Methi is one of the oldest medicinal plants in history; a description of this plant was found on the Ebers Papyrus 1550 BC Egypt, one of the two oldest maintained medical documents (Brier, 1998).
Methi has been around for thousands of years and used as a medicine, spice, and food for both humans and animals. Methi has, through the times, been used for a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, fever, anorexia, cough, bronchitis, swellings, burns, abscesses, ulcers, sprue and other digestive issues. Addtionally, methi has been used to treat menopausal symptoms, inducing childbirth and stimulation of milk production in breastfeeding women. This paper discusses the western and ayurvedic botanical nomenclature, ethnobotany and research trials supporting the health benefits of methi.
A wealth of information is available and numerous studies have been made on its therapeutic effects. The research process for this monograph began by diving in to the ayurvedic text of Bhavaprakasha and the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia. The exploration continued online and with a discerning attitude, scholarly articles and acknowledged references have been chosen to give as much of an authentic presentation as possible.
Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plant)
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae, Papilionaceae - the Legume, Bean, Pulse or Pea Family)
Species: T. foenum-graecum Linn.
Botany and Ecology
Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn., foenum-graecum means Greek hay (Kowalchik, 1998). Methi possibly got this name based upon its use as a fodder crop prior to the discovery of its medicinal values in ancient Egypt (Kowalchik, 1998).
Katzer, an Austrian chemist, has collected information from various etymological dictionaries and explains that the word Trigonella comes from Greek trigonon (triangle) which is composed of treis (three) and gony (angle). Trigonella foenum-graecum L. has flowers which are somewhat triangular shaped and three leaflets which may be what trigonon refers to.
Germanic languages are closely related in their names for Trigonella foenum-graecum L., for example in German it is called Bockshornklee, in Danish Bukkehornskløver, Swedish Bockhornsklöver and Norwegian Bukkehornkløver which all mean buck horn's clover. The pods are long and pointed and were likely compared with the horns of a Billy goat (refer to the picture on the right of the pods).
Fenugreek, Bird's Foot, Greek Clover, Greek Hay, Greek Hay Seed (NMCD). The following names of methi used in different languages have been collected by Katzer:
- Arabic: Hulba, Hilbeh
- Bulgarian: Sminduh, Sminduh grutski, Tilchets, Chimen
- Burmese: Penantazi
- Chinese (Cantonese): Wuh louh ba
- Chinese (Mandarin): Hu lu ba
- Danish: Bukkehornskløver, Bukkehornsfrø
- Dutch: Fenegriek
- Egyptian: Hemayt (Nunn, 1996)
- Esperanto: Fenugreko
- Farsi: Shanbalile
- Finnish: Sarviapila
- French: Fenugrec, Sénegré, Trigonelle
- German: Bockshornklee, Griechisch Heu
- Greek (old): Telis
- Hindi: Kasuri methi, Methi, Sag methi
- Hebrew: Hilbeh
- Indonesian: Kelabet, Klabat, Kelabat
- Italian: Fieno greco
- Japanese: Koruha, Fenu-guriku
- Kannada: Mente, Mentya
- Korean: Horopa, Penigurik
- Nepali: Methi
- Polish: Kozieradka pospolita; Nasiona kozieradki
- Portuguese: Feno-grego, Alfarva, Alforba, Fenacho
- Romanian: Molotru, Molotru comun, Schinduf
- Russian: Pazhitnik grecheski, Shambala, Pazhitnik cennoj
- Spanish: Alholva, Fenogreco
- Swahili: Uwatu
- Swedish: Bockhornsklöver
- Tamil: Meti, Vendayam, Vetani
- Telugu: Mentikura, Mentulu
- Thai: Luk sat
- Ukrainian: Hunba sinna
- Urdu: Methi, Shanbalid; Kasuri methi
The Fabaceae family is one of the most important plant families both ecologically and economically. The plants of this family increase soil nitrogen and provide sources of vegetable protein for domestic and wild animals as well as human beings (Lavin, 2001). Especially the wild variety of methi is useful for horses (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).
Methi is an aromatic plant resembling a large clover that reaches from 30-60 cm (1-2 ft.) (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).
