Fenugreek (Methi) – Trigonella Foenum-Graecum Benefits, Uses & Side Effects
Fenugreek is also called Methi in Hindi and its botanical name is Trigonella Foenum-Graecum. It is an essential part of Indian spices and used in food not only for enhancing the taste of the food, but it also provides some prevention health benefits. Its use in food prevents diseases like intestinal gas, cramps, flatulence, bloating, indigestion, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, liver toxicity and several other disorders. In ayurvedic medicine, it helps to treat all these diseases.
The main action of Fenugreek (Methi) appears on the digestive system. It normalizes the gastric secretions and increases the bile flow from the liver. The secondary action is observed on the fluids and blood. It is likely to reduce the toxins from the blood, so it is highly recommended for the patients with the elevated uric acid level in the blood.
Nowadays, it becomes popular for the management of diabetes mellitus. It is also effective for the joint pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. It reduces inflammation, swelling, pain and stiffness effectively.
The raw Fenugreek seeds have a bitter taste. However, they offer a more pleasant taste when cooked. The dried and ground seeds and dried leaves of fenugreek (also called KASURI METHI) are the most commonly used parts of this plant in cooking as a spice and a flavoring agent.
Fenugreek is an herb with small white flowers and light green leaves. It belongs to the Fabaceae family and is called Trigonella Foenum-Graecum or Greek hay. It is largely cultivated in the Middle East, North Africa, India, and Egypt. An average fenugreek plant grows up to two to three feet tall. The seedpods of this plant contain about 10 to 20 small, yellowish-brown, aromatic, and pungent seeds.
Synonyms & Vernacular Names
|Botanical Name||Trigonella Foenum-graecum|
|English Name||Fenugreek, Sickle Fruit fenugreek, Greek hay|
Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)
|Infra Kingdom||Streptophyta (Land Plants)|
|Division||Tracheophyta (Tracheophytes or Vascular Plants)|
|Sub Division||Spermatophytina (Spermatophytes or Seed Plants)|
|Family||Fabaceae (Peas or Legumes)|
|Genus||Trigonella L. (fenugreek)|
|Species||Trigonella Foenum-graecum L. (T. Foenum-graecum) – Sickle Fruit fenugreek|
Fenugreek (Methi) seeds are most commonly used as medicine in Ayurveda as well folk medicine. The dried leaves of fenugreek are called Kasuri Methi (also spelled as Kasoori Methi), which are used as flavoring agent in Indian food and for treating digestive ailment in Ayurveda. Fenugreek Seeds are indicated in most of the diseases, but the Fenugreek leaves are commonly used as food additive.
Fenugreek oil extracted from the fenugreek seeds is also used for diabetes control, muscle spasm, enhancing milk production, and for the similar benefits of the seeds. Nowadays, it is available in vegetarian capsules.
PHYTOCHEMISTRY (CHEMICAL COMPOSITION)
Fenugreek seeds contain 4-HYDROXYISOLEUCINE, TRIGONELLINE, TRIGONEOSIDES and GALACTOMANNAN, which acts on the glucose metabolism and likely to be responsible for lowering the blood glucose level.
Fenugreek Seed Constituents
Fenugreek contains following active constituents:-
- GALLIC ACID
- PROTOCATECHUIC ACID
- QUINIC ACID
Fenugreek Oil Constituents
According to the study on fenugreek oil, it contains following active constituents. (1)
FENUGREEK SEED NUTRITION
Fenugreek seeds contain a good amount of dietary fiber. The fiber content of fenugreek also contains non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) including mucilage, saponins, tannin, hemicelluloses and pectin. Protein content is highly variable in the fenugreek seeds and it can be up to 2.3 grams per 10 grams seeds. Fenugreek contains ample amount of oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid.
