Fenugreek: properties, benefits, use, and precautions
What is fenugreek?
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn.) is an annual plant in the Fabaceae family with a relatively brief growth cycle. It is cultivated in many parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe as a food, condiment, spice, and traditional medicine.
The green leaves and the seeds are the only edible parts of the plant, which are used as a spice or herb in many dishes.
Fenugreek seeds are the most important and most studied part of the plant. Dried seeds are ground to produce a powder for use as a condiment.
Fully ripe seeds are brownish-yellow and aromatic. They may be used in curry recipes, spice mixes, and some vegetable soups.
Fenugreek seeds or their extracts are used in food products such as frozen dairy products, gelatins, puddings, candies, sauces, and non-alcoholic beverages. Fenugreek extract is used as an imitation maple flavoring.
In addition to its use in various dishes and food preparations, fenugreek also has particular medicinal properties. It is one of humankind’s most ancient medical plants and its properties were well documented in ancient medical literature, particularly in traditional medicine in India and China, where it was used as a digestif, to treat swelling of the legs, as an aid in breastfeeding, and as a remedy for baldness in men.
One of the benefits of the plant that has been the object of significant scientific research is its potential to reduce hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
The medicinal use of fenugreek has been assessed in numerous human and animal studies, particularly in India and the Middle East. Fenugreek may be used both as a functional food and as a nutraceutical.
Phytochemical analysis of fenugreek has identified the presence of various categories of secondary metabolites such as saponins, steroids, alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenes, phenolic acid derivatives, amino acids, and fatty acids and their derivatives.
Fenugreek sees contain soluble fibers which absorb water in the intestines, enhancing intestinal mobility and reducing the absorption of glucose in blood.
There are various studies in the literature reporting the ability of fenugreek seed extract to lower lipid and triglyceride levels in the blood.
In studies in humans, the consumption of fenugreek has been demonstrated effective in reducing total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and triglycerides, and in increasing high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
On the basis of these observations, Annex 1 of Italian Ministerial Decree of 10 August 2018 on the use of vegetable substances and preparations in food supplements states that fenugreek contributes to the metabolism of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Precautions in using fenugreek
Fenugreek-based preparations have been used since ancient times; the normal use of these products is considered absolutely safe.
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