If you have never eaten fenugreek and are unaware of its excellent health properties, then you have come to the right place. Fenugreek may not be the most popular herb in the West but its health benefits are quite remarkable and they start with inflammation.
Recent research has found that fenugreek can help combat both internal and external forms of inflammation which can have some dramatic long term benefits on your overall health.
What exactly is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a member of the pea (Fabaceae) family and is also referred to as Greek hay. It’s an annual plant with white flowers and green leaves standing up to three feet in height. It is cultivated in many parts of the world including North Africa, India and the Middle East.
The seeds pods of the herb contain between 10 and 20 pungent, aromatic seeds. These seeds have a slightly bitter flavor resembling celery and are sometimes used to make a medicine.
When fenugreek is cooked however, it has a much more palatable taste. While the leaves are sometimes used in cooking, its seeds are used most widely after being dried then ground.
Fenugreek can be eaten or used to make a topical paste that can help ease skin inflammation. A essential oil made from the herb is known to possess a variety of medicinal properties including antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions.
A tablespoon serving of fenugreek seed contains 35.5 calories, 6.4 grams of carbohydrates, 2.5 grams of protein. 2.7 grams of fiber and only 0.7 grams of fat. It also contains essential minerals like iron, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.
Fenugreek Health Benefits
1. To Reduce Internal Inflammation
Fenugreek can help reduce internal inflammation meaning that it can help treat a number of conditions including bronchitis, coughs, kidney complaints, mouth ulcers and boils. Ayurvedic practitioners in India have long been aware of its potential health properties and have historically used it to treat a host of inflammatory conditions as well as nutritional and metabolic complaints like diabetes.
Traditional Chinese practitioners have used the herb to cool inflammation inside the body.
Research published in 2012 analyzed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities of fenugreek on rats with arthritis. The researchers demonstrated that fenugreek was effective and may have a potential use as a natural treatment for arthritis. (1)
2. For Digestion
One of the best uses for fenugreek is to help the digestive system which it does in numerous ways. It can help to ease inflammation in the stomach, heal stomach upsets, constipation and bloating.
Fenugreek contains water soluble fiber which are an excellent remedy for constipation. Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it an excellent choice for people with ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory digestive issues.
3. For Cholesterol
Studies have demonstrated that fenugreek can help benefit the heart in several ways. It can help treat arterial hardening and reduce cholesterol levels in people with abnormally high cholesterol.
One Indian study published in 1997 demonstrated that fenugreek taken twice a day for a period of three months helped significantly reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes. The fenugreek also had no effect on the good HDL cholesterol. (2)
4. For Blood Sugar
Fenugreek may help to reduce blood sugar levels because of the presence of an amino acid known as 4-hydroxyisoleucin. This amino acid seems to increase the production of insulin in the body when blood sugar is high.
A boost in insulin production might reduce the amount of sugar which remains in the blood and studies have showed that fenugreek can both reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels in diabetic patients. (3)
However, fenugreek had no impact on blood sugar levels in non-diabetic subjects nor did it reduce cholesterol levels in people with normal levels.
5. For External Inflammation
Fenugreek can be used to make a poultice which is applied externally to treat external inflammation.
Among the types of condition that can be treated with a poultice made from fenugreek are minor wounds, gout, muscular swelling, burns, eczema and leg ulcers. (4)
To make a simple poultice follow these instructions.
- First take a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds and grind them up into a fine powder.
- Add warm water to the fenugreek powder and mix into a paste.
- Soak a cloth in your mixture.
- Apply the cloth to the affected area of your skin.
6. To Improve Male Libido
Fenugreek might also have some specific uses for men’s health. It is used to treat erectile dysfunction, baldness and hernias. It is believed to be effective because fenugreek can increase testosterone levels in men.
Supplements made from fenugreek seed extract have been analyzed scientifically and studies show that it can indeed boost male sexual performance ans also might be a natural remedy for impotence. A study published in 2011 looked at the effects of fenugreek extract supplementation in 60 men with regard to their libido.
The men aged from 25 to 52 were either given a placebo or 600 mg of fenugreek daily for a 6 week period. The participants self-evaluated and noted that the supplement improved their libido. The researchers concluded that fenugreek had a significant effect on sexual appetite, stamina and energy while also helping the men to maintain healthy testosterone levels. (5)
7. To Stimulate Lactation
Many women have difficulties producing sufficient milk when they are nursing their newborn child. Fenugreek might be a natural remedy to increase the supply of milk in mothers. It has galactagogic properties meaning that it can stimulate the milk ducts leading to increased production of milk.
Fenugreek is the most popular herbal choice for women looking to improve milk production but studies have noted that there needs to be more research with regard to the safety of herbal remedies while breastfeeding. (6) If you have any doubts, please inform your doctor before trying a herbal remedy.
8. To Boost Exercise Performance
Several studies have demonstrated that fenugreek extract combined with creatine can improve stamina, energy and body composition.
In a study published in 2011, 47 athletes with resistance training were separated into 3 groups. They were wither given a placebo, a combination of creatine and dextrose or a supplement containing creatine and fenugreek extract. They then took part in a resistance training program 4 days a week for 2 months. (7)
The participants were tested with regard to strength, endurance, aerobic ability and body composition. By the end of the study, the group of men who took the supplement made from fenugreek and creatine exhibited a significant increase in lean body mass as well as improved strength in bench and leg press exercises.
The researchers concluded that fenugreek combined with creatine had a major impact on body composition and strength.
If you are an athlete, adding fenugreek to your diet may result in great improvements.
Fenugreek is generally considered to be safe but like mist herbal remedies there are some precautions that you should be aware of.
Minor side effects from eating fenugreek include bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.
When applied to the skin, fenugreek may cause irritation in some people so you should always perform a patch test on a small area of skin to ensure that you don’t react.
Because there are no studies into the effects of fenugreek during pregnancy, women should exercise caution. The same thing applies for women who are breastfeeding despite it being a popular remedy for poor milk production. If in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Fenugreek might also cause excessive bleeding and should be avoided by people taking blood thinning medication.