The flower of Methi is white or yellowish white, axillary, and has 5 petals which make up what is referred to as banner, wing and keel. The banner is the largest upper petal and has two lobes, which is why it appears as being two petals fused together. Two smaller petals form the wings, and the last two are usually fused together and make up the keel below the wings (Elpel, 2008; Bhavaprakasha, 2006).
A distinct characteristic of the Fabaceae family are the pinnate and trifoliate compound leaves. They are deciduous during the dry season in the tropics or during the winter in temperate regions (Lavin, 2001). The leaflets are toothed (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).
The flowers produce seed pods that are six inches (15 cm) long and resemble string beans, but Methi fruits grow upright. Each pod contains 10 to 20 dull yellow, smooth, hard, and elongated seeds. They are shaped like a rhomboid and have a deep groove running obliquely from one side which divides each seed into two parts; a larger .2-.5 cm long and smaller .15-.35 cm. The seeds become mucilaginous when soaked in water (ayurvedic pharmacopeia, 1999), contain high amounts fiber and protein, and are collected in the fall (Turner, 2005). The fruit pods are 2-3 inches (5-7½ cm) long with long persistent beak.
Habitat, ecosystems and geographic range where found
Methi is a hardy and fast growing plant that grows on field edges, uncultivated land, hillsides and dry grasslands. It grows in just about any type of soil but requires sunlight (Huxley, Fern, 1997).
Methi is native to southeastern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, and is widely cultivated in other parts of the world (Turner, 2005). It grows abundantly throughout India, but especially in the north western state Rajasthan, where it is used as a food and spice in many traditional families (Mathur, 2009). India occupies 70-80% of the world's export share, and Rajasthan delivers 83-90% of this share (Pruthi, 2001; Agarwal, 2001).
Phenology (time of growth, flowering and fruiting)
Methi is an annual plant that lives for only four to seven months (Petropoulos, 2002).
The flowering period is in the summer (from June to August), and the seeds are ripe from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects (Fern, 1997).
Ecologic Status (widespread, uncommon, weed)
Fabaceae, the Pea family (including beans and peanuts), is the third largest of plants after the Orchid and Aster families; there are 600 genera and 13.000 species (Elpel, 2008). According to Halevy (1989), there are about 130 species of Trigonella, of which, the following are the most known:
Trigonella arabica (Delile), Trigonella caerulea (L.) blue fenugreek, Trigonella calliceras (Fisch.), Trigonella corniculata (L.) cultivated fenugreek, Trigonella cretica (L.), Trigonella foenum-graecum (L.) sicklefruit fenugreek, Trigonella gladiata (Steven ex M. Bieb.), Trigonella hamosa (L.) branched fenugreek, Trigonella monantha (C.A. Meyer), Trigonella monspeliaca (L.) star-fruited fenugreek, Trigonella orthoceras (Kar. & Kir.), Trigonella polycerata (L.), Trigonella procumbens (Bess. Reichenb.) trailing fenugreek, Trigonella purpurascens (Lam.) birdsfoot fenugreek.
Trigonella foenum-graecum L. has been classified in several ways (Petropoulos, 2002). Serpukova (1934) classified the seeds according to shape, size and color while Sinskaya (1961) made his categories based upon growing period, habits and morphological characters.
Methi leaves and seeds are used in cooking and medicinally. The seeds have great therapeutic value and the powdered dried seeds are an important medicine in Ayurveda. Besides its medicinal appreciation, the seeds are used in varieties of ways throughout the world. They have a maple smell and flavor which make them a unique spice in foods, beverages and confections. Seeds are sprouted and eaten raw in salads along with the fresh green leaves or cooked into curries, soups, breads and many other recipes (Turner, 2005). Refer to the appendixes at the end of this paper for recipes using methi.
Sprouts: Soak 1-2 tsp seeds in water overnight. Pour that water off the next day and rinse seeds with clear water. Place the seeds in a sprouter and rinse with water daily. The sprouting process takes about five days (Bonyata).
