Fenugreek is a widely popular plant in South and Central Asian countries. The seeds and leaves of fenugreek are used in many Asian countries, like India. Although it has been in use for hundreds of years, the western world has been introduced to this incredibly healthy plant only recently. So if you are not familiar with the name, it’s okay. That what this article is for. We’ll inform you about the health benefits of fenugreek.
Fenugreek is basically an herb that is native to southern Europe, Western Asia, and the Mediterranean region. In terms of production, India is at the top. The leaves and seeds of this herb are used in cooking, for medicinal purpose, and also to lessen the bad taste of other medicines. Fenugreek tastes like maple syrup. So, if you are anyone who loves Maple candy (like Ross Geller), you will find it easier to add fenugreek to your diet.
Nutrition value of fenugreek:
Here’s what can be found in 100-grams fenugreek seeds:
- Energy – 1350 kilojoules
- Water – 8.8 g
- Carbohydrates – 58 g
- Fat – 6.4 g
- Protein – 23 g
- Calcium – 176 mg (18% of Daily Value, DV)
- Iron – 34 mg (262% of DV)
- Vitamin B6 – 0.6 g (46% of DV)
- Riboflavin – 0.37 mg (31% of DV)
Fenugreek also contains considerable amounts of Vitamin B1 and B3, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Health benefits of Fenugreek
With such an excellent nutrition profile, you must have guessed that fenugreek is incredibly beneficial to health. From improving brain function to fighting inflammation, fenugreek has numerous roles in protecting human health. We have gathered the details of all the health benefits gained from fenugreek consumption. Read on to find out which organs in your body would benefit the most.
1. Fenugreek may benefit the cardiovascular system.
In various research studies, fenugreek has shown to positively affect cardiovascular conditions, such as high cholesterol and triglycerides, hardening of arteries. Cholesterol and triglyceride-related benefits of fenugreek are specifically evident in people with type 2 diabetes.
A study was done in the Indian population, including participants who had non-insulin-dependent diabetes. These participants were administered 2.5 grams of fenugreek two times a day, for three months. The results showed a significant decline in cholesterol and triglycerides. However, there was no effect on High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), i.e., the good cholesterol.
In another clinical trial, 11 patients with type 1 diabetes were given hot-water-soaked fenugreek and 13 similar patients received fenugreek with yogurt. The study continued for 8 weeks, and the hot-water-fenugreek group had a significant decline in blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, i.e., the bad cholesterol, as compared to the group that received fenugreek with yogurt.
Similarly, low levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were observed in diabetic patients who consumed fenugreek in the diets. Many studies, albeit small, have found that LDL cholesterol does reduce secondary to fenugreek consumption, but fenugreek doesn’t help in improving HDL profile.
In certain animal studies, fenugreek has shown to increase the activity of certain antioxidants that reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions.
2. Fenugreek Reduces Blood Clots
Individuals who have a high risk of heart attacks and/or stroke are frequently prescribed anticoagulants – substances that prevent or reduce blood clotting – such as, Coumadin (warfarin). This helps prevent the blood clots that are likely to clog arteries, cutting off the blood supply to organs.
Fenugreek extracts have shown similar results in research studies. They increase the clotting time of normal human blood samples. This effect can be used to supplement the preventive treatment of stroke and heart attacks.
3. Fenugreek May Improve Brain Function
Fenugreek studies in rats have shown that this herb has the potential to lower the risk of developing brain-related conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The number of people living with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is rapidly growing. An estimated 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s and 7-10 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease.
In animal studies, it was observed that fenugreek reduces the activity of enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Fenugreek also reduced the protein production that results in plaque formation in the nervous system, and improved memory and learning in rats.
In research studies on rats with Alzheimer’s disease, powder from fenugreek seeds showed a reduction in inflammation, memory impairment, plaques formation in the nervous system.
4) Fenugreek Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
Mice with allergic skin reactions were given fenugreek for 7 days. Fenugreek reduced skin inflammation and the accumulation of inflammatory cells.
In rats with arthritis, fenugreek reduced fluid build-up in the joints and inflammatory enzyme activity.
Fenugreek reduces inflammation by inhibiting production of interleukins 4, 5, 13, and 1β and infiltration by white blood cells. This prevented the transformation of cells into helper T cells and reduced inflammatory responses.
5. Fenugreek Reduces Blood Sugar
In a clinical trial of 24 types of diabetic patients, the patients either consumed powdered fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water or with yogurt for 8 weeks. The participants who consumed fenugreek in hot water had significantly reduced blood sugar than the participants who ate fenugreek with yogurt.
Humans with type I diabetes who took fenugreek for 10 days had lower blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity compared to those who did not take it.
In rats, fenugreek improved insulin sensitivity, which helps reduce blood sugar and the risk of developing type II diabetes.
In obese rats, fenugreek reduced blood sugar, fats, and certain enzymes indicative of poor liver function significantly more compared to the control.
The hypoglycemic (sugar-lowering) effects of fenugreek are partially attributable to 4-hydroxyisoleucine, an amino acid present in fenugreek that stimulates the production of insulin by pancreatic cells.
Fenugreek also inhibits the activity of alpha-amylase and sucrase, enzymes that break down large sugars into glucose. They lower the overall sugar concentration in the blood.
6) Fenugreek Has Antioxidant Properties
In rats whose livers were damaged by alcohol, fenugreek seed extract reduced the concentration of free radicals, increased antioxidants, and reduced damage to enzymes.
