Fenugreek herb or Methi is not only popular as a culinary spice but also for its medicinal properties. It is also known as Greek hay or wild clover. This Asiatic and Mediterranean herb produces aromatic seeds and leaves that are loaded with vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients. Kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves are used as spice for its distinct aroma and flavor. Not only is fenugreek a wonderful spice, but it is also packed with plenty of nutritional and health benefits. In fact the health benefits of fenugreek are numerous that nutritionists recommend this herb to be included in your daily diet.
Nutritional value of fenugreek
Fenugreek greens are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and a wide variety of nutrients. It is high in minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium and zinc. It contains good amounts of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). Fenugreek contains non-starch polysaccharides such as saponins, mucilage, hemicellulose, tannin, and pectin, which help in lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. The seeds of this herb contain several phytochemical compounds such as choline, gitogenin, trigonelline diosgenin, tigogenin, yamogenin, and neotigogens, all of which contribute to the medicinal properties of fenugreek. 4-hydroxy isoleucine is an amino acid found in fenugreek seeds that helps lower the rate at which glucose are absorbed in the intestines, thus lowering the blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.
Health benefits of fenugreek
History of health benefits of fenugreek dates back to 6000 years ago when ancient Egyptians used this for burns and stimulate childbirth. Hippocrates is believed to be using this fenugreek herb to calm muscle. Similarly, Greek Dioscorides used it for treating inflammatory problems and infection in reproductive system. Indian civilization has long history of use of methi leaves and seeds. Today Indian subcontinent is largest producer and consumer of Fenugreek.
Fenugreek has been found to have estrogen-like properties that help in reducing the symptoms of menopause and PMS and also in increasing libido. It is effective in the treatment of reproductive disorders, hormonal problems, and PMS. It has also been used in many countries as a remedy to treat conditions like asthma, arthritis, bronchitis, skin problems, acid reflux, sore throat, etc. Given below are some of the health benefits provided by this wonderful herb:
Benefits of fenugreek for the skin
Fenugreek has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, which makes it a wonderful skin benefitting component and herbal remedy for skin inflammation. The seeds have been used as an effective topical treatment for a variety of skin disorders. The anti-inflammatory effects of fenugreek helps in reducing pain and inflammation and thus can be used in the cure of skin conditions such as abscesses, boils, burns, eczema, muscle pain, and many more.
Fenugreek is a great anti-ageing remedy as it destroys the free radicals that are formed in the body. It also repairs the damaged skin cells along with regenerating new skin cells. It helps in getting rid of pimples, acne, blackheads and wrinkles. Fenugreek helps in toning, cleansing and lightening the skin and also in providing a wonderful glow to the skin. Fenugreek can also help get rid of dark under-eye patches. Fenugreek is also found to be effective in preventing sun damage by protecting the skin against the harmful ultraviolet radiations of the sun.
It can be used as an effective scrub to exfoliate the skin and remove all the dirt and dead skin cells accumulated on the skin. Fenugreek also acts as detoxifying agent. Ingestion of fenugreek seeds helps cleanse body from within and helps treat acne and other such conditions.
Some DIY homemade fenugreek skin treatment:
- Soak fenugreek seeds overnight. Make a paste by grinding them with milk and honey. Applying a paste to your face for 20-30 minutes and see the magic.
- Boil fenugreek seeds in water. This water can be used for cleaning your face. It is also useful in removing dark spots on skin.
- As a poultice, it can be used as remedy for local inflammation and swelling
- Make a paste from boiled fenugreek seeds and mix with fuller’s earth. Apply this to face to get rid of acnes, blackheads and burn marks.
- Grind methi leaves and apply this paste to face. Leave it for half an hour, before you wash with luke warm water. This is effective over pimples, blackheads and acnes.
Fenugreek for hair
The regular consumption of fenugreek can help you with many of the hair related problems such as hair loss, baldness, thinning of hair, dandruff etc. Fenugreek strengthens the roots of the hair, improves hair growth and also reduces hair fall. Traditionally use of fenugreek seeds for hair loss is common. Possibly the most known use of fenugreek for hair is to reverse hair loss. As a fenugreek hair loss remedy, fenugreek seeds are boiled in coconut oil and this oil is applied to head and left overnight to reduce hair fall, thinning of hair and premature graying of hair. Also, water in which fenugreek seeds are soaked are used as natural moisturizer to nourish hair and reduce hair damage.
