Fenugreek, being botanically called as Trigonella foenum-graecum is also known as “Methi” in Hindi. Fenugreek is an edible seed and hence its isolated gum is the latest addition to the list of galactomannan gums. Fenugreek is an annual crop, mainly cultivated in India. Fenugreek gums was not used in industries till 1990 but after that fenugreek had dual use by removing the spice and other components and separate the unique galactomannan which is also known as fenugreek gum powder to be used in the industries. Currently fenugreek gum is having high demand as it is having considerable amount of applications in industries. Fenugreek being an annual legume plant, is native to the Mediterranean region but is also grown in Middle East, Asia and Africa. India is an important exporter of Fenugreek seeds. Moreover, in India fenugreek is used as a spice as well as in medicines also.
The fenugreek gum powder is tasteless and odourless. It contains galactomannan which is a polysaccharide made of galactose combined with mannan, high molecular compound of mannose. Galactomannan has the property of viscosity which can convert milk into ice cream, cocoa into chocolate and when dissolved in water it forms gum.
The ratio of galactose to mannose for fenugreek is 1:1 when compared to guar gum and locust bean gum having ratio of 1:2 and 1:4 respectively, it can be found that fenugreek gum powder contains more galactose and so has superior solubility as well as dispersiveness which results to forming of stable colloid for a longer period of time. As Mannan is hydrophobic, it is completely insoluble in water. But, as fenugreek gum powder is the combination of galactose which is hydrophilic and mannan which is hydrophobic, fenugreek gum is surface active. It means that fenugreek gum powder is an emulsifier which can mix water and oil. Thus, fenugreek gum works as a gum and an emulsifier both which has enabled its use as a stabilizer for food. Compared to other conventional gums like guar gum and locust bean gum, fenugreek gum has superior characteristics and so is used in many industries.
Due to the presence of galactomannan in high proportion as the major component, in fenugreek gum powder, it has the quality of controlling blood sugar and blood lipid. So, it is considered very good for obesity and diabetic patients. Fenugreek gum powder also helps in reducing cholesterol, hypertension and chance of heart attack. Fenugreek gum powder also has the distinctive properties due to which the level of sugar in the blood can be lowered. Due to so many medicinal properties, fenugreek gum powder is used in tablet and capsules. It is also used in weight control formulation and other diet food.