San: Methika, Methi, Kalanusari;
Hin: Meti, Mutti; Ben, Mar: Methi;
Kan: Mentya, Menlesoppu;
Tel: Mentulu, Mentikura; Arab: Hulabaha
Importance: Fenugreek or Greek Hayes is cultivated as a leafy vegetable, condiment and as medicinal plant. The leaves are refrigerant and aperient and are given internally for vitiated conditions of pitta. A poultice of the leaves is applied for swellings and burns. Seeds are used for fever, vomiting, anorexia, cough, bronchitis and colonitis. In the famous Malayalam treatises like ‘Padhyam’ ‘Kairali’ and ‘Arunodhayam’, uluva is recommended for use as kalanusari in Dhanvantaram formulations of ‘Astaghradayam’. An infusion of the seeds is a good cool drink for small pox patients. Powdered seeds find application in veterinary medicine. An aqueous extract of the seeds possesses antibacterial property (Kumar et al, 1997; Warrier et al, 1995).
Distribution: Fenugreek is a native of South Eastern Europe and West Asia. In India fenugreek is grown in about 0.30 lakh ha producing annually about 30,000 tonnes of seeds. The major states growing fenugreek are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka. It is grown wild in Kashmir and Punjab.
Botany: Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn. belongs to family, Fabaceae. It is an annual herb, 30-60cm in height, leaves are light green, pinnately trifoliate, leaflets toothed, flowers are white or yellowish white, papilionaceous and axillary. Fruits are legumes, 5-7.5cm long, narrow, curved, tapering with a slender point and containing 10-20 deeply furrowed seeds per pod. There are two species of the genus Trigonella which are of economic importance viz. T. foenum graecum, the common methi and T. corniculata, the Kasuri methi. These two differ in their growth habit and yield. The latter one is a slow growing type and remains in rosette condition during most of the vegetative growth period (Kumar et al, 1997; Warrier et al, 1995).
Agrotechnology: Fenugreek has a wide adaptability and is successfully cultivated both in the tropics as well as temperate regions. It is tolerant to frost and freezing weather. It does well in places receiving moderate or low rainfall areas but not in heavy rainfall area. It can be grown on a wide variety of soils but clayey loam is relatively better. The optimum soil pH should be 6-7 for its better growth and development. Some of the improved cultivars available for cultivation are CO1 (TNAU), Rajendra Kanti (RAU), RMt-1(RAU) and Lam Selection-1 (APAU). Land is prepared by ploughing thrice and beds of uniform size are prepared. Broadcasting the seed on the bed and raking the surface to cover the seeds is normally followed. But to facilitate intercultural operations, line sowing is also advocated in rows at 20-25cm apart. Sowing in the plains is generally in September-November while in the hills it is from March. The seed rate is 20-25kg/ha and the seeds germinate within 6-8 days. Besides 15t of FYM, a fertiliser dose of 25:25:50kg NPK/ha is recommended. Entire P,K and half N are to be applied basally and the remaining half N 30 days after sowing. First irrigation is to be given immediately after sowing and subsequent irrigations at 7-10 days interval. Hoeing and weeding are to be done during the early stages of plant growth and thinning at 25-30 days to have a spacing of 10-15cm between plants and to retain 1-2 plants per hill. Root rot (caused by Rhizoctonia solani) is a serious disease and can be controlled by drenching carbendazim 0.05% first at the onset of the disease and another after one monthof first application. In about 25-30 days, young shoots are nipped off 5cm above ground level and subsequent cuttings of leaves may be taken after 15 days. It is advisable to take 1-2 cuttings before the crop is allowed for flowering and fruiting when pods are dried, the plants are pulled out, dried in the sun and seeds are threshed by beating with stick or by rubbing with hands. Seeds are winnowed, cleaned and dried in the sun. They may be stored in gunny bags lined with paper. An yield of 1200-1500kg of seeds and about 800-1000kg of leaves may be obtained per hectare in crops grown for both the purposes (Kumar et al, 1997).
Properties and activity: Seeds contain sapogenins-diosgenin, its 25-epimer(yamogenin), tigogenin, gitogenin, yuccagenin, 25-2-spirosta-3-5-diene and its -epimer. Seeds also contain a C27-steroidal sapogenin-peptide ester-fenugreekine. Seeds, in addition, contain 4-hydroxyleucine and saponins-fenugrins A-E:two furostanol glycoxides-trigonelloxide C and (255)-22-O-methyl-52-firostan-3 ,22,26,triol-3-O- -rhamnopyrans syl(1-2) C- -D-glucopyranosyl (1-3)- -D- glucopyranoxide-26-O- -D-glucopyranoxide.
Other chemical constituents are sterols- -sitosterol and cholesterol, flavone C- glycosides-vitexin, iso-vitexin, vitexin-2”-O-P-coumarate and vicenin-2. Flavonoids- quercetin and luteolin, flavonoid glycoside-vicenin-I. Invitro seedling callus culture gave flavonoids-luteolin and vitexin-1-glycoside. An essential oil is also reported from seeds. Leaves gave saponins-gracecunins A-G, flavonoids- kaempferol and quercetin; sterols- – sitosterol, sapogenins-diosgenin, gitogenin coumarin-scopoletin is also reported from the plant.
Seeds are bitter, mucilaginous, aromatic, carminative, tonic, diuretic, thermogenic, galactagogue, astringent, emollient, amophrodisiac, antirheumatic, CNS depressant and antiimplantation. Fenugreekine is hypoglycaemic, diuretic, hypotensive, cardiotonic, antiphlogistic. It showed 80% inhibition of vaccina virus.