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Trigonella foenum-graecum L. commonly known as Fenugreek belongs to family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is both a spice and a medicinal plant,
used from times immemorial by human beings as a vegetable and against various ailments and diseases. Fenugreek seeds are known to contain
about 45.4% dietary fiber, alkaloids (Diosgenin and Trigonelline), saponins, aminoacds, vitamins and minerals. The plant seeds and extracts are
specifically used against hyperglycaemia, hypercholesterolemia and as galactogogue. The saponins produced from fenugreek are used industrially
to prepare different types of steroidal drugs.
Trigonella foenum-graecum L. commonly known as Fenugreek is native to Southern Europe, the Mediterranean region and Western Asia
and is an annual herb of family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is locally known as Methi and is cultivated throughout India for a vegetable, culinary and
medicinal purposes. It is also grown as fodder. This plant is well known for its miraculous medicinal properties. The plant extract is anti-allergic
, antipyretic , anti-diabetic [3,4], anti-cholestrolemic , anti-malarial, antioxidant , and anti-cancerous [7,8]; it cures anaemia and
respiratory disorders , relieves skin irritation and is used in the treatment of indigestion and flatulence . It is an immunomodulatory agent
and is also used as galactogogue . Medicinal properties of fenugreek can be attributed to its bioactive constituents like 4-hydroxyisoleucine
(4-HI), trigonelline, galactomannans, diosgenin, flavonoids, carotenoids, coumarins, proteins, saponins and lipids. Fenugreek seeds act as dietary
supplement and significantly reduce the symptoms of diabetes mellitus (DM) such as polydipsia, polyuria, urine sugar, renal hypertrophy and
glomerular filtration rate . Fenugreek seed-alkaloid, known as trigonelline (Figure 1) controls diabetes mellitus through operation of the
mechanism of insulin secretion, modulation of β-cell regeneration and stimulation of activity of glucose metabolism related enzymes [13,14].
Keywords: Fenugreek; Trigonella foenum-graecum; Galactogogue; Diosgenin and trigonelline
Saponins are amphipathic glycosides having hydrophilic
glycoside moieties combined with a lipophilic triterpene
derivative. The glycoside free (aglycone) portion of the saponin
is termed as sapogenins. There are different sources of saponins
and one of the chief source is fenugreek. Fenugreek contains
approximately 4 to 8% saponins and about 1% alkaloids.
The main steroidal sapogenins obtained from fenugreek
seeds are diosgenin and yamogenin which are used as steroid
intermediates in the pharmaceutical industry. The occurrence of
diosgenin [(25R)-spirost-5-en-3β-ol] in the seeds of fenugreek
has been well expected for over 50 years . Other saponins
and steroidal saponins present in fenugreek include fenugrin
B, fenugreekine, trigofoenosides A-G, tigogenin, neotigogenin,
gitogenin, neogitogenin, yuccagenin and saponaretin . The
plant alkaloid Trigonelline (0.3-0.4%) was first isolated from
the seeds of fenugreek. it is a pyridine alkaloid, known for its
hypoglycaemic and hypocholesterolemic activity. Trigonelline
(N-methylnicotinic acid) is derived from nicotinic acid and
the reaction is catalysed by S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM)-
dependent nicotinate enzyme N-methyltransferase. Nicotinamide
and nicotinic acid, the products of pyridine nucleotide cycle
(PNC) give rise to trigonelline. The synthesis of trigonelline from
nicotinamide mononucleotide (NaMN) is shown in the Figure 2.
Other alkaloids present n fenugreek include Choline, Gentianine,
Carpaine and Betain [16-18].
Various amino acids have been found to be present in
fenugreek which includes 4-Hydroxyisoleucine, Histidine,
L-tryptophan, Argenine, Isoleucine, Leucine and lysine .
Flavonoids constitute about 100 mg/g of fenugreek seed such
as such as apigenin, luteolin, orientin, quercetin, vitexin and
isovitexin [20,21]. Fenugreek is abundant in polyphenolic
compounds. 4-Hydroxyisoleucine (4-OH-Ile) is known to be
present only in plants and is particularly plentiful in the seeds of
fenugreek, where it comprises almost 80% of the total content of
free amino acids. The amino acid, 4-OH-Ile stimulates the release
of insulin and controls blood sugar levels .
The seeds of fenugreek are rich source of vitamins
namely choline, vitamin A, B1, B2, C, nicotinic acid and niacin,
biotin, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine, vitamin C and
cyanocobalamine . They also contain significant amount of
minerals like sulphur, phosphorus  and calcium . Besides
above, fenugreek contains a lot of other useful products and
compounds like fiber (galactomannans), natural antioxidants
and flavonoids etc [25-27].