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Fenugrek

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Fenugreek scientifically named as Trigonella foenum-graecum is a plant belongs to the genus Trigonella and family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is used both as an herb and as a spice. Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal plants, originating in India and Northern Africa. An annual plant, it grows to an average height of two feet. The leaves and seeds, which mature in long pods possess medicinal properties. The plant is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop and is a common ingredient.
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Botanical Names
Trigonella foenum-graecum
Indian Names
Sanskrit : Methika, Chandrika Hindi : Methi Marathi : Methi Gujarati : Methi Tamil : Vendaya keerai
Chemical Constituents
Fenugreek seeds contains number of chemical constituents such as proteins, alkaloids, trigonelline, choline, phosphates, lecithin and nucleo albumin, iron trimethylamine, neurin, betain, minerals, biotin, inositol, mucilage, volatile oils, and phosphates. It also contains vitamins as vitamins A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. It also contains bioactive components as saponins, coumarin, fenugrekine, nicotinic acid, phytic acid, scopoletin and trigonelline (1). The leaves of fenugreek contain at least 7 saponins, known as graecunins. These compounds are glycosides of diosgenin. Seeds contain 0.1% to 0.9% diosgenin and are extracted on a commercial basis. The seeds also contain the saponin fenugrin B. Several coumarin compounds have been identified in fenugreek seeds as well as a number of alkaloids (eg: trigonelline, gentianine, carpaine). A large proportion of the trigonelline is degraded to nicotinic acid and related pyridines during roasting.
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs, it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeia perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the active ingredient or marker substances. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract, irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herbs are to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E. coli which are causative agent for various gastrointestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
Pharmacology
Fenugreek seeds are alterative, anti catarrhal, anti-inflammatory, anti diabetic, anti cholesterol, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, demulcent, emmollient, and mucilant in action. Fenugreek was favored as a digestive aid for dyspepsia, intestinal gas, anorexia, and diarrhea. It was also used to treat chronic cough, bronchitis, fever, sore throat, and mouth ulcers. Fenugreek's most common modern indications include diabetes and hyperlipidemia (3). Both the coumarins and the fenugreek alkaloid, trigonelline, caused hypoglycemia or inhibited experimentally-induced hypeglycemia in different animal models.
Health Benefits
The fenugreek seed is a source of the steroidal saponin diosgenin, which can be used to manufacture many pharmaceuticals, such as progesterone. The seeds also provide a mucilaginous fiber content that may benefit the bowel. Fenugreek has a minor hypoglycemic effect thus it can help with diabetes. . It helps in reducing glucose in blood and urine (5). There is also some evidence that it can reduce hypercholesterolemia in animals. Fenugreek proves to be a very good agent in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) from the body. Studies have also shown that fenugreek seeds reduce serum lipids in experimental animals. It has been demonstrated that fenugreek administration increased excretion of bile acids and neutral sterols in feces, thus depleting the cholesterol stores in the body in experimental rats (6). Fenugreek helps in maintaining a good metabolism and prevents constipation. It purifies blood and helps in flushing out the harmful toxins. High levels of polyphenolic flavonoids have been isolated from fenugreek seeds. These have been associated with dose-dependent protection of erythrocytes from antioxidant damage in an in vitro study. Simultaneous administration of an aqueous extract of fenugreek seeds with ethanol prevented the harmful effects of alcohol on lipid peroxidation and enzyme markers of hepatotoxicity. Histopathological examination of liver and brain confirmed these findings, indicating that fenugreek could offer protection against ethanol toxicity.
Application in Cosmetics
Fenugreek seeds prove to be an excellent beauty product. They help to prevent wrinkles, blackheads, pimples, dryness and rashes. It is also beneficial for treating inflammation of body parts and as cosmetic product. Due to the cooling and soothing effects of Fenugreek seeds, they are considered beneficial in skin irritation and inflammation. Application of Fenugreek leaves on skin helps to prevent wrinkles, blackheads, pimples, dryness and rashes.
Research References
1. Nazar A., Nasri E. I., and El Tinay A. H. Functional properties of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) protein concentrate Food Chemistry 2007.103(2): 582-589 2. Acharya, S., Srichamroen, A., Basu, S., Ooraikul, B. and Basu, T. Improvement in the nutraceutical properties of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol., 2006, 28: 1-9 3. Suresh Kumar G., Shetty A. K., Sambaiah K., and Salimath P. V. Antidiabetic property of fenugreek seed mucilage and spent turmeric in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Nutrition Research 2005 25:1021–1028 4. S. Kaviarasan S., Naik G. H., Gangabhagirathi R., Anuradha C. V., and Priyadarsini K. I. In vitro studies on antiradical and antioxidant activities of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seeds Food Chemistry 2007 103: 31–37 5. Mohamed Z. G., Maha M. E., Manal F. I., and Nibal D. El-T. Biochemical study of the anti-diabetic action of the Egyptian plants Fenugreek and Balanites. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 2006 281: 173–183 6. Abu Saleh M. M., Mamun U R., A.Z.S. Asadi, Nazma A., Mojib U., and Ferdaus A. Hypolipidemic effects of fenugreek seed powder Bangladesh J Pharmacol 2006; 1: 64-67