In today’s blog post nutritionnourishment is going to introduce you to fenugreek and how it can be utilised to help encourage optimal health and wellbeing. Please see the references section below for further information and research.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graceum L.), also known as Greek Hay and Fenigreek, is one of the oldest medicinal plants thought to have originated from the Middle East or India where is grows naturally in some areas. The first mention of this plant is at the time of Pharaons, when it would be used to make a type of incense or was mixed with other plants/resins to embalm mummies. Cato the Elder mentioned the name of fenugreek in the oldest known book on agriculture somewhere around 200BC. Recent research has concentrated on the seeds of fenugreek, the most utilised part of the plant, which show this herbaceous plant to be a source of phytochemicals with a unique chemical structure, innovative biological and pharmacological properties. (Mazza & Oomah, 1998, pp.107-110).
Zafar, (2016) reports that fenugreek seeds and leaves are known for their aromatic and seasoning properties often used today as a culinary spice as it’s assumed to possess nutritive and restorative properties. The fenugreek seeds contain active constituents such as alkaloids, lysine tryptophan, as well as steroidal saponins including diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin and neotigogenin. In India and China it is commonly used to help treat arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, sore throat, acid reflux and maintain a healthy metabolism. With nutrients such as protein, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, and diosgenin, a compound that has properties similar to estrogen, fenugreek seeds have been found to help increase libido and lessen the effects of hot flashes and mood fluctuations that are common symptoms of PMS and menopause. There have also been recent studies showing fenugreek may help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels in the body, which may be an effective treatment for both Type 1 and 2 diabetes along with cardiovascular disease.
Looking at some of the main actions of fenugreek seeds in health starting with hypoglycaemic and anti-diabetic effects as described by Braun & Cohen, (2015, pp.), the uses have been demonstrated in numerous studies involving experimentally-induced diabetes, including both type 1 and 2, in rats, dogs, mice and rabbits as well as diabetic humans. The effects have been described as slow, sustained with no reduction in fasting or postprandial blood sugar levels in a dosage of 5g/day over the three month trial. Recognising the synergistic effect from a range of compounds result in both glucose absorption inhibition and the promotion of pancreatic function to effect lower glucose levels and enhance other metabolic indicators. The study concluded fenugreek to possess an insulinomimetic effect and may increase the sensitivity of tissues to available insulin.
While more research is needed in terms of confirming all the health benefits of Fenugreek with improving cholesterol health, a study in India reported those with heart conditions, such as hardening of the arteries and high blood levels of triglycerides/cholesterol that were administered 2.5grams of fenugreek twice daily over three months experienced significantly lowered cholesterol levels without affecting the good, HDL, cholesterol. Fenugreek has been used since ancient times to help improve numerous digestive problems, such as an upset stomach, constipation and inflammation of the stomach. The water-soluble fibre in fenugreek, among other foods, helps to relieve constipation. It may also work to treat digestion and if often incorporated in an ulcerative colitis diet treatment plant due to the anti-inflammatory effects. (Axe, 2016)
Fenugreek is likely safe for people when taken by mouth in amounts that are found in food, however, caution must be taken if a fenugreek supplement is used for medicinal purposes. Possible reported side effects found on WebMD, (2016), include symptoms such as diarrhoea, stomach upset, bloating, gas, and a ‘maple syrup’ odour in urine. It can also cause nasal congestion, wheezing, lower blood sugar, facial swelling and a severe allergic reaction in hypersensitive people. Special precautions and warnings for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children and diabetics. Warnings against moderate interaction when combined with medications for diabetes, along with anti-coagulant/anti-platelet drugs, including aspirin, ibuprofen, warfarin, and naproxen. As with any supplement it is essential to speak to a doctor who can ensure the correct dosage and safe usage.
Axe, J. (2016). 8 Fenugreek Benefits that could change your life. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/fenugreek/
Braun, L. & Cohen, M. (Eds). (2015). Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide.(4th ed.). Chatswood, Australia: Elseview Australia.
Mazza, G. & Oomah, B. D. (Eds). (1998). Functional Food and Nutraceuticals series: Herbs, Botanical and Teas. Florida, United States of America: CRC Press.
WebMD. (2005-2016). Vitamin or Supplement. Fenugreek: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-733-fenugreek.aspx?activeingredientid=733&
Zafar, J. (2016). Fenugreek Health Benefits. Retrieved from http://www.homeremediesweb.com/fenugreek_health_benefits.php