In Egypt and Ethiopia, the seeds are used in sweets and as a supplement to wheat and maize flour for making bread (Al-Habori, 1998). Armenians use the seeds with garlic paste and chile pepper in a spice called chemen, Yemenite Jews use them in a seasoning called zhug, and in the United States, seeds are used in bean soups, chutneys, spice blends, icing and meat seasoning (Uhl, 2000). In Greece, the seeds are boiled and eaten with honey, and in Africa they are soaked and used as legume. The dry seeds are also roasted and used as a coffee substitute (Pruthi, 2001; AKA, 2000).
Other ways the seeds are used:
Tea: 1 tsp whole methi seeds steeped in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drink three or more times a day (Bonyata).
Poultice: Steep several ounces of seeds in about a cup of water. Let them cool and mash. Place the paste on a clean cloth and use (Bonyata).
Facial Scrub: Soak 2 Tbsp seeds in 1 Tbsp plain live yogurt for an hour, then blend coarsely to a paste. Gently rub this on to the face and neck using circular movements and wash off after 15 minutes (India Abroad, 2002).
The seeds are also used as veterinary medicine. They are mixed with cottonseed and given to cattle to enhance milk production. In rural areas of the state Bihar, they are applied over swellings and wounds in cattle and given to ruminants and poultry with diarrhea. The seeds are considered useful in ruminants after calving and are sold as nutritional supplements for horses and cattle (Jha, 1992; IIRR, 1994).
Extracts nowadays are used in maple syrup imitations and cosmetic products, and due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties, the seeds have shown to be suitable as packaging paper to preserve foods; in 2002, a high school student from Maryland won an award for this invention (Turner, 2005).
During the time of Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, the king of Syria from 175 BC. until 164 BC., a mixture of methi, cinnamon, spikenard, saffron, amaracus and lilies are said to have been used as perfume (Leyel, 1987).
In ancient Egypt, methi was used in embalming processes and for incense (Marcolina, 2004). At the Royal Botanical Gardens in London, methi was discovered to be among the supplies placed in the Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamen's tomb by his subjects to ensure he did not suffer from hunger in the afterlife. (Chicago Sun-Times, 1988). Egyptians also roasted methi seeds as a coffee and ate the sprouting seeds as vegetables (Stuart, 1986).
Methi was a favorite of the Arabs. It was studied at the School of Salerno by Arab physicians and had great importance in Hadith. According to Qasim Bin Abdul Rehman, Rasulullah said, "Seek cure by (using) fenugreek," and Hadith Rasulullah, "If my followers (Ummat) know the importance of the fenugreek then they will buy it by gold of equal weight" (Ghaznavi, 1991).
Methi is mentioned in the Mishna, the 'Oral Torah' which was the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions, as an herb used as offering (Jerusalem Post, 1995). Methi was also used during the final attacks of the Romans on Jotapata in Galilee when Josephus commanded methi to be boiled and poured over the siege ramps to make the Romans slip and fall; the mucilage content of methi produces a slippery paste (Jacob, 1993).
During the 1st century in Rome, Asclepiades, physician and originator of massage and friction, used methi as a general remedy (Thompson, 1897).
Benedictine monks are said to have introduced methi to central Europe (Stuart, 1986), and hunting tribes used methi in fishing. Due to its content of saponins, which is toxic to fish, large quatities of methi would be placed in lakes or stream to slow down or kill the fish. Saponins are not absorbed well in the human body and thus do not cause harm in people (Fern, 1997).
In the ayurvedic pharmacopeia (1999), the following energetics are given for methi seed:
Rasa (taste): tikta (bitter)
Virya: ushna (heating)
Vipaka (post digestive effect): katu (pungent)
Guna (quality): snigdha (unctuous)
Karma (actions): diipana (digestive), rucya, vaatahara (pacifies vata) and kaphahara (pacifies kapha)
Bhavaprakasha (2006) is in agreement with the ayurvedic pharmacopeia that methi seeds reduce vata and kapha, however, the textbook of dravyaguna claims the following properties and actions (Nichteswar, 2007):
Rasa (taste): katu (pungent)
Virya: ushna (heating)
Vipaka (post digestive effect): katu (pungent)
Guna (quality): laghu (light), snigdha (unctuous)
Karma (actions): diipana (digestive), vaatahara (pacifies vata) and raktapitta when entered into the prakopa stage of samprapti (disease process).
