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 in lactation and helps in improving digestion and hair health. It is also shown to reduce cholesterol levels and protect heart health, while simultaneously boosting the immune system and protecting against flu and various infections.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is an annual plant that is also known as methi in many places of the world. It is a member of the bean family and its scientific family name is Fabaceae. It is native to the Middle and Near East and is widely used in the Indian subcontinent. It has small round leaves. There is even evidence that the ancient Egyptians understood the benefits of this herb since its 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 Nutrition Facts
Fenugreek contains a variety of beneficial nutrients, including iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper, as well as vitamin B6, protein, and dietary fiber. It also contains antioxidants, powerful phytonutrients, including choline, trigonelline, yamogenin, gitogenin, diosgenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens. Most of the health benefits of fenugreek are due to the presence of saponins and fibers in it.
Health Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is used for herbal healing and has many important health benefits that are explained in greater detail below.
India’s traditional Ayurvedic physicians prescribe fenugreek to nursing mothers. This benefit is attributed to the presence of diosgenin in it. Fenugreek extract capsules help in increasing the amount of milk that is produced by the breasts. The magnesium and vitamin content in it also helps improve the milk’s quality to keep the infant healthy. Each capsule is approximately 600 milligrams, and 2-3 should be taken at once at three different times of the day.
Note: Consult your doctor before adding fenugreek capsules/seeds in your diet during lactation.
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 and give relief from menstrual disorders.
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 it helps reduce menopausal symptoms like mood swings, depression, cramps, and abnormal hunger pangs. It helps monitor a number of other hormones as well, keeping many other bodily processes in line as well.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Research studies show that fenugreek consumption helps reduce cholesterol levels. It helps reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol significantly, which can prevent various conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. It 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 risk of formation of blood clots.
Reduces Cardiovascular Risks
Fenugreek seeds contain 25% galactomannan which is a type of natural soluble fiber that helps prevent heart diseases.
Fenugreek extract helps alleviate type I and type II diabetes. Studies suggest that addition of fenugreek to the diet of type I diabetics helped in lowering urinary sugar level by 54%. Due to the presence of the natural fiber galactomannan, the herb slows down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. 4-hydroxyisoleucine is an amino acid found in fenugreek that regulates the release of insulin. This helps prevent the plunges and peaks of blood sugar in diabetics. 15-20 grams of fenugreek is usually recommended for controlling blood sugar on a daily basis.
Treats Kidney Problems
Traditional Chinese medicine recommends the use of fenugreek for patients suffering from various kidney conditions.
Prevents Colon Cancer
Fenugreek possesses anti-carcinogenic properties. The steroid diosgenin present in the herb has been specifically linked to colon cancer prevention. Furthermore, various non-starch polysaccharides like saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannin, and pectin, lower cholesterol levels and inhibit the bile salts from being reabsorbed by the colon. This can bind to the toxins and protect the colon’s mucous membrane, which can reduce colorectal cancer and other conditions that can negatively affect the colon.
The natural soluble fiber galactomannan found in fenugreek helps suppress appetite by making you feel full.
Relieves A Sore Throat
Fenugreek’s soothing mucilage helps relieve a sore throat, associated pain, and cough.
Fenugreek seeds contain a gumming substance called mucilage and when mixed with water, mucilage expands and becomes a gelatinous salve that helps in providing relief from irritation.
Other benefits of fenugreek include the following:
- Treats wounds, inflammation, and gastrointestinal ailments.
- Helps in battling free radicals due to its antioxidant property.
- According to Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, it can be used for inducing labor and aiding digestion.
- Helps improve the body’s overall metabolism and health.
- External application of fenugreek gives relief from irritated skin and other conditions.
- Acts as a febrifuge and gives relief from muscle aches.
You can use and consume fenugreek in many ways that include:
- The leaves can be dried and used as herbs.
- Fenugreek seeds can be eaten whole and are often used as toppings for certain dishes or soups.
- The seeds are primarily used as a spice and can be found sprinkled on top of many Asian dishes.
- These seeds can also be used in powdered form as a flavoring agent in curry pastes, soups, and stews.
- The plant matter itself can be used as a vegetable, like sprouts and microgreens.
- Fenugreek powder can also be used to make a healthy, energizing tea.
Word of Caution: Fenugreek is safe and is widely known as a great tonic for various parts of the body. However, fenugreek may cause mild gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, gas, and indigestion in some, particularly in those who are allergic to it. It is not recommended during pregnancy because it may lead to miscarriage due to its strong effect on the female reproductive system.
Where to buy fenugreek?
Fenugreek can be found in major health food stores, such as GNC, as well as traditional big-box stores, from Target to Walmart. Fenugreek seeds can also be purchased from herbalists, and fenugreek leaves are available in many markets around the world. If you have your own fenugreek plant, you’ll have all the seeds you need!
How much fenugreek to take?
If you are taking fenugreek for a particular reason, there can be some restriction or guidelines for the usage amount. For example, if you want to take fenugreek to increase milk production (as a lactating mother), you can take up to 5500 milligrams every day (about 2-3 standard capsules 3 times per day). However, if you are simply using fenugreek as a general health booster, much lower doses are recommended and required to feel the effects.