|Major Nutrient||Value per 10 g||% of RDA|
|Calories from Fat||5.4||–|
|Total Fat||600 to 790 mg||–|
|Total Carbohydrate||5.8 g||–|
|Water||240 to 880 mg||–|
|Carbohydrates||Value per 10 g||% of RDA|
|Total Carbohydrates||5.8 g||1.9%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.4 g||9.8%|
Fat, Lipids & Fatty Acids
|Lipids||Value per 10 g||% of RDA|
|Total Fat||640 mg||1%|
|Saturated fat||150 mg||0.7%|
|Total fatty acid content||4.5 to 7%||–|
|Palmitic acid||53 mg||–|
|Oleic acid||73 to 117 mg||–|
|Linoleic acid||225 to 360 mg||–|
|Linolenic acid||110 to 175 mg||–|
|Steric acid||27 mg||–|
|Vitamins||Value per 10 g||% of RDA|
|Vitamin A, IU||6.0 IU||0.1%|
|Vitamin C||0.3 mg||0.5%|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||–||–|
|Vitamin B6||0.06 mg||3%|
|Minerals||Value per 10 g||% of RDA|
|Calcium, Ca||17.6 mg||1.8%|
|Iron, Fe||3.3 mg||18.6%|
|Magnesium, Mg||19 mg||4.8%|
|Phosphorus, P||30 mg||3%|
|Potassium, K||77 mg||2.2%|
|Sodium, Na||6.7 mg||0.3%|
|Zinc, Zn||0.25 mg||1.7%|
Fenugreek acts on the digestive system. It normalizes gastric secretion and promotes bile secretion. It increases the peristalsis of the intestines and provides strength to the whole alimentary canal, which helps to improve contractions. It acts as a stimulant for the stomach, intestine, pancreas, gall bladder and liver, thus it improves overall functions of these organs.
Fenugreek (Methi) possesses strong antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic activities, which help in the treatment and prevention of several diseases.
Medicinal Properties of Fenugreek Seeds
- Pancreas stimulant
- Nervine tonic
- Digestive stimulant
- Sialagogue (increases saliva secretion)
Ayurvedic Properties of Fenugreek Seeds
|RASA (Taste)||KATU (Pungent), TIKTA (Bitter)|
|GUNA (Main Quality)||LAGHU (Light), SNIGADH or SNEHA (Unctuous or Oily)|
|VIRYA (Potency)||USHNA (Hot)|
|VIPAKA (Resultant)||KATU (Pungent)|
|DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors)||Pacifies mainly Vata Dosha, balances Kapha Dosha and increases Pitta Dosha|
|Dhatu (Tissue) Effect||RASA, RAKTA, MEDAS, ASTHI|
|Organs Effect||Whole digestive system including stomach, intestine, pancreas and liver|
|Main Indication||Digestive ailment due to excess or aggravated Vata|
According to Ayurveda, Methi (Fenugreek) is a most suitable remedy for people with Vata type body constitution or having symptoms of excess or aggravated Vata Dosha. It may not be suitable for people with Pitta body type or having excess or aggravated Pitta symptoms. Methi is likely to balance the Kapha Dosha in the body.
I have Pitta Body Type and want to use Fenugreek. How can it become possible?
Fenugreek can also be used by people with Pitta body type, but it should be remembered to start it with lower dosage (less than 1 gram per day) and dosage should be gradually increased as per tolerance of the body. Furthermore, Methi should be soaked in water overnight or at least for 12 hours before its use. Soaked Fenugreek is less likely to affect Pitta at a significant level. If it still produces excess heat in the body, then it would be wise to quit its use.
Properties of Fenugreek Leaves
The Fenugreek leaves have SHEETA (cool potency) and do not increase Pitta Dosha like its seeds. Other medicinal properties and uses are same as of its seeds. The fenugreek leaves are more effective carminative. Additionally, leaves are anti-inflammatory, antacid and digestive.
Fenugreek (Methi) reduces following symptoms:
- Body aches
- Nervine weakness
- Gas formation in the alimentary canal
- Poor appetite (due to the decreased secretions bile salts or reduced liver functions)
Indications of Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
Fenugreek (Methi) seed are indicated in following health conditions:
- Loss of appetite (due to the decreased secretions bile salts or reduced liver functions)
- Intestinal gas, flatulence, or abdominal distension
- Abdominal heaviness after meal
- Metabolic disorders
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Debility after delivery (characterized by vertigo, loss of appetite, pain in hands and feet, backache, sore muscles, etc.)
- Body ache
- Hair fall
- Premature whitening of hair
- Enuresis (along with Acacia Catechu extract)
- Tonsillitis (Fenugreek decoction is used for gargling and rinsing the mouth)
- Mumps (external application)
- Dark Circles (External Application)
Indications of Fenugreek Leaves
Fenugreek Leaves (Kasuri Methi) are beneficial in following diseases:
- Hyperacidity, heartburn or dyspepsia
- Enuresis (along with Acacia Catechu extract)
- Dandruff (fenugreek leaves paste is applied on the scalp.)