Note the different rasa, vipaka, guna and karma.
According to Lad (1988), methi acts on the following dhatus (bodily tissues): rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), majja (marrow and nerve), shukra and artava (reproductive), and the following srotas (bodily systems): anna (digestive), prana (respiratory), mutra (urinary), shukra and artava (reproductive).
Antipyretic, astringent, aphrodisiac, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, expectorant, ionic neutral, galactagogue, restorative, spermicidal, stomachic, tonic, vermifugal (Duke, 1986), and anabolic (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).
Knowing the chemical constituents of a plant is important in order to determine specific health effects. During a study of observing different varieties of methi genotypes, it was discovered that methi plants can vary in chemical constituents (saponins, fibre, protein, amino acids and fatty acid contents) as well as in morphology, growth habit and seed production capability. However, the research results show that the variability for important traits in methi have a genetic base, which allows for improved levels of possible traits (Acharya, 2006).
Alkaloids: Trigonelline, choline (Al-Habori, 1998)
Amino acids: 4-Hydroxyisoleucine, lysine, histidine, tryptophan, cystine, tyrosine (Al-Habori, 1998)
Carbohydrates: sucrose, glucose, fructose, myoinositol, galactose, raffinose, verbascose, digalactosylmyoinositol, galactomannan, xylose, arabinose (Aboutabl, 1999)
Coumarins: Trimentyl coumarin, methyl coumarin, trigocumarin (Khurana, 1982; Raj, 1999)
Flavonoids: orientin, quercetin, vitexin, luteolin, isoorientin, isovitexin, saponaretin, vicenin-1, kaempferol, lilyn, tricin 7-O-D glucopyranoside, naringenin, (Han, 2001; Sood, 1976)
Saponins: Diosgenin, hederagin, tigonenin, neotigogenin, yuccagenin, gitogenin, smilagenin, sarsasapogenin, yamogenin along with the glycosides foenugracin, trigonoesides, fenugrin (Taylor, 2000; Yoshikawa, 1998; Yoshikawa, 1998; Gupta, 1984, 1985, 1986).
Others: vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, folic acid, ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, biotin, fixed oil, traces of essential oil (Al-Habori, 1998; Aboutabl, 1999; Leonard, 2001; Gopalan, 2004)
In addition, Barnes (2002), DerMarderosian (1999) and Newall (1998) added the following:
Alkaloids: carpaine, trigonelline yields nicotinic acid with roasting
Amino acids: arginine
Fiber: Gum (mucilage), neutral detergent fiber
Based upon an isotope dilution technique, it has been concluded that methi contains about 2-25 ppm sotolonen which is the dominant flavor compound (ACS, 1997).
Methi is an ancient plant and has been used throughout the world as a medicine, food and spice. In Ayurveda, there are two different traditions to consider which can be referred to as the Father lineage; the medicinal aspect based upon scriptures, sutras and the traditions of the vaidyas, and the Mother lineage; cooking and home remedies passed on from grandmothers to daughters through generations. These traditions have, and still do today, serve all beings (Alakananda).
Medicinally, methi has been indicated internally in many conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, digestive problems, cancers, fevers, impotence, asthma, and externally for mastitis, swellings, and burns.
In bhavaprakasha (2006), it is stated that methi seeds are useful in treating diabetes, and based upon the following human studies, this health claim has been documented. Amin (1987) demonstrated that the hypoglycemic effects of methi are due to stimulation of glucose-dependent insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells as well as by inhibition of the activities of alpha amylase and sucrase, the intestinal enzymes involved in carbohydrate digestion.
Sharma (1990) conducted a randomized study in patients with type 2 diabetes for 10 days. 15 non-insulin dependent diabetic patients were randomly, in a cross over design, given diets with or without 100 g of defatted methi seed powder each. By incorporating methi, there was a significant fall in fasting blood glucose levels, and the insulin responses were significantly reduced. There was a 64% reduction in 24 hr. urinary glucose excretion with significant alterations in serum lipid profile, and the serum total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels decreased without any alteration in HDL cholesterol fraction.
