The health benefits of fenugreek include relief from anemia, loss of taste, fever, dandruff, stomach disorders, biliousness, respiratory disorders, mouth ulcers, sore throat, diabetes, inflammations, wounds and insomnia. It is beneficial during pregnancy, lactation and helps in improving digestion, as well as in various hair care applications. It is also shown to reduce cholesterol levels and protect heart health, while simultaneously boosting the immune system and protecting you against flu and various infections.
Fenugreek is an annual plant that is also known as methi in many places of the world. It is native to the Middle and Near East, and is widely used on the Indian subcontinent. It has small round leaves that can be dried, as well as seeds. There is even evidence that the ancient Egyptians understood the benefits of fenugreek, since fenugreek seeds have been found in tombs, particularly of Tutankhamen.
This plant is grown in countries across the globe, but the majority is cultivated and consumed in India. Fenugreek is interesting, because it can be used for three distinct purposes. The leaves can be dried and used as herbs, the seeds can be ground into a spice, and the plant matter itself can be used as a vegetable, like sprouts and microgreens. This makes fenugreek so important, because there are healthy attributes in all of those plant parts that can boost your health!
Most of the health benefits of fenugreek are due to the presence of saponins and fiber that it contains. Fenugreek is also used for herbal healing. Its seeds contain a gumming substance called mucilage and when mixed with water, mucilage expands and becomes a gelatinous salve for irritated tissues.
It is a member of the bean family and its scientific family name is Fabaceae. These health benefits are due to the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in this powerful plant.
Nutritional Value of Fenugreek
Fenugreek contains a wide variety of beneficial nutrients, including iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper, as well as vitamin B6, protein, and dietary fiber. Fenugreek also contains a number of powerful phytonutrients, including choline, trigonelline, yamogenin, gitogenin, diosgenin, tigogenin and neotigogens.
Health Benefits of Fenugreek
The health benefits of fenugreek are explained in greater detail below.
Good for Breast Feeding Mothers: India’s traditional ayurvedic physicians prescribe fenugreek to nursing mothers. This benefit is attributed to the presence of diosgenin in fenugreek. This can help increase the amount of milk that is produced by the breasts, and the magnesium and vitamin content of fenugreek also help the milk’s quality to keep your infant healthy.
Reduces Menstrual Discomfort: Fenugreek is considered as a potent substance that eases the process of menstruation and relieves the associated symptoms. It is an emmenagogue, which means that it can open up obstructed menses to make the most feminine of processes work smoothly and comfortably.
Minimizes Symptoms of Menopause: Fenugreek contains the chemicals diosgenin and estrogenic isoflavones, which are similar to the female sex hormone, estrogen. Loss of estrogen causes menopausal symptoms. So, eating fenugreek helps to reduce menopausal symptoms like mood swings, depression, cramps, and abnormal hunger pangs. Fenugreek helps to monitor a number of other hormones as well, keeping many other bodily processes in line as well.
Reduces Cholesterol: Research studies show that fenugreek consumption helps to reduce cholesterol level. Fenugreek helps to reduce the level of low density Lipoprotein (LDL) significantly, which can prevent various conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. Fenugreek is a rich source of fiber, which scrapes excess cholesterol off of the arteries and blood vessels of the body. By reducing cholesterol content in the bloodstream, you reduce the chances of clots forming or becoming stuck in the vessels.
Reduces Cardiovascular Risk: Fenugreek seeds contain 25% galactomannan. This is a type of natural soluble fiber which specifically relates to a reduction in cardiovascular disease.
Controls Diabetes: Fenugreek helps to alleviate type II diabetes. According to one study, it may also help people with Type I diabetes. Studies done by Indian researchers revealed that fenugreek added to type I diabetic patients’ diets helped to drop urinary sugar level by 54%. Because of the presence of the natural fiber galactomannan, fenugreek slows down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into bloodstream. A certain amino acid (4-hydroxyisoleucine) in fenugreek induces the production of insulin so therefore, 15-20 grams of fenugreek is recommended for controlling blood sugar on a daily basis. By slowly releasing insulin to the body rather than in massive chunks, overall bodily function is improved, and the plunges and peaks of blood sugar won’t be an issue for diabetic patients.
Relief for Sore Throats: Fenugreek’s soothing mucilage helps to relieve sore throat pain and cough.
Relieves constipation: Fenugreek adds bulk to the stool due to its high fiber content. This also makes it helpful in treating constipation and diarrhea, while also relieving minor indigestion.
Good for Kidney Trouble: Traditional Chinese medicine recommends fenugreek for patients suffering from various kidney conditions.
Prevents Colon Cancer: Fenugreek possesses anti-carcinogenic potential. The steroid diosgenin in Fenugreek has been specifically linked to colon cancer prevention. Furthermore, the various non-starch polysaccharides like saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannin, and pectin, lower cholesterol levels and inhibit bile salts from being reabsorbed by the colon. This can bind to the toxins and protect the colon’s mucus membrane, which can reduce colorectal cancer and other conditions that can negatively affect the colon.
Appetite Suppressant: The natural soluble fiber galactomannan can swell in the stomach and thus suppress appetite by making you feel full.
Fenugreek is also used to treat wounds, inflammation and gastrointestinal ailments. Fenugreek helps in battling free radicals due to its antioxidant capacity. According to ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, fenugreek can be used for inducing labor and aiding digestion. It is also good at improving the body’s overall metabolism and health. Irritated skin conditions can even be soothed by the external application of fenugreek. Furthermore, fenugreek is used for fevers and muscle aches.
Fenugreek is considered to be a safe, herbal food. It is used as a spice in many cultures and tastes oddly of bitter celery and maple syrup.
A Word of Warning: The only side effect seen in people taking high doses of fenugreek is mild gastrointestinal distress. Fenugreek is not recommended during pregnancy because it may lead to miscarriage due to its strong effect on the female reproductive system.