- Hair fall and whitening of hair
FENUGREEK (METHI) BENEFITS & USES
Fenugreek seeds and leaves help ease the digestion and prevent the symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbances like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence, and abdominal distention. It also improves the secretion of digestive enzymes thus improving the absorption of essential nutrients from the foods into the blood. The most common health benefits and medicinal uses of fenugreek are described below.
Fenugreek seeds are known to possess strong anti-diabetic properties. It can help in controlling the blood sugar levels in the patients with type-1 and type-2 diabetes (2).
The blood sugar lowering effect of Fenugreek can be attributed to galactomannan (made of galactose and mannose), a soluble fiber present in its seeds. It slows down the rate of absorption of carbohydrates into blood thus preventing the spikes in blood sugar levels.
It can help in improving the glycemic control and decrease the insulin resistance in the patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (3).
Fenugreek seeds contain an amino acid, 4-hydroxyisoleucine along with other compounds like trigoneoside and trigonelline, which increase the production of insulin in the pancreas. The production of insulin is regulated based on the blood sugar levels and is stimulated only when the blood sugar rises above the normal limits. Hence, the risk of severe hypoglycemia is very low in the patients who use Fenugreek. Also, the blood-sugar lowering effect is absent in the non-diabetic people.
Fenugreek reduces lipid peroxidation and has antioxidant action. (6, 7, 8) This action helps to reduce insulin insensitivity and promotes the appropriate use of the secreted insulin. Therefore, adjunct use of fenugreek seeds can improve the glycemic control and reduce the insulin resistance in the patients with diabetes.
Fenugreek seeds contain a good amount of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) including mucilaginous fiber. The mucilaginous fiber content in it helps in easier bowel movement by increasing bulk formation.
According to Ayurveda, fenugreek gives strength to the intestinal wall and increases its peristaltic movement.
In Constipation, 1 teaspoon (around 3 grams) fenugreek seeds should be soaked for 12 hours and should be eaten at night just before the sleep. Alternatively, fenugreek seed powder can also be taken with warm water in a dosage of a ½ teaspoon (or around 3 grams) at night. The veggie prepared from fenugreek leaves is also beneficial for reducing constipation.
Sticky or greasy stools
Fenugreek seeds reduce sticky mucus content in the stool by increasing bile secretion from the liver into the intestine, which helps to improve fat metabolism and acts as a digestive for oily substances.
Taking a pinch of Trikatu or Black Pepper Powder along with 3 grams fenugreek seed powder improves the efficacy of the fenugreek (Methi) in cases of sticky and greasy stool.
This mixture is also beneficial for people who do not feel complete evacuation. Sticky or greasy stools can be an indication of poor absorption and ill digestion. Fenugreek improves digestion and fat metabolism. Its seeds reduce the feeling of uneasiness in the abdomen and help to feel fresh and light after a bowel movement.
Diarrhea with mucus in stool
It should be noted that fenugreek is more effective when loose motions accompanied with mucus in the stool. According to Ayurveda, the most common cause of mucus content in the stool during diarrhea is malabsorption and poor digestion. It can also occur due to intestinal infections.
Fenugreek has digestive action, which improves the digestion. It also stimulates the excretion of the toxins from the intestines, which ultimately reduces intestinal irritation. Secondly, fenugreek also has antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which also helpful killing the bacteria or microbes resulting in diarrhea. Third, fenugreek mucilage fiber helps to absorb the excess water from the alimentary canal, which reduces the frequency of the loose stools.
In Ayurveda, the following fenugreek combination is also recommended:
|Fenugreek seed powder||3 grams|
|Roasted cumin (Jeera) powder||1 grams|
|Rock Salt||250 mg|
|This mixture should be taken twice a day with 250 ml buttermilk.|
Fenugreek leaf juice in a dosage of 20 to 40 ml with 5 grams sugar is useful in the management of diarrhea accompanied with burning sensation.
- Fenugreek seeds can also cause loose motions (diarrhea) in some people, which occur due to intolerance to fenugreek seeds. Generally, it occurs when people use it for the first time or in high dosage.
- It is more effective in diarrhea where mucus content is involved and along with the herbs described in the above table.
