Fenugreek is a very strong mucilaginous yet soothing herb that is used to treat various health diseases. Ayurveda claims that it is one of the most potential herbs to keep the blood glucose under control (1). The part of the herb that carries a lot of medicinal properties is seed. Fenugreek seeds have been prescribed by traditional medical practitioners in India to control triglycerides and ‘bad’ fats such as cholesterol, LDL and VLDL. Fenugreek seed can be consumed in several ways for its health benefits.
Fenugreek belongs to Leguminosae family and it is also known as Bockshornsame. Clinical trials reveal that fenugreek seeds possess a high proportion of mucilaginous fiber and other active components (such as steroidal and amine) responsible for most of its medical properties.
Fenugreek in Food
The herb of fenugreek has been listed as a natural source of food flavoring by the Council of Europe. It belongs to N2 Category that means that it can be added to foods in little quantity with possible limitation of an active, though unspecified, principle in the final product. It is also listed as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) (2).
In India, the herb (fenugreek seeds) is widely used in cooking and preparing medicinal decoction to treat various respiratory tract infections. Also, fenugreek seeds potentially control blood glucose as researched in laboratories and clinical trials. The best part of fenugreek seeds is it’s easy to consume. Traditional Indian use includes taking fenugreek seeds’ extract in powder form.
Fenugreek seeds soaked in little water over the night and consumed in the morning reduce the blood glucose and cholesterol levels due to its natural hypoglycemic properties.
Ayurveda and Methika (Fenugreek)In Ayurveda, fenugreek is called as methika (pronounced ma-thee-k) and according to Ayurvedic Dictionaries (Dhanvantari Nighantu and Bhavprakash Nighantu), it is of two types -Vanya (that belongs to the jungle) and Gramya (as corp). The Vanya (Jungle) methika is best known for the health of the horse, which is known as ‘ahithha’ that some scholars believe is another popular herb of Ayurveda called ‘Ashwabala’ (Latin: Medicago sativa Linn.). In Ayurveda, methika is used for various ‘vata’ type disorders (all neurological disorders). Also the herb is found useful in treating any type of fever and inflammation (Bhav Prakash Nighantu).
Medicinal Use of Fenugreek
The fenugreek seeds are stated to have mucilaginous demulcent and laxative (3). Also it is natural expectorant with orexigenic properties for what it is topically used as an emollient and vulnerary (4). The herb is also indicated in treating anorexia, dyspepsia, gastric problems and convalescence (5). Locally, fenugreek herbal preparation is used in furunculosis, lymphadenitis, gout, leg wounds and ulcers and myalgia (6).
Research on Fenugreek
Hypocholesterolaemic activities have been reported for the herb in mice (7) and alloxan diabetic dogs (8). Researchers believe that these medicinal properties of fenugreek are due to fiber and saponin fractions.
Hypoglycemic activities have been observed in rabbits, mice and dogs and attributed to the defatted seed fractions (DSF), coumarin, nicotinic acid and trigonelline (9).
A slight diuretic action of fenugreek noted for coumarin, herb’s natural compound (9). Fenugreek contains alcoholic and aqueous extracts possess a stimulant action on the isolated uterus of guinea pigs particularly during late pregnancy (9). Also, aqueous extracts are stated to increase the heart rate in isolated mammalian heart.
In vitro studies reveal fenugreek’s antiviral against vaccinia virus. The herb contains fenugreekine that has cardiotonic, diuretic, hypoglycemic, antiphlogistic and antihypertensive action (10).
Ideally, recommended dose of fenugreek seed is 1-6 gm. or equivalent thrice a day (11).
- Madhumeha Chikitsa as described in Charaka Samhita Chikitsasthana.
- Council of Europe. Flavouring Substances and Natural Sources of Flavourings, 3rd edn. Strasbourg: Maisonneuve, 1981.
- Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals (Wichtl M, ed., German edition). Stuttgart: medpharm, 1994.
- British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Keighley: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.
- Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton: CRC, 1985
- Wren RC. Potter’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations (revised, Williamson EW, Evans FJ). Saffron Walden: Daniel, 1988
- Ribes G et al. Effects of fenugreek seeds on endocrine pancreatic secretions in dogs. Ann Nutr Metab 1984; 28: 37–43.
- Sharma RD. An evaluation of hypocholesterolemic factor of fenugreek seeds (T. foenum graecum) in rats. Nutr Rep Int 1986; 33: 669–677.
- Shani J et al. Hypoglycaemic effect of Trigonella foenum graecum and Lupinus termis (Leguminosae) seeds and their major alkaloids in alloxan-diabetic and normal rats. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther 1974; 210: 27–37 & 8 Ribes G et al. Hypocholesterolaemic and hypotriglyceridaemic effects of subfractions from fenugreek seeds in alloxan diabetic dogs. Phytother Res 1987; 1: 38–42
- Ghosal S et al. Fenugreekine, a new steroidal sapogenin-peptide ester of Trigonella foenum-graecum. Phytochemistry 1974; 13: 2247–2251
- Mills SY. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. Wellingborough: Thorsons, 1985.