What Are The Benefits Of Fenugreek Seeds?
Fenugreek seeds have historically been used both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Fenugreek has a relatively bitter taste, but when a pinch of seeds are roasted in a little oil, a fragrant aroma infuses into the oil and lends a delectable taste to the food cooked in that oil. Fenugreek seeds are often used in this way in the preparation of lentils in Indian cuisine. As far as the health benefits go, people have been using fenugreek for centuries to help with various conditions from increasing breast milk supply to helping diabetics control their blood sugar levels. But are these claims true? And is fenugreek safe to take?
What Does Fenugreek Seed Do?
Fenugreek seeds have an active compound called trigonella foenum graecum which contains some health benefits, according to research studies. There is evidence for the use of Fenugreek seeds for helping diabetics control glucose levels, reducing cholesterol levels and as an immunostimulant. There is also some evidence for the use of fenugreek to help patients suffering from ulcers.
Historical Uses Of Fenugreek Seeds In Indian Medicine
There are many claims made for the efficacy of fenugreek seeds in aiding various conditions making it sound like fenugreek is the magic cure we’ve all been searching for! This herb has historically been used to treat the following conditions. Current research is ongoing and supports only some of these claims:
- digestive problems
- to induce childbirth and increase breast milk supply
- symptoms of menopause
- painful menstruation
- various problems associated with testosterone abnormalities (such as loss of libido and impotence)
- microbial and fungal infections
- oedema of the legs.
- inflammation of the skin
Known Benefits Of Fenugreek Seeds
1. For Digestive Problems
There is evidence of trigonella foenum graecum inhibiting Helicobacter Pylori. This is the bacteria in the stomach which causes ulcers. Current research shows some promise in the ability of fenugreek seeds to reduce flatulence and inflammation in the gut. A home remedy for indigestion is to drink a cup of fenugreek tea. As fenugreek is high in fiber, containing 2.7 grams in a a tablespoon, it is sometimes taken to relieve constipation. However, it must be noted that trigonella foenum graecum can cause diarrhoea in high doses, and an alternative source of fiber would be a safer bet.
2. For Dysmenorrhea (Period Pain)
Double-blind clinical trials done in 2013 on 101 women who received fenugreek supplements at doses between 1800-2700mg for the first 3 days of their cycle, showed a reduction in symptoms of dysmenorrhea such as cramps, fatigue and mood swings. However, clinical trials for relieving the symptoms of menopause are less conclusive. As fenugreek contains phytoestrogens, there is speculation that fenugreek also eases menstrual bleeding. Evidence shows that fenugreek can delay the onset of menstruation in high doses, so it is possible that the phytoestrogens in Fenugreek balance out the hormones responsible for menstrual bleeding.
3. For Male Impotence & Libido
Clinical trials with fenugreek seed extract for treating male impotence have shown positive results. There is evidence that fenugreek increases spermatogenesis (the production of sperm) and acts as an aphrodisiac. A three year study carried out in India, on 500 men suffering from erectile dysfunction, showed significant improvement after 12 weeks of therapy with a daily dose of fenugreek extract combined with L-Arginine (an amino acid). The recommended dosage for increased libido is 500-600mg.
4. For Controlling Diabetes
Studies have shown that a daily dose of 10g fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water may help lower blood glucose levels and improve glucose tolerance in patients with type 2 diabetes. Other studies have shown that taking 2.5g of fenugreek seeds twice a day for 3 months may help lower blood sugar levels in people with mild type 2 diabetes. WebMD states that a dose of 1g daily of fenugreek extract has been used for diabetes.
5. For Chronic Coughs
Clinical trials show that Fenugreek works as an immunostimulant. Therefore it may be of benefit in treating chronic coughs and bronchitis. A common home remedy that uses fenugreek to relieve coughs, is to boil a handful of fenugreek seeds in a glass of water for two minutes, then to strain the water and use it to gargle with twice a day. Alternately, a tea is made with fenugreek by crushing a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a pestle and mortar and adding to 4 cups of boiling water.
6. For Lowering Cholesterol
According to the University of Michigan, several double-blind clinical trail with humans showed that fenugreek seeds may help lower total cholesterol in people with mild atherosclerosis. It is thought that fenugreek contains compounds that inhibit cholesterol production in the liver as well as cholesterol absorption. The dosage used was 10-30 grams of fenugreek given three times a day with meals. Additionally, in preliminary trials, findings are that fenugreek may lower LDL cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels in people who have a high lipid profile.
How To Use Fenugreek Seeds For Medicinal Purposes
This is a a method of extracting the beneficial compounds in fenugreek, by soaking 2 tblspns of the seeds in 400ml hot water and leaving overnight. The water is consumed the next day.
This is made by mixing a teaspoon of fenugreek powder in a cup of boiling water, then straining. Fenugreek powder can either be made fresh by crushing fenugreek seeds in a pestle and mortar, or by purchasing commercially available packaged powders.
There are many commercial fenugreek preparations available on the market. These are usually in the form of capsules of fenugreek powder ranging in dosages from 500mg to 1500mg. Be careful to choose a good quality brand and to use under the direction of your doctor, as fenugreek can have interactions with other medications. It is also not safe to use during pregnancy or for children.