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Fenugreek seeds

Chinese: 胡芦巴

Pinyin: Hú Lú Bā

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Trigonella foenum-graecum

Use of fenugreek seeds (Hu Lu Ba) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities and dry

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the Kidneys. Disperses Dampness and Cold. Relieves pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which fenugreek seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Hernial pain Abdominal pain Abdominal bloating Back pain Impotence

Contraindications*: Not for symptoms of Heat or Damp-Heat caused by Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which fenugreek seeds (Hu Lu Ba) are used*

Key TCM concepts behind fenugreek seeds (Hu Lu Ba)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fenugreek seeds are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yang Tonics are generally used in combination with a small amount of Yin tonics. If Yin is deficient, neither Qi nor Yang herbs alone will be effective. The most common symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency are low libido and impotence. It is worth mentioning that another very effective remedy against Yang Deficiency is regular exercise.

Furthermore fenugreek seeds are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that fenugreek seeds tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition fenugreek seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Fenugreek seeds also taste Bitter. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like fenugreek seeds tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such fenugreek seeds are thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on fenugreek seeds (Hu Lu Ba)

Fenugreek may reduce some biomarkers in people with diabetes and with pre-diabetic conditions.1


1. Gong, J; Fang, K; Dong, H; Wang, D; Hu, M; Lu, F (2 August 2016). "Effect of Fenugreek on Hyperglycaemia and Hyperlipidemia in Diabetes and Prediabetes: a Meta-analysis". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 194: 260–268. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.08.003

Use of fenugreek seeds (Hu Lu Ba) as food

Fenugreek seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Fenugreek seeds pulao rice.