Fenugreek seeds and leaves are strongly aromatic and flavorful. Seeds are bitter in taste but lose their bitterness if roasted slightly. They are rich in vitamins such as thiamin, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A, B6, and C, and are a storehouse of minerals such as copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. Fenugreek leaves are a rich source of vitamin K as well.
Studies have shown that the fibers in fenugreek help prevent certain cancers. For example, researchers at Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, found that fenugreek tea has estrogenic effects and could be a possible alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Other studies have shown that saponins and mucilage in fenugreek bind to toxins in the food and flush them out, thus protecting the mucus membrane of the colon from cancers.
In large doses, fenugreek may cause birth-defects because of its teratogenic potential. It would be prudent to avoid fenugreek supplementation during pregnancy.
Fenugreek seeds can cause internal bleeding. Fenugreek capsules contains an amino acid called 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which appears to increase the body's production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. Higher insulin production may decrease the amounts of sugar that stay in the blood for many individuals. In some studies of animals and humans with both diabetes and high cholesterol levels, fenugreek lowered cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels.
Some evidence suggests that fenugreek may also have other medical uses. It may reduce the amounts of calcium oxalate in the kidneys. Calcium oxalate often contributes to kidney stones. In animal studies, fenugreek also appeared to lessen the chance of developing colon cancer by blocking the action of certain enzymes.
Topically, the gelatinous texture of fenugreek capsules may have some benefit for soothing skin that is irritated by eczema or other conditions. It has also been applied as a warm poultice to relieve muscle aches and gout pain. (more...)
Skin irritation and allergy has also been reported with fenugreek. Severe allergy symptoms include chest pain, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.