What is fenugreek
Since antiquity, the practical use of plant-derived medicinal compounds has been in many cultural systems, including China, India, Egypt and Middle Eastern countries. Recently, doctors have suggested the use of plant-derived medicinal compounds due to their health benefits and minimal side effects.1
Fenugreek [Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn ( Fabaceae)] is a medicinal plant. Fenugreek is native to parts of Asia and Eastern Europe but is now widely planted all over the world for its seeds (used as condiments) and leaves (used as leafy vegetables).1 The fenugreek plant has three leaves reaching a height of 0.3-0.8 m. The plants bear yellow or white flowers that give rise to slender, long, yellow-to-brown pods. At the time of maturity, the pods contain hard brown seeds of fenugreek, which are utilized for their medicinal use. Meanwhile, green leaves are used as vegetables in many societies.1
Health benefits of fenugreek
The defining feature of type -2 diabetes (T2DM) is hyperglycemia ( high blood glucose) . Type-2 diabetes mellitus is caused by the accumulation of glucose in the body. The fenugreek plant is generally known as " methi Dana" and is used to treat T2DM, but fenugreek seeds are more effective. Fenugreek seeds contain chemicals like fibre, amino acid, etc., which have anti-diabetic activity. The seeds contain fibre, such as galactomannan, which helps decrease blood sugar levels by delaying the absorption of carbohydrates. Also, fenugreek seeds contain substances that stimulate the secretion of insulin in the pancreas, which helps lower glucose absorption.2
Fenugreek is potent in lowering blood sugar (blood glucose) levels (hypoglycemic effect) and preventing the elevation of blood sugar ( antihyperglycemic effect). Because of these effects, fenugreek is used to treat diabetes. A study on type-1 diabetic rats fed with fenugreek seed extract for 4 weeks showed an improvement in insulin secretion ( the main problem in type-1 diabetes is the inability to secrete insulin), decreased glucose level, decreased adiposity index, increased food intake plus gain in body weight.3
Supplementation with fenugreek seed plays a major role in reducing systolic blood pressure, which can be used in hypertension.4 Fenugreek is also used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease because of its ability to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.5
Study shows that fenugreek supplementation has a significant effect in decreasing plasma concentration of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol as well as an increase in plasma high-density lipoprotein while body mass index and body weight is not altered.6
Among postnatal mothers, fenugreek has been found to enhance breast milk production and facilitate the birth weight of infants by the evidence of frequent urination and weight gain in infants within the initial week of life7. Trigonella foenum-graecum enhances breathing and lung secretion and clears the voice. The fenugreek syrup was prepared in a honey solution. Compared with honey and placebo syrup, the aqueous extract of fenugreek seeds improved the lung function tests in patients with mild asthma. The mucilage component of fenugreek seeds facilitates lung secretions and improves asthmatic cough.8
Fenugreek seed contains many active components, such as:1
- Amino acid
- Fatty acid
- Saponins such as gitogenin, diosgenin, homorientin saponaretin, neogi genin and tigogenin
- Fixed oil
- Some alkaloids
Fenugreek seeds contain many minerals and vitamins which have antioxidant properties that are important for the immune system and other body functions.9
- The B vitamins are important for maintaining health.
- Thiamin plays a role in muscle, nerve, and heart function. Also is essential for glucose metabolism.
Fenugreek seeds contain minerals like potassium ( involved in controlling blood pressure and heart rate), iron ( essential in red blood cell production), manganese, copper, magnesium (promotes calcium absorption), and phosphorus.9
Uses of fenugreek
Traditionally, fenugreek seed has been used as a demulcent, laxative, carminative, expectorant, and stomachic agent.1
The therapeutic uses include:10
- As anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and antidiabetic.
- Anti Anorexic, antiatherogenic, anti-ulcer antimicrobial, and anthelmintic.
- Antihyperlipidemic, immunomodulatory, and antinociceptive.
- Anti-obesity and hepatoprotective effects.
- Used in treating many diseases.
