Fenugreek is an annual plant belonging to the legume family, found through various parts of Asia as the Middle East. It’s exact origins however, remains a point for debate, although its origins are most likely in the regions of Iraq. Evidence of dried fennel has been found in the sarcophagus of Egypt’s King Tut, suggesting its usage dating back millennia. Today, fennel is mainly used as a spice or herb, but its health benefits warrant it more than just occasional use.
While many herbs and spices are contraindicated or need to be used cautiously while breast feeding, fenugreek is encouraged to be used. This is because it is said to be able to stimulate milk production, owing to the presence of a compound named diosgenin. This coupled with fenugreek generous level of vitamins and minerals make it highly nutritious to the newborn and mother.
Fenugreek may be helpful for people who suffer with diabetes as the seeds contain fibre and other chemicals that may slow down digestion and the body’s absorption of carbs and sugar. It may also help improve how the body uses sugar and increases the amount of insulin released.
When people think of heartburn relief, their thoughts typically include reaching for over the counter remedies that contain calcium but fenugreek may actually be better for you. This is because fenugreek is said to be able to reduce acid secretion in the first instance. This, plus the ability to neutralize acid means it is in many ways better than what people opt for as their first choice.
Studies have confirmed that frequent use of fenugreek can help to reduce the development of Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s via multiple mechanisms. Among those were the inhibition of an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase, which allows for enhanced function of the important brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and reduction in the production of proteins that foster plaque development in the brain. As a result, brain inflammation was significantly reduced, along with possible mental deficits and cognitive impairment.
Fenugreek may be able to help with weight loss thanks to its effects on insulin and blood sugar. Insulin is a major barrier that many people do not realise impairs weight loss, with improved blood glucose control normally balancing to greater weight loss.
Fenugreek goes a step beyond what is considered standard in many other products for skin health as it contains the extremely rare fibre type known as mucilage, a sticky fiber that gels in the presence of water, forming a sort of paste. While this is good for intestinal health, it can be even better on the skin. Mucilage is an excellent moisturizing agent, as it traps water in its matrix structure and allows for ample hydration.
Cancer is a very sensitive topic, but it is hopeful to see so many natural products being mentioned for their potential in treating the disease. Compounds found in fenugreek known as saponins stop the multiplication of cancer cells, and start a cycle of self-death (or apoptosis). Fenugreek also shows potential in reducing the occurrence of various cancers, including breast, colon and prostate cancers.
Its effects on programmed cell death seem to be most pronounced when use of the plant is followed up with radiation.
Fenugreek actually prevents the formation of platelets together, which is the mechanism by which one of the most common blood thinners aspirin works. This in turn reduces the likelihood of these clots blocking tiny blood vessels, or even larger blood vessels which are important to the brain or heart itself. This is how strokes or heart attacks occur, when blood supply is restricted to a certain part, causing asphyxiation and death of the affected tissue.
Kidney damage is usually a worrying sign, as frequently it is an indication of multi-system organ failure brought on by a build up of waste material. Frequently, kidney damage occurs from over usage of medications or drugs, which may cause a build up of excess salts in the filtration apparatus of the kidneys. Calcium is by far the most common residue that causes kidney failure, but not standard calcium oxide, but rather calcium oxalate stones. Aluminum salts help to break down these residual stones, and can improve kidney health a bit, but then cause their own set of adverse effects. Fenugreek intake increases the amount of red blood cells that can deliver oxygenated blood to the kidneys, reduce stone formation and promotes excretion of nitrogen compounds and normalise creatinine excretion as well. Coupled with reducing oxidative damage, and increasing kidney mass, fenugreek offers powerful support for your kidneys.
Menstruation is a nightmare for many women due to the frequent mood swings, pain and cramps. While some over the counter remedies can help, they can also increase bleeding but fenugreek appears to be able to relieve the pain and cramping without adverse effects, as observed in a study done on college aged women.
Fenugreek has a lot to offer with the possibility that many more benefits lie yet undiscovered. If one thing is for sure, is that you can take advantage of what’s on offer today and improve your life with this little miracle herb.
NB: Never use these herbs as a replacement for prescribed medicine. Always discuss the supplement with your GP before taking if suffering from a chronic condition.