In this article:
- Fenugreek (Trigonellafoenum-graecum L.) is grown in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
- It is native to Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, and western Asia.
- Fenugreek, a herb similar to clover, is often used as a spice, food condiment, and medicine.
- The seeds are made into teas, powders, capsules, extracts, and skin dressing.
- The leaves are used in cooking and as a dressing, and the powder is used as a spice.
- This herb has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and recent research has shown some of its health benefits.
Fenugreek grows to about 1-2 feet in height and has green to purple leaves. Its flowers are white and yellow. It has a strong, sweet aroma. Fenugreek seeds are golden yellow and appear in pods, with about 10-20 seeds in each pod.
The seeds are ground into powder, which is used as a spice. You may find fenugreek seed powder in curry powders and pastes. It is also used as an ingredient in making bread. (1)
The leaves are used as green sand as a flavoring in dishes. Fenugreek extract can also be found in soaps and cosmetics. Sun-dried fenugreek, also called kasoori methi, is used in many recipes, often in crumbled form. It has a strong taste and aroma.
When cooking, use a small amount of sun-dried fenugreek first and increase to taste. Generally, 1 tablespoon of fresh fenugreek leaves is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of kasoori methi.
Nutritional Value of Fenugreek
One tablespoon of ground fenugreek contains 35 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates (3 grams of which is fiber), 1 gram of fat, and 2.5 grams of protein.
It is a good source of iron, containing 3.7 mg or 20% of daily needs. It also includes 7% of your daily manganese needs, as well as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. (2)
Health Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is a herb that offers many benefits to your health which are:
1. Helps with Diabetes Management
Fenugreek is beneficial for patients with diabetes. There is evidence that fenugreek seeds can lower blood glucose and fasting blood glucose levels. It can also improve glucose tolerance.
One study found that fenugreek decreased the incidence of diabetes development in prediabetic patients. (3)
When taken with other antidiabetic medications, fenugreek also reduced the cholesterol levels and improved the glucose control of patients with diabetes. (4)
Simply adding fenugreek seeds to an otherwise healthy diet and exercise plan helped a group of patients with diabetes in one study. (5)
However, more studies are needed to understand the correct dosage of fenugreek for diabetes management.
While research supports the benefits of fenugreek in controlling blood sugar, more research is needed.
2. Increases Testosterone
Fenugreek may help increase testosterone levels in men. Studies have shown that fenugreek extract may improve sexual health. The steroidal saponins in fenugreek, particularly the furostanol glycosides, may be responsible for the increase in testosterone. (9)(10)
A study also found that fenugreek extract, in combination with Lespedeza cuneata extracts, significantly improved the symptoms of testosterone deficiency syndrome (TDS). (11)
Although fenugreek has been shown to raise testosterone levels, more research is needed to figure out the mechanism, proper usage, and dosage of this herb.
3. Promotes Milk Production
Fenugreek has a reputation to help increase breastmilk production.
It is believed that fenugreek seeds influenced dopamine levels and hormones, which can help improve breastmilk supply and therefore contribute to healthy weight gain in babies.
Fenugreek is a known galactagogue, an agent that promotes the flow of breastmilk. Although there is some evidence to support this, more research is needed.
4. Alleviates Menstrual Pain
Fenugreek may help women who suffer from painful cramping during menstruation.
However, another study found insufficient evidence that fenugreek reduced menstrual pain and dysmenorrhea. (17)
There is mixed evidence about the effects of fenugreek on menstrual pain and other symptoms of dysmenorrhea. More research is needed.
Other Health Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is known to offer the following health benefits, although no sufficient evidence is yet available to support these claims.
- Aids in Weight Loss: A small study demonstrated that fennel and fenugreek tea aided the weight loss of the study participants (women) by suppressing their appetite. (18)
Another study found that fenugreek fiber left the participants feeling more satisfied after meals, causing less food consumption at lunch. (19)
- Promotes Heart Health: A study done on rats found that fenugreek seeds and onion reduced the oxidative stress in the heart tissue of diabetic rats. (20)
Another study on rats revealed that some properties of fenugreek helped prevent injury to cardiac tissue. (21)
- Reduces Inflammation: Fenugreek extract may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, as found in one study, but more research is needed. (22)
A study done on rats also demonstrated the beneficial effects of fenugreek compounds on arthritis. (23)
- Helps with PCOS Management: Fenugreek extract tablets were shown in one study to reduce ovarian cysts. (24)
Another study found that fenugreek extract, taken with metformin, improved insulin resistance in women with PCOS. (25)
- Enhances Exercise Performance: One study suggested that fenugreek may help enhance upper and lower body strength. (26)
- Promotes Wound Healing: Fenugreek has historically been used in oils and creams to aid in wound healing. One study demonstrated the strong wound healing potential of a fenugreek extract, most likely through its antioxidant activity. (27)
- Combats Skin Diseases: Fenugreek seeds are used topically to treat eczema and other skin ailments. It is thought that the linolenic and linoleum acids found in a fenugreek seed extract may have anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties. (28)(29)
- Supports Hair Health: Fenugreek is thought to enhance hair growth due to its protein content.
