Healthy Living

What Is Fenugreek?

What Is Fenugreek?

Key Takeaways

  • Fenugreek extracts are noted to have antioxidant, antidiabetic, antitumorigenic, and antimicrobial properties. 
  • In the ancient world, fenugreek has established itself as a medicinal herb and culinary additive.
  • Nowadays, fenugreek is used as a traditional remedy for appetite loss, diabetes, and to stimulate the production of breast milk in nursing women.

What is fenugreek and where does it come from?

Fenugreek is an annual herb that has small white flowers and green leaves. It belongs to the pea family and is also called as "Greek hay". The plant could grow up to 3 feet and its seed pods have 10-20 tiny, flat, yellow-brown, and strong aromatic seeds.

The seeds of fenugreek are usually used to create medicine but tend to be bitter, similar to celery, burnt sugar, or maple syrup. However, when cooked, fenugreek gives a more pleasant taste. The fenugreek’s seeds and leaves are mostly used. The leaves and seeds, which are dried and ground, are commonly used in cooking.

Fenugreek extracts are noted to have antioxidant, antidiabetic, antitumorigenic, and antimicrobial properties. These extracts can be found in cosmetics and soaps. Fenugreek can be taken by mouth and can be used as a paste, which can be applied to the skin to heal inflammation.

Fenugreek was cultivated in India, Egypt, the Middle East, and North Africa, but it is a native to Western Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean region. It has been used as a traditional medicine. It can also act as an emulsifier and gum, which makes it useful as a stabilizer and thickening agent in cooking food. In addition, fenugreek is used as a flavoring agent and spice in food preparation.

In the ancient world, fenugreek has established itself as a medicinal herb and culinary additive. Fenugreek grew widely in the imperial gardens of Charlemagne. It was used by the Romans and Greeks for cattle fodder while the Egyptians used it as a spice for embalming. Fenugreek is also considered an essential ingredient in Indian curries.

Aside from the mentioned uses of fenugreek, it was also widely used for different health conditions such as problems in the digestive tract and for the relief of menopause symptoms. Fenugreek was also utilized for inducing childbirth.

Nowadays, fenugreek is used as a traditional remedy for appetite loss, diabetes, and to stimulate the production of breast milk in nursing women.

Ways to consume fenugreek

Fenugreek has a variety of uses and can be consumed in various ways.

This herb is popularly used as a flavoring and spice to foods. It is commonly found in Indian cuisine and other curry dishes. Fenugreek is also utilized as a flavoring agent that can imitate the taste of maple syrup in foods and beverages. Fresh fenugreek leaves are used in salads while both dried and fresh fenugreek leaves are utilized in Indian cooking. Fenugreek seeds, on the other hand, are mainly used as a spice. The seeds are usually sprinkled on various Asian dishes. The seeds can also be consumed whole and can be ground into a powder (fenugreek powder) for spice. Fenugreek powder is also used in making a healthy fenugreek tea.

Fenugreek tea as well as fenugreek seeds, leaves, and powder are readily available in large grocery stores.

Fenugreek benefits

Below are some of the benefits of using fenugreek:

1) Improves cholesterol levels and digestive problems

Fenugreek can help people with heart conditions including the hardening of arteries as well as high levels of certain fats such as triglycerides and cholesterol.

Digestive problems such as constipation, inflammation of the stomach, and an upset stomach can be relieved by fenugreek. Fenugreek has high levels of water-soluble fiber that can help relieve constipation. It can also help treat indigestion and is usually added in the dietary treatment plan for ulcerative colitis because of its anti-inflammatory effects.

2) Decreases inflammation in the body

Fenugreek helps reduce inflammation in the body including mouth ulcers, bronchitis, boils, tuberculosis, infection of tissues underneath the skin’s surface, chronic cough, kidney ailments, and cancer. This herb can also lower one's blood sugar level, which can help manage nutritional and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. It appears that fenugreek slows down the absorption of sugars found in the stomach and stimulates insulin.

Fenugreek is also known as a spice used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is called as the "phlegm mover" as it is believed that it can loosen stuck energies and can help cool down the body, getting rid of inflammation.

3) Increases libido in men

Fenugreek is used in treating health disorders in men such as erectile dysfunction, hernias, and baldness. Fenugreek can help with these problems as it can increase testosterone levels and sexual arousal. Taking fenugreek supplements enables an increased sexual desire as well as performance in men. It can also be used as a natural remedy for impotence.

4) Promotes milk flow for breastfeeding women

Breastfeeding women who experience a low supply of milk can benefit from fenugreek as it can increase the supply of breast milk. The reason is that fenugreek acts as a galactagogue, a substance that increases the supply of breast milk. Galactagogue stimulates the milk ducts in the breasts and it can boost the production of milk within 24 hours.

5) Decreases inflammation outside the body

Aside from lowering the inflammation in the body, fenugreek can also be used externally as a poultice, meaning, it can be wrapped in a cloth, warmed, and applied directly to the skin. This technique lessens external inflammation and can treat gout, leg ulcers, dandruff, wounds, sciatica, eczema, pain and swelling in the lymph nodes, and aching muscles.

6) Helps with eating disorders

Studies have shown that people who take fenugreek have an increased appetite. Beyond enhancing flavor, fenugreek can help in the restoration of nutritional properties in the body. The result is beneficial to people who struggle with eating disorders as fenugreek consumption makes them motivated to eat.

7) Enhances creatine uptake

Using fenugreek in combination with creatine supplements can improve exercise performance. It could be effective in enhancing creatine uptake while the need for excessive quantities of simple carbohydrates is eliminated. Taking this combination can help athletes improve their upper body strength and body composition.

Fenugreek side effects

The use of fenugreek could have a few possible side effects. When fenugreek is taken by mouth, it may cause bloating, gas, or diarrhea. It can also cause irritation when it is directly applied to the skin. Thus, it is necessary to test a small area of your skin first.

Fenugreek may also cause harmful effects that can result to blood thinning, which may lead to excessive bleeding in certain people. Signs of excessive bleeding are easy bruising, passing dark stools, and vomiting blood. It is recommended that people with underlying bleeding disorders and people who take anticoagulants or blood thinning drugs must talk to their doctors first before taking fenugreek. Pregnant women must also talk to their doctor first before using fenugreek to know its effects during pregnancy.

Fenugreek for lactation

Traditional ayurvedic physicians in India recommend fenugreek to women who are breastfeeding. The reason behind it is that fenugreek contains diosgenin. This substance helps increase the quantity of milk, which is produced by the breasts. The vitamin and magnesium content of fenugreek can also help with the milk’s quality keeping the infant healthy.