Gupta (2001) tested 25 newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes who all had similar weight and clinical test results. They were randomly divided into two equal groups, and for two months Group 1 received 1 g hydroalcoholic extract of methi seeds daily, and Group 2 received placebo capsules. At the end of the two months, the fasting blood glucose and 2-hr. post-glucose blood glucose were not different among the two groups; however, there was a decrease in the beta-cell secretion and increase in the insulin sensitivity in Group 1 as compared to Group 2. The serum triglycerides also decreased and HDL cholesterol increased significantly in Group 1 as compared to Group 2.
In another study, 69 patients, whose blood glucose levels were not optimally controlled by oral sulfonylureas hypoglycemic drugs, were randomly assigned: 46 in an experimental group who were given methi saponins (TFGs), and 23 in the control group receiving placebo 3 times per day, 6 pills each time for 12 weeks. The patients continued taking their regular hypoglycemic drugs. The combined therapy of TFGs with sulfonylureas hypoglycemic drugs lowered the blood glucose level and improved clinical symptoms (Fu-rong, 2008).
Sharma (1991) conducted a study of 10 healthy, non-obese people with serum cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL. Each person was assigned to receive a control diet and an experimental diet, which was supplemented with defatted methi seed powder over two successive time periods, each lasting 20 days. During the experimental period, 100 g of defatted methi powder was divided into two equal parts and incorporated into chapatti for lunch and dinner. For the control period, the chapatti contained no methi. After ingestion of the methi diet, eight of the 10 subjects experienced a 25% reduction in serum cholesterol; methi significantly reduced the LDL and VLDL fractions without altering the HDL levels. After 20 days of the control diet, the serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels were unchanged from baseline.
In 1996, Sharma performed a long-term study with 60 diabetic patients, 40 of whom were taking one or more anti-diabetic medications. Each person was initially placed on a control diet for seven days, followed by placement on an experimental diet for 24 weeks. During this experimental diet, 25 g of methi seed powder was divided into two equal parts and consumed in soup 15 minutes prior to lunch and dinner. Blood tests were drawn and after 24 weeks of the study; the total cholesterol level decreased 14% from baseline; a significant result.
Methi seeds are useful in digestive complaints such as gastritis and gastric ulcers. In 2002, a study revealed that an aqueous solution and a gel fraction derived from methi seeds have anti-ulcer effects equivalent to Omeprazole, an over-the-counter medication for dyspepsia, peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux. The researchers found that the methi extracts protect the gastric mucosa from injury as well as reduces the secretion of gastric acid (Pandian). According to the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia (1999), methi seed powder is indicated for grahanii (sprue or malabsorption syndrome) with dosage of 3-6 g. In the Textbook of Dravyaguna (2007), 1-3 g of methi seed powder soaked in fresh made yoghurt relieves pravahika (gassy, cramping and burning diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, Bhishagratna, 2002). Due to the content of fiber and mucilage in methi seeds, they also act as a laxative, the dosage ½-1 tsp. of freshly powdered herb per one cup of water, followed by an additional cup of water, can be taken 1-3 times daily (Turner, 2005).
Studies demonstrate that a polyphenol-rich aqueous methanolic extract from methi seeds have antioxidant properties and protect cellular structures from oxidative damage (Kaviarasan, 2004, 2005; Farrukh, 2006).
Trigonelline, the alkaloid constituent, in methi seeds has shown potential for use in cancer therapy (Phillips, 1990). In an in vitro study, the extract FE from methi seeds was demonstrated to have toxic effect on cancer cells but not normal cells. Treatment with 10-15 [micro]g/mL of FE for 72 hours turned out to be growth inhibitory to breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer cells, and it was discovered that "death of cancer cells occurs despite growth stimulatory pathways being simultaneously upregulated by FE" (Shabbeer, 2009).
