effect, thus suggesting it may, in fact, help with diabetes. There is also some evidence that it can reduce hypercholesterolemia in animals.
See chemicals in spices.
Historical View “The use of fenugreek as a medicinal agent is now obsolete in Europe and the United States; but in India the seeds are largely employed by the natives, both as food and medicine, while the fresh plant is consumed as a vegetable. In Alexandria also the seedlings are eaten as a great delicacy. Formerly the seeds were employed in the preparation of emollient cataplasms, fomentations, and enemata; but were never given internally.”

Bentley, Robert and Henry Trimen. Medicinal Plants; being descriptions with original figures of the principal plants employed in medicine and an account of the characters, properties, and uses of their parts and products of medicinal value. London, Churchill, 1880. (WZ 295 B556m 1880)
FENUGREEK
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Spice Exhibit URL: http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm

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