- If the stool also contains blood along with mucus content, then fenugreek leaves are more beneficial.
Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite has several causes, but fenugreek seeds help in reduced liver function. It improves liver functions and enhances the digestion by increasing the secretion of the bile into the small intestine. The appetite loss occurring due to poor liver functions, fenugreek can be used.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Fenugreek is an effective remedy for treating acid reflux and heartburn. Although fenugreek seeds have hot potency, but the high amount of mucilage in fenugreek seeds helps in relieving heartburn by coating the inner mucosal lining of the stomach and intestine. It soothes the irritated gastrointestinal tissues and provides relief from sour eructation, burning in the throat, pain in the abdomen, nausea, and vomiting caused by the reflux of the acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus in the patients with GERD.
Fenugreek leaves help in the management of peptic ulcers by normalizing the secretion of gastric acid. It neutralizes the excess acidic contents in the stomach thus protecting the delicate stomach mucosa from irritation and ulceration. Regular use of fenugreek by the patients with peptic ulcers can help relieve its symptoms, prevent the worsening of the condition and reduce the risk of complications like gastric carcinoma.
Intestinal Gas, Flatulence, & Abdominal Distension
The digestive action of the fenugreek improves digestion and absorption of the food, which prevents the reach of undigested food to the colon. Undigested food is the main cause of gas formation in the abdomen because bacteria in the colon produces more gas when they get undigested food.
Both fenugreek seeds and leaves have potent carminative and anti-flatulent properties, which helps to reduce intestinal gas, flatulence, abdominal distension, and feeling of fullness or heaviness of abdomen due to excess gas accumulation in the alimentary canal. Further, as it also prevents gas formation and thus precludes cramps, burping (belching) and bloating.
Fenugreek seeds contain polyphenols, which protect the liver from the toxicity caused by the waste by-products of various metabolic processes in the body and alcohol. It prevents damage to the liver cells due to chronic alcoholism thus reducing the risk of hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease.
It plays an important role in detoxifying the liver thus allowing the body to get rid of the toxins. It cleanses the blood and enhances the functions of the liver. Fenugreek also protects the liver against the ethanol-induced hepatic injury (9). It also helps in the management of liver carcinoma by inducing apoptosis. Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death, which results in the destruction of the cancer cells. The regular intake of fenugreek can help in preventing the liver disorders including alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
Fenugreek seeds can help in the treatment and prevention of colon cancer. The fibers present in fenugreek in the form of saponins, and mucilage bind to the toxins in the food such as preservatives, coloring agents, and other additives and later, flush them out. This helps to protect the mucosal layer of the colon from the cancerous changes induced by these toxins. Fenugreek can also help to maintain healthy microbial flora in the colon, which enhances its functions and ensures effective elimination of the carcinogenic substances from the intestines via stools. This helps to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Therefore, fenugreek acts as a natural preventive remedy for colon cancer by protecting the mucosa from the harmful toxins.
The roasted seeds of fenugreek are used in chronic appendicitis. Fenugreek helps to reduce abdominal discomfort, mild abdominal tenderness and pain, malaise and lethargy due to it. It also prevents acute aggravation of appendicitis. It reduces inflammation of appendix and helps to remove the deposits from it.
Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
Fenugreek is an herbal sialagogue, which induces saliva secretion and stimulates the production of more saliva in the mouth. Thus, it is an effective treatment for the dry mouth (Xerostomia).
Sweet Taste in Mouth
Sweet taste in the mouth indicates excess Kapha Dosha in the mouth. Fenugreek balances Kapha Dosha in the body and also reduces sweetness in the mouth. It improves taste sensation by reducing AMA in the mouth. If one is taking artificial sweeteners like aspartame, then they should be quitted. Diabetes can also be the other cause of the sweet taste in the mouth, so fenugreek also helps to get good control over it.
The decoction is prepared using 800 ml water and 20 grams fenugreek seed coarse powder, which is reduced to 200 ml liquid. This fenugreek decoction is used gargling and rinsing the mouth in cases of tonsillitis. Its decoction soothes the inflamed tonsils and acts as bacteriostatic (bacteriostat) and bactericidal, which also reduces bacterial infections. It also has antiviral characteristics, so it is also useful in cases of viral infections.