Other in vivo studies disclose that diosgenin, an extract of methi, hinders tumor growths by inhibiting Akt signaling. After treatment with diosgenin, the incidence of breast hyperplasia decreased and toxicity was almost gone in breast epithelial cells (Amin, 2005; Srinivasan, 2009). Diosgenin and ethanol extracts show to prevent colon cancer by inducing apoptosis (Raju, 2004; Sebastian, 2007).
In Bhavaprakasha (2006), it is stated that methi "seeds are anabolic and galactagogue and are used in children and mothers." A study in Indonesia supports this statement when methi was shown to be effective in 75 lactating women (Damanik, 2004).
In 1945, an Egyptian researcher reported that methi stimulates breast milk production; it was found that its use was associated with increases in milk production of as much as 900% (Fleiss).
In the Warli tribe, the largest in the Dahanu area in Maharasthra, India (about 120 km from Mumbai), a small amount of methi seeds are powdered and mixed in rice porridge and taken daily, first thing in the morning to increase lactation in nursing mothers (Sayed, 2007).
During 1992, in Sudan, during interviews with several grandmothers, it was discovered that they recommend methi for lactating mothers (Ahfad, 1995). Methi seeds contain flavonoids, phytoestrogen, which regulates the hormones and aids the mammary glands to produce milk (as a consequence to the stimulation of the secretion of prolactin) in nursing mothers (Sayed, 2007). In addition, Rima Jensen, MD, (1992) suggests that methi affects the milk production because methi stimulates sweat production and the breast is a modified sweat gland. Jensen (1992) has worked with at least 1200 women who have taken methi to increase breast milk and most mothers did not need any other interventions to develop sufficient milk. Generally within 24 to 72 hours after taking 2-3 capsules methi seed powder three times a day, the mothers would experience a difference, and most of them found that they could discontinue taking methi when the milk production was stimulated to an appropriate level (Jensen, 1992).
Kathleen Huggins, the director of the breastfeeding clinic at San Luis Obispo General Hospital, CA, uses methi for relactation and for mothers who are pumping for non-nursing babies.
Methi is an ally for both male and female concerns. In China, methi is used to treat male impotence, premature ejaculation and low libido (Ody, 1993; Willard, 1991; Bensky, 1993). Egyptian women used methi to ease menstrual pain (Ody, 1993). According to Depp, the leaves are helpful in anemia because they are rich in iron. A poultice or plaster of the seeds and/or leaves can be applied for engorged breasts or mastitis to help with let-down and to reduce swellings and inflammation (Bonyata; Shah, 2007). Methi is also helpful in the induction of childbirth due to its stimulating effect on uterine contractions (Turner, 2005).
In bhavaprakasha (2006), it is stated that methi is useful in fevers and that a paste of methi leaves applied over the eyes relieves conjunctivitis. A poultice of the leaves is also used for burns (Warrier, 2002), and the leaves are given internally for other conditions of pitta (Warrier, 2002).
In traditional Chinese medicine, methi seeds are used as a treatment for weakness and edema of the legs (Yoshikawa, 1997).
Gargling with warm methi tea is said to soothe sore throats (Castleman, 1991; Hoffmann). For asthma, the Jewish, Spanish born, physician Moses Maimonides, who lived in 1100, advised an enema with sap of linseed and methi, oil, chicken fat and beet juice (Muntner, 1963). The saponins in methi seeds have been extracted for use in various other pharmaceutical products (Phillips, 1990), and in the development of oral contraceptives and sex hormones, diosgenin is an important substance in the experiments (Rosengarten, 1969).
In the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia (1999), methi is an ingredient in the important formulations mustakaarista and mrtasanjiivanii suraa. Aristha is an herbal wine prepared by boiling (Sarngadhara). Sura means Aasava (Bharat, 2010) which is an herbal wine made from cold water without boiling (Aarngadhara). Mrtasanjiivanii suraa is the drug of choice for kapha jvara, sannipata jvara (tridoshic fever), daurbalya (weakness and debility), krushuta (emaciation), svasa (dyspnoea) and kasa (cough); it penetrates deep into the lungs and thus helps to clear the air passages (Bharat, 2010).
