Herbs and spices are the culinary treasures that elevate the flavors of our dishes while providing a plethora of medicinal benefits. Fenugreek, a common herb in Indian cuisine, is a staple in alternative medicine practices. Beyond its culinary uses, fenugreek is often consumed as a supplement due to its numerous advantages. This article delves into the outstanding benefits of fenugreek seeds, exploring their nutritional value, diverse applications, and potential adverse effects, offering a comprehensive insight into the holistic advantages this herb brings to the table.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek, scientifically known as Trigonella foenum-graecum, is an annual herb from the Fabaceae family, used in traditional Indian and Chinese systems of medicine for ages. Though native to Asia (mainly India), it is also cultivated in the US, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. 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 plant’s twigs, leaves, and roots are also widely used. The herb will enhance the culinary preparation with its bitter-nutty taste, intense flavor, and excellent nutritional profile, whether in fresh, dried, or powdered form.
Being one of the oldest remedial herbs with many health benefits, fenugreek positively impacts human health by reducing the risks of several health ailments. It is also very efficient in improving our skin and health. Besides, fenugreek extract is also used in various 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 an imposing nutritional profile. A tablespoon of whole fenugreek seeds comprises plenty of essential nutrients like six gm. of carbohydrates, three gm. of proteins, one gm. of fats, and three gm. of soluble and insoluble fibers. The seeds are also rich in vitamins (A, B, biotin, D) and 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 and milk production. 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 breast milk safely to help babies gain more weight (3) (4). Soak fenugreek seeds in water overnight, and drink this liquid daily. Fenugreek seeds contain a compound known as diosgenin, a spice that initiates lactation. Therefore, 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 many symptoms. Fenugreek seeds are a godsend for women who experience menstrual cramps and other problems related to the period. They contain chemical compounds like diosgenin and isoflavones, which mimic the properties of estrogen to regulate menstrual cycles and ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Fenugreek seeds may also help relieve polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms by restoring the average 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 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 reducing the absorption of sodium in the body, thus maintaining optimum blood pressure efficiently.
5. Keeps Diabetes Under Control
Galactomannan, in fenugreek seeds, is a soluble fiber that slows down sugar absorption in the blood. Fenugreek seeds contain 4-hydroxy isoleucine, a compound that stimulates insulin secretion, 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 fenugreek seeds have carminative compounds that help flush out toxins from the body and prevent constipation. They can also be consumed to cure acidity and heartburn, like antacid medications (9), while improving mucous production in the intestines. This mucus coats the stomach and the intestines lining, decreasing irritation and soothing symptoms of digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
7. Promotes Weight Loss
Fenugreek seeds are unlikely contributors to weight loss, containing 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 boosting your weight loss efforts.
Skin and Hair Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds make an exciting addition to curries and vegetable preparations. However, they are also an excellent addition to your beauty regime. Following are some skin and hair benefits of the herb that you need to know:
- Fenugreek removes dead cells from the skin’s surface to reveal the fresh layer of cells underneath.
- It hydrates, moisturizes, and softens the skin to enhance its elasticity and look youthful (11).
- The herb unclogs skin pores and keeps several issues like acne, breakouts, and blackheads away.
- Fenugreek is anti-bacterial and high in mucilage. It prevents dandruff by thoroughly conditioning the scalp (12).
- It also stops frequent hair fall and significantly stimulates healthy hair growth.
How to Consume Fenugreek Seeds
Soak good-quality and fresh fenugreek seeds in water overnight. The following day, they can be consumed on an empty stomach or used in all 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 for 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. In addition, 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)
How can fenugreek seeds benefit hair health?
Fenugreek seeds are rich in proteins and nicotinic acid, promoting hair growth, strengthening hair follicles, and reducing hair fall. They also contain lecithin, which imparts shine to the hair.
Can fenugreek seeds be used for managing skin conditions?
Yes, fenugreek seeds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help alleviate skin conditions like acne, eczema, and inflammation. They may also contribute to a clearer complexion.
How do fenugreek seeds aid in improving overall health?
Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can contribute to better digestion, heart health, and overall well-being. They are also known to help manage blood sugar levels.
Can fenugreek seeds be used for weight management?
Yes, the high fiber content of fenugreek seeds can contribute to a feeling of fullness, potentially aiding in weight management by curbing overeating.
Are there any specific recipes for using fenugreek seeds for hair care?
Fenugreek seeds can be soaked, ground into a paste, and applied to the scalp. Mixing with yogurt or coconut oil can enhance the benefits. This paste can be used as a hair mask for improved texture and reduced dandruff.
Are there any adverse effects of consuming fenugreek seeds?
While fenugreek seeds are generally safe when consumed in moderation, excessive intake may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Pregnant women should consult with a healthcare professional before using fenugreek seeds due to potential uterine stimulation.
How can fenugreek seeds be incorporated into a daily routine for health benefits?
Fenugreek seeds can be consumed by soaking them overnight and drinking them on an empty stomach. They can also be added to various dishes, such as soups, stews, or smoothies.
Can fenugreek seeds be used for managing diabetes?
Some studies suggest that fenugreek seeds may help manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes due to their potential hypoglycemic effects. However, individuals with diabetes should consult a healthcare professional before incorporating fenugreek seeds into their diet.
How long does it take to see results when using fenugreek seeds for hair or skin?
Results may vary depending on individual factors. Consistent use over several weeks is recommended to observe the potential benefits for hair and skin health.
Are there any precautions to be taken when using fenugreek seeds topically?
It’s advisable to perform a patch test before applying fenugreek seed paste to the skin to check for allergic reactions. Additionally, if you have existing skin conditions, consult a dermatologist before incorporating fenugreek seeds into your skincare routine.
- “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-grace 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