Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) has been one of the herbs known since the earliest years. Its physiological effects are backed by the fact that several patented medicines are produced by fenugreek seeds.
Fenugreek is a non-perennial, strong plant growing 60-90 cm high with light green leaves and small white flowers. The husks contain 10-20 small, flat, yellowish, spicy aromatic seeds. The seeds have strong aroma and a bit bitter flavour, most of which carry the aroma of anise, maple syrup and burnt sugar.
It is an indigenous plant in Mediterranean areas, Southern Europe and West Asia. It has presence and grows in Hungary. Fenugreek seed values are considered significant in Indian, Arabic, Greek and Chinese scientific and folk medicine, and its consumption is common in these countries.
In recent years it has become popular in the world as a spice and thickener, and it is also found in products such as soap and shampoo. Fenugreek seed powder is an ingredient of several Indian and Asian spices, for example it is the indispensable ingredient of traditional curry.
The earliest records are originated from Ebers papyrus from 2000-3000 B.C. The history of the Fenugreek use dates back to ancient times. At that time, it was mostly produced in India and Morocco due to its culinary value and therapeutic effects. The Egyptians used it for embalming, the Greeks and the Romans as cattle feed – the Latin foenum graecum name derives from this story (fenugreek).
What fenugreek contains
It is extremely rich in macro and microelements: Vitamins include A, B, C, and D, and its organic iron, selenium and silicon content are also remarkable.
One tablespoon of Fenugreek seed contains 35 calories and the following nutrients:
- Fibre: 3 g
- Protein: 3 g
- Carbohydrate: 6 g
- Fat: 1 g
- Iron: 20% of the recommended daily value
- Manganese: 7 % of the recommended daily value
- Magnesium: 5 % of the recommended daily value
Most of its therapeutic effects are due to its active compounds, such as steroidal saponins, antioxidant flavonoids, and trigonellins and other alkaloids.
Stimulates milk secretion among lactating mothers
Human breast milk is the most ideal nutrition for newborns, but in some cases breastfeeding is not enough. Research and observations found that Fenugreek is a safe and natural alternative to increasing milk production.
In a 14-day study including 77 mothers, it was found that consumption of Fenugreek increases human breast milk production. In another study, 66 mothers were divided into three groups: the first group received a Fenugreek tea, the second received placebo while the third did not receive anything. Researchers found a fairly large difference in breast milk production between the groups: the amount of expressed breast milk in the control and the placebo group was approximately 34 ml, while the group consuming Fenugreek tea it was 73 ml.
Anti-diabetic and cholesterol-lowering effects are demonstrated by clinical trials
The most significant studies looked into the effect of Fenugreek seed on human metabolism (e.g. diabetes). The results showed that plant consumption improves overall carbohydrate tolerance – primarily in non-diabetic, healthy individuals. The beneficial effect is mainly due to the ability to improve insulin utilization and its high fibre content.
In a study on type 1 diabetes, researchers added 50 grams of fenugreek seed powder to participants’ lunches and dinners for 10 days. At the end of the observation, improvement of 54 % was experienced during 24-hour blood glucose monitoring.
Clinical studies conducted by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that regular consumption of frozen horn seeds reduced cholesterol levels by 18-26% and therefore plays a significant role in preventing atherosclerosis and coronary atherosclerosis.
Plays role in the control of female hormones
The natural steroids of Fenugreek seeds favourably influence the menstrual cycle, and phytoestrogens increase the production of sex hormones. They have a good effect on pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS) and reducing menopausal complaints.
Helps post-disease recovery
Its appetite enhancing, digestive, roborating properties, high nutritional value and vitamin content make it suitable for strengthening the weakened organism due to the disease.
Kassaian N, Azadbakht L, Forghani B, Amini M. (2009): Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and lipid profiles in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2009 Jan;79(1):34-9. doi: 10.1024/0300-9818.104.22.168.
Shivangi Goyal, Nidhi Gupta, and Sreemoyee Chatterjee (2016): Investigating Therapeutic Potential of Trigonella foenum-graecum L. as Our Defense Mechanism against Several Human Diseases. J Toxicol. 2016; 2016: 1250387. Published online 2016 Jan 18. doi: 10.1155/2016/1250387
Sima Younesy, Sedigheh Amiraliakbari, Somayeh Esmaeili, Hamid Alavimajd, and Soheila Nouraei (2014): Effects of Fenugreek Seed on the Severity and Systemic Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea. J Reprod Infertil. 2014 Jan-Mar; 15(1): 41–48.