Most of hair problem are result of stress and hormonal changes. Consumption of Fenugreek seeds in regular diet helps in maintaining hormonal balance and thus can prevent hair loss.
You would find many articles recommend use of fenugreek for hair growth. The seeds of fenugreek are high in nicotinic acid and protein, both of which are beneficial for promoting hair growth. Fenugreek has also been found to prevent premature greying of hair. With use of oil from seeds of fenugreek, hair can regain its shine and luster. With this fenugreek benefit for hair, use of methi seeds for hair growth is common practice in India.
When methi seeds are soaked in water, it becomes slippery. This is due to mucilage present in fenugreek seeks. This makes use of methi seeds for hair conditioning an ideal choice. It is rich in lecithin which keeps the hair healthy and strong by moisturizing the hair.
Fenugreek powder for hair problems and dandruff – Methi seeds also help in reducing dryness, dandruff, and other scalp issues. Methi seed powder can be mixed with warm water or yogurt and applied directly to scalp. It should be left for 15-20 minutes before it is washed with water. Regular use of this method may help get rid of dry scalp, dermatitis and dandruff.
Read more about 50 natural ways to treat dandruff
Fenugreek lowers cholesterol
According to studies, the regular intake of fenugreek helps in lowering the levels of cholesterol, thus considerably lowering the risk of heart problems. Fenugreek seeds are rich in compounds known as steroidal saponins that have the ability to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines as well as the production of cholesterol by the liver. Fenugreek has been shown to reduce the levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride in people diagnosed with high lipid levels. It also contains dietary fiber that may also help in lowering cholesterol levels. Germination of the seeds may increases their soluble fiber content, thus improving the cholesterol lowering effect.
Fenugreek protects the heart
Fenugreek contains galactomannan, which is effective in reducing the risks of heart attacks. Along with its ability to reduce cholesterol levels, fenugreek also helps in lowering blood pressure levels because of the high amounts of potassium in it. These properties make this herb a heart friendly food.
Fenugreek and diabetes
In Ayurvedic medicines, use of fenugreek for diabetes treatment is reputed. Research suggests that eating fenugreek seeds helps in lowering blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. These seeds have high amount of soluble fiber in them, which helps in inhibiting the digestion and absorption of carbohydrate, thus aiding to lower blood sugar levels. According to research conducted on animals, this herb may also contain a substance that is capable of stimulating the production of insulin, thereby promoting better control of blood glucose levels. Thus with diet containing use of fenugreek seeds, diabetes can be kept at bay. A clinical study on fenugreek seeds for diabetes showed that consumption of “10 grams/day powdered fenugreek seeds mixed with yoghurt or soaked in hot water for 8 weeks” can control type 2 diabetes. More research will pave way to fenugreek diabetes medications / supplements.
Read more about Natural foods for diabetes.
Fenugreek prevents constipation
Fenugreek has high fiber and mucilage content, which makes it a mild bulk-forming laxative. Therefore it is ideal to be used for treating people with constipation. Bulk-forming laxatives have the property of expanding when they come in contact with water, thereby increasing the bowel volume in the intestine. This causes reflex muscular contractions that lead to bowel movements. Eating fenugreek leaves helps in reliving constipation. Half teaspoon of fenugreek seed powder mixed in buttermilk is also considered home remedy for constipation and stomach ache.
Fenugreek prevents acid reflux
Fenugreek has been found to be an effective remedy for acid reflux and heartburn. The seeds contain mucilage that coats the lining of the stomach and intestine, thus soothing the inflammation and irritation in the gastrointestinal tissues. A study suggests that effect of fenugreek fiber was as effective as OTC antacid medication for treating heartburn! What else do you need to treat heartburn without any side effects! Try swallowing teaspoon of fenugreek seeds before meal to avoid acid reflux and bleching.
Read more about natural food for GERD
Fenugreek for weight loss
Fenugreek suppresses your appetite and hence is a great weight loss aid. The soluble fiber in this herb adds bulk and reduces your appetite by making you feel full for a longer period of time, which helps in losing weight. Nowadays, fenugreek weight loss supplements are also common in market.