Ingredients of mustakaaristha (Bharat, 2010)
- Jaggary (gud)
- Maricha (black pepper)
- Dhatki (flower)
- Methika (fenugreek)
- Jirak (cumin)
- Dry Ginger (sunthi)
- Lauang (clove)
Ingredients of mrutsanjivanii suraa (Bharat, 2010)
- Very old Jaggery (Gud)
- · Chandan (sandalwood)
- · Ushir
- · Shatpushpi
- · Maricha (black pepper)
- · Ajwain
- · Krishna Jirak (black cumin)
- · Sariva
- · Cardamom
- · Jathiphal
- · Mustaka
- · Granthparni
- · Shunthi (dry ginger)
- · Methika
- · Shati
Methi is also part of the formula caturbiji, which contains chandrashura (Lepidium sativum - gardencress pepperweed), krishna jiraka (Nigella sativa - black cumin) and yavani (ajwain) (Pole, 2006). Caturbija powder treats conditions caused by vata dosha such as indigestion, bloating, spasms, and thoracic and pelvic pain (Bhavaprakasha, 2006).
The use of methi as a spice in cooking is a known tradition in many cultures throughout the world. In Rajasthan, the largest state in India, methi is an important ingredient in the common spice combination of cumin seeds, onion, garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, besan flour, jaggery, tamarind or lime and salt (Mathur, 2009). When making Rajasthani curries, the methi seeds are usually boiled until soft, the cooking water is discarded to remove any bitterness and then the seeds are seasoned with oil and other spices. Methi ladoo is a traditional sweet in Rajasthan prepared from roasted methi seed flour with added jaggery and ghee. This sweet is mostly consumed during the winter for joint pains, arthritis and rheumatism
(Mathur, 2009). Another Rajasthani preparation is methi raita which is made with fresh yoghurt and sprouted seeds eaten as such or seasoned with spices (Mathur, 2009).
Home remedies date far back and there are many different ways on how to use methi. For sinuses, simmer 2 tablespoons of crushed methi seeds in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Strain and add 1 tablespoon each of lemon and onion juice. Drink several cups a day (Williams, 2005, p. 146).
To build blood, add 1 teaspoon each of methi seeds, dried comfrey and dandelion in 2 cups of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and add honey as sweetener. Drink after meals (Williams, 2005, p. 183).
For lung and sinus congestion, blend 1 tablespoon each of methi, slippery elm, thyme, and comfrey. Place powder in capsules and take 2 capsules every 2 hours for 3 days. When symptoms are relieved take 2 capsules daily (Williams, 2005, p. 221).
As a tonic for good health in both humans and animals, add 2 teaspoons of methi seeds in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes, strain and add at least once a week to the drinking water (Williams, 2005, p. 250).
To get relief from a sore throat, boil 3 tablespoon methi seeds, a handful of mint leaves and 4 cups of water for 15 minutes, strain and cool. Gargle with this decoction regularly until soreness disappears (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 84).
Ramadoss Prabhakaran (2010) from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, shares that his mother used to take, and give the family, a teaspoon of methi powder every day with 1 glass of water during the summer to keep the body cool. She would take methi to relieve stomach pain due to the heat, and a teaspoon of methi every day to prevent diabetes. Yemenites Jews also consume methi seeds. They soak, boil and liquefy the seeds in soups, sauces and vegetable shakes (Goulart, 1995).
Methi seeds contain mucilage and to keep skin soft, the seeds are soaked in water to extract the mucilage, which is then applied to the skin (Shah, 2007). To enhance a clear complexion, soak 2 Tbsp. methi seeds in water for 30 minutes, then drain the water. Blend the seeds with 2 Tbsp. dried methi leaves and ¾ cup coconut milk. Then add 1 Tbsp. chickpea flour and stir until paste is free from lumps. Apply a thin layer of the paste on a clean and dry face and neck. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes or until it is dry, then rinse it off with lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 85).
Methi also promotes hair growth, and Dr. Smitha Yavagal, an Indian beautician, suggests the following home remedies for hair growth and dandruff:
- Soak methi seeds in coconut oil under direct sunrays for seven days. Then apply to scalp.