In rats with induced arthritis, fenugreek increased antioxidants, vitamin C, and glutathione. It also reduced the concentrations of enzymes, such as catalase and glutathione peroxidase, which produce reactive oxygen species.
7. Fenugreek May Help Prevent Obesity
In rats, fenugreek lowered weight gain. Obese female rats fed fenugreek gained less weight and had a lower BMI. Their blood also contained fewer fats than the blood of rats on a control treatment.
8. Fenugreek Stops Cancer Cell Growth
The saponins in fenugreek prevent cell division in cancer cells and also induce programmed cell death (apoptosis).
Fenugreek seeds reduced the incidence of colon cancer, and fenugreek extract slowed the progression of breast cancer in rats.
Fenugreek also prevented the growth of human colon cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bone cancer cells (meta-analysis).
Blood cells from 15 healthy adults were treated with fenugreek extract and exposed to radiation therapy for cancer. Fenugreek increased the sensitivity of T-cells(a type of white blood cell) to the effects of radiation and spurred apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Diosgenin, a saponin found in fenugreek, suppresses bone and tumor cell formation by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced NF-κB activation (which produces proteins that increase cell growth and reduce apoptosis).
Diosgenin also stopped IKK and p65 activity. IKK and p65 both contribute to the cellular response to inflammation. By stopping IKK and p65, diosgenin prevents NF-kB activity.
Another saponin, protodioscin, induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells.
9. Fenugreek Might Help Improve Skin Health
Fenugreek contains mucilage, a gooey substance that can soothe and moisturize dry skin without irritating it when applied to the surface of the skin.
A skin cream containing fenugreek seed extract was applied to the faces of 11 people. After six weeks, skin moisture increased, and the melanin(pigment that causes dark spots) content and the number of bumps on the skin decreased.
Human cells in a laboratory were exposed to three types of saponins extracted from fenugreek, which decreased skin cell response to sun exposure.
After saponin exposure, the skin cells had lower levels of certain inflammatory cytokines (transmission molecules). They also produced less melanin, a pigment protein that is produced when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light.
Fenugreek contains a lot of carotenoids, which are antioxidant molecules that are converted to vitamin A in the body. Fenugreek oil applied to the skin of rats sped up wound healing over control rats by reducing inflammation and promoting new skin growth.
10) Fenugreek May Help Protect the Digestive Tract
In rats under stress, fenugreek seed oil reduced the overall incidence of ulcers. Fenugreek extract reduced acid reflux in another rat study.
11) Fenugreek May Improve Kidney Health
In one study, male rats were given ethylene glycol, which led to the formation of kidney stones and resulted in low red blood cell count and anemia. Rats given fenugreek seeds had increased red blood cell count and hemoglobin and fewer calcium salts in the kidneys. This reduced the risk of developing kidney stones.
Aluminum salts are often used to treat patients with kidney failure, but they can harm the body. Treating rats exposed to aluminum with fenugreek seed powder rebalanced urea, creatinine, and blood sugar levels.
Fenugreek also increased antioxidant concentrations, lowered reactive oxygen species, improved the overall quality of kidney tissue, and increased kidney weight back to normal.
12) Fenugreek Can Alleviate Dysmenorrhea(Menstrual Cramps)
In a study (DB-RCT) of 101 female students, scientists tested the severity of their pain during two consecutive menstrual cycles while taking fenugreek or a placebo.
Although all of the women had similar levels of pain before the study, the 51 women who received fenugreek reported much less pain at the end of the treatment than the 50 who received the placebo.
13) Fenugreek Has Anti-Microbial Activity
Fenugreek seed extract was tested on dishes of bacterial species and inhibited the growth of E. coli and M. furfur. Sprouted fenugreek seeds may have increased antimicrobial activity, especially against H. pylori, than non-germinated seeds.
Defensin, a protein extracted from fenugreek leaves, inhibited the spread and reproduction of two fungal species.
The antimicrobial effects of fenugreek also help accelerate wound healing.
Both the seeds and leaves of fenugreek reduce microbial growth in similar ways.
14) Fenugreek May Help Improve Lactation During Breastfeeding
Fenugreek is considered by traditional herbal doctors to be a galactagogue, a substance that promotes the production of breast milk (lactation) in women. Some studies report that drinking fenugreek tea increased milk production and infant weight gain compared to placebos.
However, other studies (meta-analyses) did not find fenugreek to significantly increase production of breast milk.
15) Fenugreek Benefit For Men
Diosgenin, found in fenugreek, is an important precursor for sex hormone formation. It can balance sex hormones to help support libido in healthy males.
Testofen, which contains fenugreek extract, improves male sex drive. In a study (DB-RCT) of 60 healthy males, daily supplementation with two tablets of 600 mg Testofen increased sexual arousal, orgasm, and self-reported energy and strength.
Fenugreek Side Effects
There are a few possible fenugreek side effects. When taken by mouth, it may cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. It also can cause irritation when applied directly to the skin, so always test a small area first.
Even though it has been used for inducing childbirth, women should always use caution when taking fenugreek during pregnancy. Make sure you talk to your health care provider about fenugreek prior to use.
It’s also important to note that fenugreek could cause harmful effects that can thin the blood and cause excessive bleeding in some people. Those with underlying bleeding disorders or who take blood-thinning medications or anticoagulants should not take fenugreek without their doctors’ approval. Signs of excessive bleeding include easy bruising, vomiting blood or passing dark stools.