Sore Throat (Pharyngitis)
The mucilage in fenugreek coats the lining of the throat and produces a soothing effect that helps to relieve pain and cough caused by a sore throat. It acts as an anti-bacterial agent and eliminates the organisms responsible for the infection. It is particularly beneficial for those who suffer from the incessant bouts of a cough at night. Taking fenugreek extract just before going to bed can prevent the bouts thus ensuring a sound sleep. Thus, fenugreek seeds can be used to relieve a sore throat and its symptoms like pain, irritation and cough.
Along with internal treatment, fenugreek seed and barley flour paste prepared using lemon juice or buttermilk is applied externally on the swelling in the mumps. This external application helps to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.
Fenugreek tea is recommendable in patients with bad breath. Poor dental hygiene or bacterial growth in the mouth can be the cause of bad breath. Fenugreek’s antibacterial action arrests bacterial growth and kills bad breath causing microbes.
In some cases, dry mouth is also a cause of bad breath. Fenugreek seeds also help to reduce bad breath due to dry mouth syndrome.
Dyslipidemia (High Cholesterol & Triglycerides)
Fenugreek acts as cholagogues, so promotes bile secretion from the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine, but the mucilage, hemicelluloses, saponins, pectin and tannins (non-starch polysaccharides) in the fenugreek inhibit the re-absorption of the bile salts in the colon. Thus, it increases the excretion of the bile via stool and decreases the rate of synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. The more effect appears on LDL-cholesterol with fenugreek use. It improves overall lipid profile.
Fenugreek also helps to prevent atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the high levels of cholesterol leading to the deposition of plaques along the inner walls of the arteries. This causes narrowing of the blood vessels thereby reducing the blood supply to the vital organs. It can increase the risk of diseases like myocardial infarction, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke. Fenugreek can prevent these conditions by controlling the cholesterol levels.
Fenugreek plays a key role in maintaining the heart health. Its cardioprotective action can be attributed to the presence of galactomannan in the fenugreek seeds. It also contains a high amount of potassium, which helps counter the action of sodium thus controlling the heart rate and blood pressure.
The high level of potassium prompts the excretion of sodium from the kidneys through urine. As sodium is hygroscopic in nature, it pulls itself with water thus resulting in the elimination of higher amount of fluids from the body. This helps to lower the blood pressure. It also helps to control arrhythmias by regulating the heartbeats. Fenugreek seeds can enhance the heart functions by regulating the blood pressure and heart rate.
Also Read: Ayurvedic Treatment for High Blood Pressure
Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-Graecum) has anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic activities. It is likely to increase superoxide dismutase and glutathione and reduce lipid peroxidation in the cartilage tissue. (10)
Superoxide dismutase prevents the damage to tissues and Glutathione helps in repairing and building the tissues. Thus, fenugreek helps to prevent the damage of cartilages and promotes the tissue repair.
According to Ayurveda, fenugreek seeds exert the analgesic and anti-inflammatory action on the joints. Seeds reduce joint inflammation, stiffness, swelling and pain. According to Ayurveda, undigested food particle in the abdomen and undigested nutrients in the cells produces toxins in the body, which are called AMA in Ayurveda. It is the main cause of rheumatoid arthritis and several other diseases. Fenugreek reduces AMA and enhances its elimination from the body, which ultimately helps to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases occurring due to AMA accumulation.
In Ayurveda, fenugreek is recommended along with following herbs.
|Fenugreek seed (Methi) powder||3 grams|
|Sonth (dried ginger) – Zingiber Officinale||1 gram|
|Punarnava Powder||1 gram|
|Ashwagandha Powder||1 gram|
|Black Pepper||125 mg|
|The mixture should be taken twice daily with warm water. This herbal fenugreek mixture is highly effective for reducing inflammation, pain, swelling and stiffness, but it should not be used when the patient has a burning sensation in the abdomen, heartburn, and joint tenderness indicating excess Pitta symptoms because this mixture is likely to increase the Pitta and its symptoms.|
Alternatively, the decoction is prepared with 400 ml water and 10 grams fenugreek seeds, which is reduced to 100 ml liquid content and then filtered. This decoction can be taken with 250 mg black pepper and 250 mg rock salt to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
In Ayurveda, fenugreek is a very precise remedy for the body aches. AMA accumulation in the body is likely to be the cause of generalized body aches, according to Ayurveda. Therefore, fenugreek reduces its accumulation and thus reduces body aches.
