This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
Fenugreek, Trigonella Foenum-groecum, Linne (N.O. Leguminosoe), is an annual herb indigenous to the countries bordering on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and largely cultivated in India, Egypt, and Morocco. It was well known to the ancients, who used the herb as cattle fodder and employed the seeds medicinally. In Egypt the seeds are roasted and eaten, and in India the young shoots form a favourite vegetable. In England the seeds are chiefly used in veterinary practice. They are contained in long, narrow, sickle-shaped pods, from which they are separated, when ripe, by thrashing. Our supplies are derived chiefly from Mogadore and Bombay.
Fenugreek seeds are small (about 5 mm. long), hard, and brownish yellow although the colour varies. They are flattened and have a very characteristic rhomboidal outline. Nearly in the centre of one of the long, narrow sides is a small depression in which both hilum and micropyle are situated, the former being distinctly visible as a whitish point; this depression is continued in the form of a furrow running diagonally across part of each of the adjoining sides, thus dividing the seed into two unequal lobes. If the seed is cut in a direction transverse to the side in which the hilum lies, so as to pass through both lobes of the seed (fig. 90, B), it will be found that the larger lobe contains two accumbent cotyledons - the smaller, the radicle; both are yellowish in colour, and surrounded by a darker, horny, translucent endosperm, which also separates the radicle from the cotyledons. Soaked in water the endosperm swells and yields mucilage to the surrounding liquid. Entire seeds macerated in warm water burst their seed-coats by the swelling of the mucilage, and disclose the structure of the seed. (Compare fig. 90, A).
The odour of fenugreek, especially if powdered, is strong and characteristic; the taste is disagreeable. The student should observe.
(a) The characteristic shape,
(b) The cotyledons, radicle, and endosperm (in transverse section),
(c) The characteristic odour.
Fenugreek contains 28 per cent, of mucilage, which resides in the endosperm, not, as in the case of mustard and linseed, in the seed-coats; it yields by hydrolysis the sugars mannose and galactose. The drug contains, further, about 22 per cent, of proteids, 6 per cent, of fixed oil, and two alkaloids, trigonelline and choline, the latter being a frequent constituent of both animal and vegetable substances.
The seeds are now used in veterinary medicine and occasionally as a spice in curry powders.
Fig. 90. - Fenugreek seed.
A, vertical section, showing the radicle, one of the cotyledons, and hilum, n.
B, transverse section, showing the radicle, r; both cotyledons, c; and endosperm, e. Magnified. (Moeller).