- Fights Colds and Flu: Fenugreek possesses antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties that may help combat germs and prevent the common cold and other infectious illnesses. (30)
Fenugreek has many reported beneficial effects on various health concerns. However, more research is needed to confirm its efficacy, proper usage, and dosage.
Safety and Side Effects of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is generally considered safe to consume. Medicinal and therapeutic doses of this herb surpass the amount you would naturally receive through food, but it is thought to be safe as long as the duration of taking fenugreek is 6 months or less.
Excessive or extended intake of fenugreek has resulted in digestive distress, headaches, lightheadedness, and an odor in urine that is similar to maple syrup. While allergic reactions to fenugreek are rare, some have been reported.
Those with a peanut allergy may also react to fenugreek, as both are legumes and related. This is due to cross-reactivity, a process in which the proteins in the two foods have similar structures and, thus, trigger similar reactions. (31)
Those with allergies to soybeans and green peas may experience the same allergic reactions when consuming fenugreek.
Pregnant women are advised against taking fenugreek, aside from what may be generally used in cooking, as it may lead to a congenital disorder, early contractions, and preterm labor.
Mothers who are breastfeeding may benefit from consuming fenugreek in food or teas for a short period but should avoid excessive intake.
Taking more than 100 grams of fenugreek seeds daily can result in gastrointestinal distress, gas, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and worsening of asthma. It may also cause a drop in blood sugar to dangerously low levels if taken with diabetic medication.
Avoid giving fenugreek tea to children, as there are some reports of children losing consciousness after drinking it. (32)
Fenugreek is generally recognized as safe for consumption. However, specific populations, especially pregnant women and children, should avoid or practice caution when taking this herb in copious amounts than what is usually used in cooking.
Drug and Medication Interactions
Those taking diabetic medications or blood thinners should be cautious about taking fenugreek, as it may lower the blood sugar and thin the blood to dangerous levels.
As always, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about any herbal medications and supplements you are taking to ensure they do not interact with any of your medications or have dangerous consequences, given your health history.
Individuals on diabetic medications or blood thinners should be very cautious when taking this herb in abundance than what is typically used in cooking.
Many people describe fenugreek’s taste to be similar to that of maple syrup, with some unique bitter notes. Fenugreek is sometimes used to flavor artificial maple syrup.
Both maple syrup and fenugreek contain sotolone, a compound responsible for their particular taste and aroma. If using maple syrup as a substitute for fenugreek in a recipe, use just a little bit, as it may sweeten the dish too much.
You may also use mustard seeds to replace the earthy taste of fenugreek. Toasting the mustard seeds can reduce their aroma and make them a more desirable substitute for fenugreek seeds. However, mustard seeds do not have the same sweetness like maple syrup.
Mustard greens and Chinese celery leaves are sometimes used in place of fresh fenugreek leaves. Many curry powder blends contain fenugreek, and a pinch can be a suitable substitute for fenugreek.
Fennel seeds may also be used in place of fenugreek, but these are sweeter and can take over a dish, so use these sparingly. Additionally, a combination of some of the substitutes mentioned above can also provide a similar flavor to fenugreek.
How to Consume Fenugreek
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon tea leaves
- Sugar or honey to taste (optional)
- Bring water to a boil. Add the fenugreek seeds and tea leaves.
- Boil for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow the seeds and tea to steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain the tea and discard the seeds and leaves.
- Sweeten to taste and enjoy.
Sprouted Fenugreek Salad
- 1/2 mango, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Salt to taste
- Soak the fenugreek seeds in water overnight.
- Strain the seeds using a cloth, and then tie them up in the fabric. Keep in a covered dish on the counter for 24 hours.
- After a day, you should find sprouts from the seeds.
- Combine the mango, cranberries, walnuts, and sprouts. Stir to mix.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, paprika, and salt. Pour over the fruit and nuts.
- Toss well until thoroughly combined. Serve.
Fenugreek has been used for centuries in different cuisines and traditional medicines. Recent studies have shown some promise to this herb’s ability to improve many health conditions.
More research is needed to understand how to properly use and dose fenugreek as a therapeutic alternative and medical treatment. Always check with your doctor before taking an herbal tea or supplement, especially if you are taking other medications.