According to modern science, body aches occurs due to excess accumulation of lipid peroxidation in the body, especially in the muscles, which lead to body aches and muscle pains. Obviously, fenugreek has good antioxidant potential; it decreases the oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation in the body (11), which ultimately helps to alleviate the body aches and muscle pain. It also reduces generalized fatigue.
Fenugreek leaf juice is used along with Catechu (Katha – extract of acacia trees) for reducing polyuria and frequent urination in following way.
|Fenugreek leaf juice||50 ml|
|Catechu (Katha) – extract of acacia trees||1 gram|
|Misri (Sugar)||5 grams|
|Catechu and sugar are added in fenugreek leaf juice and suggested to take after a meal once a day or as required.|
|One should avoid fried and oily foods when taking this remedy.|
If a child is 5 years or older and has a problem of involuntary urination (bedwetting), then fenugreek seeds along with Acacia Catechu extract can be used.
|Fenugreek Seed Powder||250 mg|
|Catechu (Katha) – extract of acacia trees||250 mg|
|The mixture should be taken twice daily after a meal in described dosage.|
|The results appear within 2 to 4 weeks, but this mixture should be continued for 3 months for the complete relief from involuntary urination. This mixture is helpful in both cases nocturnal enuresis as well as diurnal enuresis.|
Debility after delivery
In many states of India, Fenugreek seeds are used in the form of METHI LADDU (LADOO) for restoring the uterus’s natural pre-pregnancy size. However, the uterus naturally returns to its original size within 6 to 8 weeks, but Methi (fenugreek) enhances its quick recovery.
Secondly, fenugreek helps to clear the uterus from the lochia and prevents the infections of the reproductive organs in new mothers.
Some women have a complaint of a sore muscle, which causes pain in arms, legs and even neck and jaw. Many women also feel debility after delivery along with other problems such as vertigo, backache, and loss of appetite. In all these conditions, fenugreek seeds are highly helpful.
Uterus inflation or stretching of the uterus is also a cause of thin discharge or leucorrhea. Fenugreek seeds promote uterus deflation and shrinkage of the uterus, which reduce all secondary symptoms and help to attain the original natural size of the uterus. It also helps to cure the leucorrhea in such cases. For this purpose, fenugreek powder is suggested to use with jaggery in Ayurveda.
Fenugreek seeds contain phytoestrogens, which have estrogenic activities. (12)
Actually, phytoestrogens in fenugreek modulate the hormonal secretions and restore the natural hormonal balance. The effect is observable on all hormones including estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, luteinizing hormone, etc.
Fenugreek is likely to stimulate the growth of mammary glands by helping in the production of estrogen in the body and mimicking effect of phytoestrogen. It can promote the growth of new breast cells and thus, increase the size of the breasts. Therefore, fenugreek can be used as a natural alternative to the cosmetic treatments for breast enlargement. Its estrogenic effect may also be beneficial in the management of breast cancer.
Fenugreek seeds offer potential protection against breast cancer by inhibiting the DMBA-induced hyperplasia of the breast tissues. (13)
It also helps in the faster recovery of the women diagnosed with breast cancer by inducing apoptosis. It offers significant chemopreventive effect, which helps to suppress, reverse, and prevent the progression of the cancer cells into the surrounding normal tissues thus limiting the extent of the disease.
It also works by preventing angiogenesis. It is a normal process by which new blood vessels are formed in the body. However, in the case of a tumor, angiogenesis may actually stimulate the growth of the mass by providing more nutrients through the newly-formed blood vessels. Hence, preventing angiogenesis is an important aspect of cancer treatment. Fenugreek can help to prevent angiogenesis in the cancer mass due to which the abnormal cells do not receive sufficient supply of blood and nutrients resulting in their death.
Therefore, fenugreek seeds can help in the treatment of breast cancer through a variety of mechanisms such as inducing apoptosis, and chemo-preventive effects and by inhibiting angiogenesis.
Premenstrual Syndrome, Menstrual Discomfort & Menopause
The compounds in fenugreek seeds like ISOFLAVONES and DIOSGENIN possess estrogen-like properties, which help in reducing discomfort and menstrual cramps in the women suffering from premenstrual syndrome. These compounds also relieve the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and frequent mood fluctuations by simulating the action of estrogen whose production is reduced during menopause.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Fenugreek contains an abundant amount of natural iron. Women prone to iron deficiency due to excessive menstrual flow caused by menorrhagia and polymenorrhea can also use fenugreek. It contains a high amount of iron and helps in preventing anemia.
