Herbs and spices are the treasures of an Indian kitchen. They not only make Indian cuisine super delectable but also offer a host of medicinal benefits. Fenugreek is one of those common Indian herbs that have long been a part of the alternative medicine practice. It comes with several benefits and often taken as a supplement too. This article looks into the amazing benefits of fenugreek seeds along with its nutritional value, uses, and adverse effects.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek, scientifically known as Trigonella foenum-graecum, is an annual herb from the Fabaceae family, which has been used in both traditional Indian and Chinese systems of medicine for ages. Though native to Asia (mostly India), it is also cultivated in the US, North Africa, and the Mediterranean regions these days. The plant features green leaves, small white flowers, and pods with golden-brown seeds (1).
While fenugreek seeds have become a common spice in every household, the twigs, leaves, and roots of the plant are also widely used for the same. Whether you use them in fresh, dried, or powdered form, the herb will enhance the culinary preparation with its bitter-nutty taste, strong flavor, and great nutritional profile.
Being one of the oldest remedial herbs with a myriad of health benefits, fenugreek impacts human health in a positive way by reducing the risks of a number of health ailments. It is also very much efficient in improving our skin and health. Besides, the extract of fenugreek is also used in a variety of products, such as soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, spice blends, condiments, garam masala, teas, etc.
When it comes to producing fenugreek, India accounts for its major portion. In fact, Rajasthan alone produces 80% of the entire fenugreek production in India.
Nutritional Value of Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek has a highly impressive nutritional profile. A tablespoon of whole fenugreek seeds comprises plenty of essential nutrients like 6 gm. of carbohydrates, 3 gm. of proteins, 1 gm. of fats, and 3 gm. of soluble and insoluble fibers. Apart from these, the seeds are also rich in vitamins (A, B, biotin, D), minerals (iron, magnesium, manganese, antioxidants, inositol, and choline. However, fenugreek seeds only have 35 calories. (2)
Health Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds
Now, let us have a detailed look at the most common benefits offered by fenugreek seeds for health:
1. Boosts the Flow of Breast Milk
Fenugreek seeds have estrogen-like properties, which help increase the size of breasts as well as the production of milk in them. Underweight women can include this in their daily diets to increase their breast sizes naturally. It is also a boon for nursing mothers who struggle to produce sufficient amounts of milk as it boosts the volume of breastmilk safely to help babies gain more weight (3) (4). Soak fenugreek seeds in water overnight, and drink this liquid in the day. Fenugreek seeds contain a compound known as diosgenin, a spice that initiate lactation. It helps naturally increase milk production in the breasts.
2. Eases Period-Related Symptoms
Menstrual cycles disturb the delicate hormonal balance in the female body, thereby triggering lots of symptoms. For women who experience menstrual cramps and other problems related to the period, fenugreek seeds are truly a godsend. They contain chemical compounds like diosgenin and isoflavones, which mimic the properties of estrogen in order to regulate menstrual cycles and ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Fenugreek seeds may also help relieve the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) by restoring the normal health of the ovaries (5).
In the male body, fenugreek seeds raise the levels of testosterone hormone significantly. It also plays a vital role in improving libido, sexual activities, and even sperm count (6).
3. Facilitates the Process of Childbirth
Fenugreek seeds help ease the process of childbirth in women by stimulating contractions during the labor period. Drinking tea infused with these seeds before the beginning of labor may help ease the pain experienced during childbirth. However, pregnant women should consume fenugreek seeds with caution. Owing to their ability to produce contractions, they may also cause premature labor or even a miscarriage. Ideally, pregnant women should consume it only after consulting a doctor instead of using it indiscriminately of their own accord.
4. Improves Cardiovascular Health
You can take care of the overall health of your cardiovascular system by including fenugreek seeds in your daily diet. Certain compounds in them may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad cholesterol’ and triglycerides in the bloodstream (7). They also contain a chemical compound called galactomannan, which lowers the risk of heart attacks. On the other hand, the potassium in the spice regulates the movements of the heart muscles by lowering the absorption of sodium in the body, thus maintaining optimum blood pressure efficiently.
5. Keeps Diabetes Under Control
Galactomannan present in fenugreek seeds is a soluble fiber that slows down the sugar absorption in the blood. Fenugreek seeds contain 4-hydroxy isoleucine, a compound that stimulates the secretion of insulin, further increasing and improving sugar absorption in the body. Thus, it may help stabilize the blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (8).