There is also high correlation in consumption of tea made from fenugreek and weight loss. However with Fenugreek tea, weight loss mechanism might be different from fenugreek seeds for weight loss. It serves body with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient which helps in weight loss. It enhances body metabolism and health. All this may not directly lead to weight loss, but with tea of fenugreek, weight gain process is reduced.
Fenugreek and cancer
Studies reveal that fenugreek possesses anti-cancer properties. Fenugreek extract has been found to inhibit the growth of certain types of cancers such as prostate, colon and pancreatic cancer. Lab studies indicate that fenugreek is capable of killing cancer cells, while not causing any damage to the normal cells. Consumption of fiber rich fenugreek also helps in blocking absorption of harmful chemicals in intestine, which may have resulted in colon cancer. With regular intake of fenugreek, breast cancer risk is also reduced.
Anti-inflammatory effect of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is effective over inflammatory disorders like cold and other respiratory problem. Drinking fenugreek tea helps in easing congestion. It helps in dissolving the mucus in your throat, sinuses and lungs. The mucilage present in fenugreek offers a soothing effect on sore throat. As home remedy for sore throat and fever, try fenugreek seed powder with lemon and honey. Consumption of fenugreek tea with honey and lemon is also good remedy for fever. Gargling with herbal tea made from fenugreek can also relieve sore throat and mouth sores.
Consumption of fenugreek leaves and seeds is considered good for healing arthritis pain. Poultice made from steamed fenugreek leaves is applied on joint to relive from pain. It is also useful in reliving hemorrhoids.
[Read more about home remedies for sore throat]
Fenugreek prevents anemia
Fenugreek is a rich source of iron, which makes it a great remedy for preventing iron deficiency anemia. This is very useful property for women who tend to be iron deficient due to menstrual periods.
Fenugreek is beneficial for your kidneys
According to scientific evidence, fenugreek may be highly beneficial for your kidneys. A study published in the 2007 issue of “Phytotherapy Research” suggests that fenugreek may prevent the development of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Animal studies also suggest that fenugreek supplementation helped in increasing the levels of antioxidants in the kidneys, thereby decreasing oxidative stress. This makes fenugreek beneficial in preventing diabetic kidney disease.
Fenugreek and women’s health
Fenugreek is beneficial for women of all ages. It contains a compound known as Diosgenin that has estrogen like properties. It helps in reducing the effects associated with PMS, menstrual cramps and also menopausal symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes. As an emmenagogue, it helps smoothen process of menstruation.
Fenugreek for breast milk
The diosgenin present in fenugreek also helps in increasing milk production in lactating mothers. In many places in India, women after childbirth are given methi ladoo (dessert made from fenugreek seeds, almonds and flour) as means to ensure rich milk supply to baby. Even in West Australia, fenugreek is used as herb for increasing milk supply in lactating women. Initial research on fenugreek and breast milk is promising and concurs with the traditional knowledge.
Is fenugreek safe while breastfeeding? Human milk is powerful source of antioxidant to infant. This clinical study found that with intake of galactagogue herbal tea containing fenugreek, milk did not change its oxidative status. More research would uncover myths around fenugreek and breastfeeding.
How to use fenugreek for milk supply? Today fenugreek capsules for breast milk are available. Here is traditional Indian recipe of methi ladoo for breast milk enhancement and better alternative over fenugreek pills for breastfeeding. Also try fenugreek tea – breastfeeding beverage. With no doubt, fenugreek tops list in breastfeeding and lactation foods.
[Read more about benefits of breastfeeding]
Fenugreek during child birth
Fenugreek behaves very much like female hormone estrogen. In pregnant women, fenugreek can stimulate child birth. It results in uterine contractions. Traditionally use of fenugreek for child birth and reducing labour pain is observed. However, pregnant women should undertake caution in consumption of fenugreek during pregnancy. Excessive intake during initial trimester of pregnancy may induce miscarriage.
Fenugreek for breast enlargement
Fenugreek for breast growth is much talked about topic. Initial research suggests that it is good for breast health and leads to breast size enhancement. Large proportions of women in US and Europe have small breasts or flat chest and are looking for natural solutions to get bigger boobs. For all of them, fenugreek is real help for natural breast enlargement. Fenugreek falls in foods which make your breasts bigger naturally. According to an anecdote, Fenugreek is the secret of fuller and bigger boobs of harem girls.