Side effects and other concerns
Fenugreek is safe in the amount found in foods. Side effects of fenugreek include nausea, diarrhoea, and other digestive tract symptoms. Rarely cause headaches and dizziness. Large doses may cause a harmful drop in blood pressure. Fenugreek should not be used as a supplement by children. In some people, fenugreek can cause allergic reactions. In people who take fenugreek alone or in combination with other herbs, it can cause liver toxicity. Fenugreek is not safe during pregnancy because it increases the risks of birth defects if taken in amounts greater than those found in food.11
Fenugreek [ Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn ( Fabaceae)] is a medicinal plant. Fenugreek is native to parts of Asia and Eastern Europe but is now widely planted all over the world for its seeds( used as condiments) and leaves ( used as leafy vegetables). Fenugreek seed contains many active components, including Amino acids, Vitamins, Fatty acids, Saponins, Fibers, Flavonoids, Polysaccharides, Fixed oil, and some alkaloids. Fenugreek seeds contain many minerals and vitamins which have antioxidant properties that are important for the immune system and other body functions. Fenugreek lowers blood glucose level and cholesterol levels, improves immunity, increases milk production in postnatal mothers, improves lung function tests and improves lipid parameters in adults. Fenugreek is used in mild asthma and hypertension as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, anti-anorexic, antiatherogenic, anti-ulcer antimicrobial, anthelmintic, Antihyperlipidemic, immunomodulatory, antinociceptive, anti-obesity and hepatoprotective effects, and used to treat many diseases. Side effects of fenugreek include nausea, diarrhoea, and other digestive tract symptoms. Rarely cause headaches and dizziness. Fenugreek should not be used as a supplement by children and pregnant women. People who take fenugreek alone or in combination with other herbs can cause liver toxicity.
- Yadav, U. C. S., & Baquer, N. Z. (2014). Pharmacological effects of Trigonella foenum-graecum L. in health and disease. Pharmaceutical Biology, 52(2), 243–254. https://doi.org/10.3109/13880209.2013.826247.
- Rehman, M. H. ur, Ahmad, A., Amir, R. M., Ameer, K., Ali, S. W., Siddique, F., Hayat, I., Ahmad, Z., & Faiz, F. (2020). Ameliorative effects of fenugreek (trigonella foenum-graecum) seed on type 2 diabetes. Food Science and Technology, 41, 349–354. https://doi.org/10.1590/fst.03520.
- Majumdar, J., Chakraborty, P., Mitra, A., Sarkar, N. kumar, & Sarkar, S. (2017). Fenugreek, a potent hypoglycaemic herb can cause central hypothyroidism via leptin – a threat to diabetes phytotherapy. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, 125(7), 441–448. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0043-103458. Paywall reference
- Amini, M. R., Payandeh, N., Sheikhhossein, F., Pourreza, S., Ghalandari, H., Askarpour, M., & Hekmatdoost, A. (2023). The effects of fenugreek seed consumption on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. High Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Prevention. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40292-023-00565-6. Paywall restricted
- Khodamoradi, K., Khosropanah, M. H., Ayati, Z., Chang, D., Nasli-Esfahani, E., Ayati, M. H., & Namazi, N. (2020). The effects of fenugreek on cardiometabolic risk factors in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 52, 102416. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102416. Paywall restricted
- Askarpour, M., Alami, F., Campbell, M. S., Venkatakrishnan, K., Hadi, A., & Ghaedi, E. (2020). Effect of fenugreek supplementation on blood lipids and body weight: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 253, 112538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.112538.paywall restricted
- Ravi, R., & Joseph, J. (2020). Effect of fenugreek on breast milk production and weight gain among Infants in the first week of life. Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health, 8(3), 656–660. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cegh.2019.12.021.
- Emtiazy, M., Oveidzadeh, L., Habibi, M., Molaeipour, L., Talei, D., jafari, Z., Parvin, M., & Kamalinejad, M. (2018). Investigating the effectiveness of the Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (Fenugreek) seeds in mild asthma: A randomized controlled trial. Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology : Official Journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 14, 19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13223-018-0238-9.
- Fenugreek seed nutrition facts. (n.d.). NatureClaim. Retrieved 24 March 2023, from https://natureclaim.com/nutrition/info/fenugreek-seed/.
- Hilles, A. R., & Mahmood, S. (2021). Therapeutic uses and applications of fenugreek. In M. Naeem, T. Aftab, & M. M. A. Khan (Eds.), Fenugreek: Biology and Applications (pp. 503–522). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-1197-1_21.paywall restricted
- Fenugreek. (n.d.). NCCIH. Retrieved 23 March 2023, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/fenugreek.