6. Enhances Digestive Health
The seeds of fenugreek have carminative compounds that help flush out toxins from the body and prevent constipation. They can also be consumed to cure acidity and heartburn just like antacid medications (9) while improving mucous production in the intestines. This mucus coats the lining of both the stomach and the intestines, decreasing irritation and soothing symptoms of digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
7. Promotes Weight Loss
An unlikely contributor to weight loss, fenugreek seeds contain soluble fibers that help suppress appetite (10). This prevents you from eating between meals or snacking on junk foods. Soaking fenugreek seeds overnight and chewing them in the morning on an empty stomach will seem like a very unpleasant experience. However, it effectively curbs your hunger and prevents you from overeating, therefore giving a boost to your weight loss efforts.
Skin and Hair Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds make an interesting addition to curries and vegetable preparations. However, they are also an excellent addition to your beauty regime as well. Following are some skin and hair benefits of the herb that you need to know:
- Fenugreek removes dead cells from the surface of the skin to reveal the fresh layer of cells underneath.
- It hydrates, moisturizes, and softens the skin to enhance its elasticity and make it look youthful (11).
- The herb unclogs skin pores and keeps several issues like acne, breakouts, and blackheads away.
- Being anti-bacterial and high in mucilage, fenugreek prevents dandruff by conditioning the scalp thoroughly (12).
- It also puts a stop on frequent hair fall and stimulates the growth of healthy hair significantly.
How to Consume Fenugreek Seeds
Soak good-quality and fresh fenugreek seeds in water overnight. The next morning, they can be consumed on an empty stomach or be used in all sorts of culinary preparations as they are or as a paste. You can also grind fenugreek seeds into a smooth powder and use it to prepare an infusion. Fenugreek seed powder can also be used in cooking as a seasoning.
Adverse Effects of Fenugreek Seeds
Although fenugreek is a natural kitchen ingredient, it should only be consumed in a moderate amount and that too under the supervision of a doctor. Overconsumption of the herb can lead to indigestion, reduced appetite, slightly sweet body odor, stomach upset, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, allergic reactions, etc. Pregnant women and people with hormone-sensitive cancers should never start taking fenugreek seeds without talking to a doctor.
Fenugreek is an amazing herb with a strong nutrition profile and varied health, skin, and hair benefits. It reduces blood sugar levels, improves the production of breast milk, controls blood pressure, enhances digestion, improves our skin health, and puts a stop to hair fall. However, you should not start taking fenugreek seeds without consulting a doctor as it may cause you a number of adverse effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it Good to Eat Fenugreek Seeds Daily?
Yes, consuming fenugreek seeds daily in a moderate amount may help you with indigestion and bowel movement.
How Much Fenugreek Should I Take a Day?
Do not take more than 550 mg. of fenugreek seed powder a day.
Can You Eat Raw Fenugreek Seeds?
Raw fenugreek can be eaten the first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to promote weight loss.
What is the Best Time to Eat Fenugreek Seeds?
The best time to eat fenugreek seeds is the morning. Make sure that you have it on an empty stomach only.
How Do You Eat Methi Powder?
You can add methi powder to a warm cup of water to prepare an infusion. Otherwise, add it to your herbal tea or include it in your cooking as a flavoring agent.
- “Therapeutic Applications of Fenugreek“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Spices, Fenugreek Seeds“, fdc.nal.usda.gov
- “The Effect of Galactagogue Herbal Tea on Breast Milk Production and Short-Term Catch-Up of Birth Weight in the First Week of Life“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Effectiveness of Fenugreek as a Galactagogue: A Network Meta-Analysis“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Evaluation of Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graceum L.), Effects Seeds Extract on Insulin Resistance in Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Effects of a Purported Aromatase and 5α-Reductase Inhibitor on Hormone Profiles in College-Age Men“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Steroid Saponins from Fenugreek Seeds: Extraction, Purification, and Pharmacological Investigation on Feeding Behavior and Plasma Cholesterol“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Fenugreek“, WebMD.com
- “Anti-Heartburn Effects of a Fenugreek Fiber Product” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “A Fenugreek Seed Extract Selectively Reduces Spontaneous Fat Intake in Overweight Subjects“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Effect of Cream Formulation of Fenugreek Seed Extract on Some Mechanical Parameters of Human Skin“, pdfs.semanticscholar.org
- “Chemical Composition and Antifungal Activity of Trigonella foenum-graecum L. Varied with Plant Ploidy Level and Developmental Stage“, ResearchGate.net