Medical uses and 9 health benefits
Fenugreek, (scientific name: Trigonella foenum-graecum), is a clover-like fragrant herb belonging to the pea family (Fabaceae). The plant is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region and is cultivated in Central and Southeastern Europe, western parts of Asia, India, and Northern Africa.
The dried leaves and aromatic seeds of the fenugreek plant are used in various cuisines and herbal medicines. Fenugreek seeds have a distinct aroma and a bitter taste resembling maple syrup or reminiscent of burnt sugar. The seeds and dried leaves are used as a spice or mixed with flour to prepare bread. Fenugreek seeds may be cooked or eaten raw, generally after soaking them in water. The seeds are popularly used in preparing several curries and dips. Fenugreek extracts are used in various cosmetics and soaps. They have been in use in several herbal medicinal preparations either as the principal drug constituent or to mask the aroma or taste of the constituent herbal drugs. Fenugreek is used as a flavoring agent mimicking maple syrup in several beverages, foods, and tobacco.
Fenugreek is considered to have several health benefits and is available in various forms including powders, capsules, and oils. You must, however, consult your doctor before consuming any herbal or medicinal supplements or drugs. This holds prime importance, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications. Pregnant or lactating women must avoid taking fenugreek or other supplements without getting a nod from their healthcare provider.
Some of the medicinal uses of fenugreek are
- Managing diabetes: Studies suggest that when fenugreek seeds (5 to 50 grams) are consumed with meals once or twice a day, they may lower the post-meal blood sugar levels in people with type II diabetes. Consuming 50 grams of fenugreek seed powder twice daily may reduce the amount of sugar in urine in people with type 1 diabetes. You must not consume fenugreek seeds without consulting your doctor if you have diabetes. Never replace your diabetes medications with any supplement without consulting your doctor.
- Increasing breast milk production: Fenugreek is used as powdered seeds or consumed in the form of tea along with some other herbal supplements to increase breastmilk production. There is, however, a lack of evidence to support the role of fenugreek in increasing breast milk production in lactating women.
- Improving sex drive and performance: Fenugreek supplements (600 mg of a specific fenugreek seed extract, Testofen, Gencor Pacific Ltd.) are claimed to increase sexual performance and interest in men. They are also claimed to improve sex drive in women with a low sex drive (600 mg of a specific fenugreek seed extract, Libifem, Gencor Pacific Ltd.). Fenugreek seed oil drops have also been claimed to improve sperm count in men.
- Aiding digestion: Fenugreek seeds have been used traditionally to treat digestive issues. They are believed to relieve indigestion, flatulence and have a soothing effect on the gut.
- Relieving painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea): Fenugreek seed powder is shown to relieve menstrual pain and cramps. The powder needs to be taken three times a day in a dose of 1800 to 2700 mg for the first three days of a menstrual period. This must be followed by 900 mg of fenugreek seed powder three times a day for the next two days of the menstrual cycle.
- Managing weight: Although there is insufficient evidence, some studies suggest that fenugreek may help reduce weight by promoting satiety and controlling hunger.
9 Health benefits of fenugreek
Some of the other proposed health benefits of fenugreek include
- Improving stamina
- Promoting hair growth
- Managing blood cholesterol
- Treating fever
- Managing allergies and skin conditions, including eczema
- Promoting heart health
- Healing wounds
- Managing high blood pressure
- Treating hair loss
It is important to note that fenugreek may cause severe allergies in susceptible individuals. In diabetic people who are on medications, it may lower blood sugar levels to dangerous levels. Always talk to your healthcare provider before initiating any supplement.