Lactation (Promote Milk Production)
Lack of milk production is a problem faced by the women following the childbirth. It can force them to bottle-feed the baby, which is not a preferred option as it deprives the baby of benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding ensures that the milk is at the body temperature, which is suitable for the baby. The breast milk also contains natural antibodies that are passed from the mother to the baby and provide protection from infections. Breastfeeding also works as a natural method of contraception for the mother. However, the mother and the baby are deprived of these benefits when there is reduced milk production. Fenugreek can help in stimulating the production of milk in these women. It contains DIOSGENIN, which increases the milk production by regulating the hormones in the body.
Some evidence suggests that fenugreek can help in preventing the formation of renal stones. It works by reducing the amount of calcium oxalate in the kidneys. It is known that calcium oxalate can contribute to the formation of kidney stones by forming crystals. Fenugreek can also help in the expulsion of an existing kidney stone by increasing the production of urine. The higher amount of urine creates a pushing force in the ureters thus expelling the stone during urination. Therefore, fenugreek seeds can be used by the patients with a history of kidney stones to prevent the recurrence.
Fenugreek seeds contain high levels of polyphenolic flavonoids, which possess strong antioxidant activity. Seeds contain a high amount of these flavonoids making fenugreek one of the most potent antioxidant herbs. This property of fenugreek has been associated with the protection of erythrocytes from the damage caused by the free radicals.
The administration of fenugreek seeds together with ethanol can accentuate its antioxidant activity, which helps prevent the harmful effects of alcohol on the liver.
The antioxidant activity of fenugreek also helps to protect the body against the toxic effect of allergens, environmental pollutants, and the chemicals like preservatives and flavoring agents in foods. These substances can cause damage to the DNA of the healthy tissues and stimulate an abnormal multiplication of the cells resulting in cancer. The strong antioxidant action of fenugreek can help prevent this by protecting the normal cells against the damage.
Therefore, fenugreek seeds can protect the body’s tissues and organs from cancerous changes with its antioxidant activity.
Fenugreek has been found to reduce the risk of cataract, especially in the patients with diabetes. The reduction in the cataract incidence has been observed in a study conducted on the diabetic rats that were treated with an extract of fenugreek leaves and seeds. After 115 days of the treatment, only 25% of the fenugreek recipients were diagnosed with cataract as compared with the 100% of the control group. (14)
Diabetic patients can benefit from the regular use of fenugreek with a reduced risk of cataract.
Obesity (Weight Loss)
Obesity is the most common precursor to several chronic lifestyle disorders including stroke, myocardial infarction, hypertension, and even cancer. Most people fail at their weight loss efforts due to their inability to control hunger and cravings. Fenugreek can aid in weight loss with its natural soluble fiber content that can swell and create a sensation of fullness in the stomach. This increases the sense of satiety thereby suppressing the appetite.
It also ensures a lower intake of calories by the person. As a result, the body is deprived of its ready source of energy and prompted to utilize the stored fats for carrying out its various functions. This leads to the burning of fats resulting in a faster weight loss.
Obese patients can use fenugreek along with lemon juice and water to control their appetite and attain their weight loss goals.
Fenugreek produces a protective effect on the skin and soothes skin inflammation. It can help in reducing acne by controlling the damaging effect of dust, sun rays and other environmental pollutants on the skin with its strong antioxidant action. It also reduces scars and clears the skin. It can prevent blackheads, whiteheads, and wrinkles thus delaying the signs of aging. It contains a high amount of vitamin C, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and aids in the treatment of several skin problems including burns, eczema, and boils.
The application of fenugreek paste prepared with rosewater is helpful in cases of dark circles, acne, acne scars, and wrinkles.
Febrile Fatigue & Myalgia after Fever
Fenugreek nourishes the body and prevents febrile fatigue and myalgia. It can also make a person feel fresh and energetic and reduce weakness caused by the fever. This effect can be accentuated by combining it with a teaspoonful of honey and lemon juice. Fenugreek can be used as a home remedy to prevent the general weakness caused by fever.
Assisting in Labor
Fenugreek works by stimulating the contractions of the uterus. Due to this effect, fenugreek is used to induce and ease the labor. However, the potential of its action is unknown.