- Make a paste using methi powder and coconut milk. Rub this paste on scalp briskly and cover with a plastic cap, leave it on for 30 minutes and wash the hair with mild shampoo.
- Take 1 part Bengal gram (chana dal), 1 part green gram (green chana) and ½ part methi 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.
- For dandruff soak 2 Tbsp. methi seeds overnight in water, in the morning grind the seeds into a fine paste. Apply the paste throughout the scalp and leave it on for ½ hour. Then wash the hair thoroughly.
To make hair silky and glossy, soak 2 tablespoons of methi seeds in water for 30 minutes. Drain the water and blend with 2 tablespoons dried methi leaves and ¾ cup milk or coconut milk into a paste. Apply onto pre-washed scalp and hair and leave in for 20 minutes. Rinse off and shampoo as usual (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 83).
To increase volume of hair, soak 3 tablespoons of methi seeds in ¾ cup water for 6 hours. Grind the seeds into a paste with the water and slowly stir in 3 tablespoons soap nut powder, mix well. Rub paste into scalp and leave it in for about 30 minutes, then rinse off and shampoo as usual (Sanmugam, 2007, p. 169).
Herb-Drug Interaction & Contraindications
Methi is safe when used in moderation for its intended use; it is listed on the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (CFR). Yet, as with most medications and herbs, side effects have been noted.
Caution should be taken when taking Warfarin or other anticoagulant drugs such as Heparin used to stop blood from clotting. Due to the coumarin content in methi, it can enhance the anticoagulant activity and in combination with Warfarin or Heparin, the international normalized ratio (INR) may increase and cause bleeding (Lambert, 2001).
Since methi can lower blood sugar, it is important to monitor blood sugar levels when taking Insulin, Glipizide or other anti-diabetic drugs. Dosage adjustment of anti-diabetic drugs may be necessary when taking methi on a regular basis (Fetrow, 1999).
Due to the amine content in methi, the effect of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may be enhanced (Fetrow, 1999), and in theory, methi may impair absorption of oral medications due to its high content of mucilaginous fiber (Fetrow, 1999).
If taken in large amounts, methi can cause contractions of the uterus. Thus, women who are pregnant should avoid therapeutic doses (Bown; Chevallier, 1996). However, a study of pregnant rats fed with 75 mg/kg p.o. (a dose equal to therapeutic doses for diabetes) trigonelline, extract of methi, showed no significant difference in the implants or numbers of offspring to that of the control group; the litters all survived and were normal growth (Shah, 2006). It is therefore controversial if methi can cause abortions.
If taking larger doses (more than 100 g per day) adverse reactions such as nausea or diarrhea can occur, or even more severe pitta provocation such as bleeding, bruising or hypoglycemia. If there is excessive topical use, skin irritation can happen, and inhalation of the powder may cause asthma or allergic reactions such as swelling, numbness or wheezing (Fetrow, 1999).
The safety is not well-documented for use in small children or persons with liver or kidney disease (Turner, 2005). Depending on the dose used, methi may cause a maple syrup odor in sweat and urine (Turner, 2005).
For thousands of years, methi seeds and leaves have been used as incense, perfume, food and medicine for human beings as well as animals. It is mentioned in ancient texts such as Ebers Papyrus and Bhavaprakasha for its medicinal values. Methi lowers vata and kapha dosha as well as raktapitta in the prakopa stage of samprapti. Many researchers have studied the therapeutic effects of methi seeds and have established the fact that methi lowers cholesterol and blood sugar due to its saponin content, stimulating effect on glucose-dependent insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells, and by inhibiting the activities of alpha amylase and sucrase. Methi protects the gastric mucosa and can help digestive complaints such as gastritis and gastric ulcers. The polyphenol-rich extract has antioxidant properties and prevents oxidative damage, and trigonelline, diosgenin and ethanol extracts have been found useful in the cure of breast, pancreatic, prostate and colon cancer by hindering tumor growth. Methi is a galactagogue due to its content of flavonoids and phytoestrogen and is used by nursing mothers around the world. While considered safe for most uses, precaution is warranted for some applications of methi. Yet its far reaching effects make methi an herb with substantial benefits to those who use it as intended.
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