You may find all over the internet advertisements of fenugreek capsules for breast enlargement, fenugreek oil for breast enlargement, fenugreek extract for breast growth and fenugreek beverage for enhancing cleavage. All those would have large number of fake reviews appended to them. Having said that; for those who want breast augmentation, fenugreek still is a safe and natural choice. It enlarges the breast size by altering certain liver enzymes, which inhibits the ability of your body to break down estrogen. How much fenugreek to take for breast enlargement? It is a question which only more research would suggest.
This Fenugreek Poem found on Sproutpeople is worth mentioning depicting benefits of fenugreek sprouts for breast augmentation.
“A gorgeous sprout does fenugreek grow. Soak it - then sprout it. It is bitter though. New fame has it these days - with women - no jest, Fen-U-Greek they say - does augment one's chest. “
Fenugreek as aphrodisiac
Fenugreek has been long considered as natural aphrodisiac. This herb is believed to increase male libido by boosting the levels of testosterone. In a study to find impact of fenugreek on testosterone levels, fenugreek seed extract demonstrated significant increase in male libido while maintaining normal healthy testosterone levels. However another demonstrated that, while immature rats fed with fenugreek extract and testosterone both demonstrated increased weight of testis, fenugreek fed rats did not see change in testosterone levels. This study suggested that fenugreek is anabolic rather androgenic; which means fenugreek promotes protein synthesis and muscle growth but not increases testosterone levels. Thus there is no clear evidence on fenugreek being aphrodisiac on account of increasing testosterone levels.
Fenugreek is found to be beneficial in enhancing female sexuality as well, as also suggested by this study where fenugreek extract successfully increased sexual arousal and desire in women.
Fenugreek cleanses your body
Fenugreek is rich in antioxidants that have a beneficial effect on the liver, helping it with the detoxification process. It stimulates the kidneys, lymphatic system, and the liver to remove all the wastes and toxic substances that may have accumulated in the body.
Feneugreek is popular vegetable in Indian subcontinent. Fenugreek in hindi is called Methi while fenugreek seeds in hindi is called Methi dana. Dried fenugreek is called Kasuri methi in Hindi. It is known by various names like Methi (Hindi/Marathi), Ventayam (Tamil), Uluva (Malayalam), shanbalile, Ghormeh (Persian),
Culinary fenugreek uses
What is fenugreek used for? In India, fenugreek leaves are popular as a leafy vegetable. Dried fenugreek leaves are often used as spice for flavoring. Similarly fenugreek seeds are added in many recipes as a spice and flavoring agent.
How to use fenugreek seeds? One can directly use them as spice in various recipes. In India, seeds and leaves are often added to kadhi (soup made from yogurt). Read about Mamta’s North Indian Kadhi recipe with fenugreek seeds. Popular chef Tarla Dalal offers these 7 recipes of sprouted fenugreek seeds and enjoy fenugreek sprouts benefits This sprouted fenugreek rice pulau by Gayatri Vantillu is worth trying. Vaidehi offers this simple methi ladoo recipe here.
Methi matar malai is popular Indian cuisine from fenugreek leaves. Find recipe from chef Sanjeev Kapoor here. Sarah Walton offers this fenugreek leaves and feta salad in Middle east style here. Here is Yemeni fenugreek dip recipe by Ea Ejersbo.
Where do you buy fenugreek seeds/ leaves?
Fenugreek leaves and seeds are very common in Indian markets. So look for a shop which stocks Indian foods. Finding fenugreek tea could be difficult. It is best made at home using fenugreek seeds.
Fenugreek side effects
Fenugreek is commonly used food in many parts of world and free from side effects. Apart from the bitter taste, some people experience minor side effects including nausea and flatulence. Fenugreek seeds should be avoided during pregnancy as it can stimulate uterine contraction. Mucilage or fibers in fenugreek can block absorption of medications, hence it should be avoided along with other medicines. Side effects of fenugreek in some people include minor skin irritation or allergy. However none of them undermines the benefits of eating fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek offers our body wide range of benefits and we should include seeds and leaves in our daily diet.Image Credits: Flickr- Banu, Flickr - Shubhangi Athalye