Fenugreek seeds and leaves both are well tolerated and likely to be safe when taken less than 6 grams per day.
According to Ayurveda, fenugreek seeds may not be suitable for people with Pitta body type because it is likely to increase the Pitta symptoms, heat sensation, and heat production in the body. Due to this effect, some people also experience increased sweating after taking fenugreek seeds.
Fenugreek Side Effects
The most common side effect is loose stools when it is used for the first time. An excessive consumption of fenugreek (Methi) can cause a few unpleasant side effects
- Diarrhea (Note: However, fenugreek is also used to treat diarrhea, but the case is very different. It works when diarrhea is accompanied by mucus discharge in the stool, but the loose motions occur due to it because of fenugreek intolerance in some people.)
- Unusual sweating (common)
- A headache (only with higher dosage i.e. more than 5 grams twice daily)
- Fast heartbeat
- Stomach upset (when one has intolerance to fenugreek)
- Bloating (when one has intolerance to fenugreek)
Some people may develop an allergic reaction to Fenugreek resulting in:-
- Skin rash
- Swelling of the face, tongue, or the throat
- Difficulty in breathing
Pregnancy & Lactation
Pregnancy: Fenugreek seeds can increase the risk of premature childbirth and miscarriage in the first and second trimester. It also has emmenagogue action, which likely to promote uterine bleeding. However, these effects only appear with a high dosage of fenugreek (i.e. more than 6 grams per day). The effect of fenugreek can be different in each individual, so its occasional use is also discouraged.
Lactation: Fenugreek seeds and leaves both are likely to be safe during lactation and likely to promote breast milk production.
The views on fenugreek use in bleeding disorders are contradictory. For clarification, you should know the difference between the fenugreek seeds and its leaves.
Fenugreek seeds are thermogenic i.e. they have hot potency and produce heat sensation in the body. Therefore, Fenugreek seeds are contraindicated in bleeding disorders because seeds may promote bleeding. On the other hand, fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi) have opposite action due to their cool potency. Leaves pacify Pitta Dosha and reduce bleeding, according to Ayurveda. Therefore, fenugreek seeds should be avoided in bleeding disorders and 2 weeks prior to the scheduled surgery.
Fenugreek seeds are contraindicated in following health conditions:
- Excessive Salivation
- Bleeding disorders
- Prior to surgery
Fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi) are contraindicated in following cases:
- Excessive Salivation
FAQs about Fenugreek (Methi)
Is fenugreek safe during pregnancy while it is used in many Indian foods?
Absolutely, you should not worry about the usage of fenugreek in the foods. The quantity used in the food is very insignificant to cause any adverse effects in pregnancy, even if it is taken daily. The medicinal dosage of fenugreek seed powder is about 6 grams per day or more, but we only get it even less than 1 gram in our food.
Secondly, natural fenugreek is much safer than its extracts because extracts are unnatural and consist of some of its alkaloids, but natural fenugreek contains multiple constituents, which also nullify the negative effects of each other. Therefore, we should stress more on not using its extracts in pregnancy.
Can food amounts cause miscarriage in early pregnancy?
It does not likely to cause a miscarriage when taken in food. In India, it is very difficult to avoid it completely and many pregnant women eating it in their regular foods and it is very common culinary spice in India. There is no such effect reported with the use of Methi.
Can Methi Dana help in RA positive and joint pains?
Methi (fenugreek seed) is beneficial in Rheumatoid Arthritis. It reduces joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. According to ayurveda, RA is related to AMAVATA, which occurs due to AMA (toxins) formation and accumulation in the body. Methi acts on AMA and stops its formation and helps to eliminate it from the body. Therefore, it is considerably useful for patients with RA positive.
What is the dosage?
The dosage of Methi Churna is ½ teaspoon twice daily.
Does Methi improve indigestion? Should it be taken on empty stomach or after food?
Methi also improves digestion, appetite, and metabolism. If one has problems like heartburn, acid reflux or burning sensation, then 12 hours soaked fenugreek seeds should be taken on empty stomach in the early morning. Alternatively, if these symptoms are present, then Methi Churna can also be taken after meal twice daily.
Is sprouted Methi better in Rheumatoid Arthritis?
In RA, fenugreek sprouts may not be suitable because they may not have good effects on the AMA (toxins). Rheumatic patients should use fenugreek powder (Methi Churna).