Fenugreek: What is it? Fenugreek is plant found in Asia and South Europe and grows in semi-arid conditions. The seeds of the fenugreek plant are commonly used as an additive to curries due to its strong flavour. It is also used for a variety of health concerns due to its chemical compounds.
Fenugreek holds proteins which are high in Lysine, an essential amino acid, and Tryptophan, a precursor for serotonin. It contains high concentrations of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), a powerful antioxidant, as well as potassium and niacin which are crucial for immune function*1.
Medicinal uses of Fenugreek - Traditionally Fenugreek has been used as a digestive solution for constipation as well as helping to maintain a healthy appetite. This is believed to be because it contains soluble fibre which might help fat from being taken into the body. It has also been linked to the control of blood sugar levels and has been used by some for Diabetes*2.
Due to its gelatinous texture when processed, Fenugreek can be applied externally for skin complaints, irritations and mouth ulcers.
Fenugreek has also been used for centuries to aid 'women's troubles', including everything from menstrual pain to improving the flow of milk when breastfeeding. It is thought that this is because it holds diosgenin, a plant form of oestrogen*3, termed phytoestrogens.
Supplementation As Fenugreek is not needed physiologically in the body there is no recommended daily intake. It can be added into your diet through supplements which usually take the form of Fenugreek tablets. Side effects are rare; however some people may be allergic to Fenugreek, or experience nausea after consuming it. It has also been linked with miscarriages and so is not recommended for pregnant women. Before taking Fenugreek it is worthwhile to seek medical advice.
*1South, C. (2009). Health Facts: Fenugreek http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/southfacts_fenu.htm / *2 Thomas, P. (2009) Fenugreek Medicinal Uses, Interactions, Side Effects, Dosage http://www.herbalremediesinfo.com/fenugreek-medicinal-uses.html / *3 Mother Nature (2009) Breast enlargement. http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/41/21.cfm