Fenugreek is a beautiful, delicate plant that grows in the temperate environment India and other parts of South Asian. Traditionally called “Methi” or “Sarsoon,” the plants are a common part of South Asian cooking. The leaves of the plant are used as the base of one of my favorite curries of Persian cuisine, Ghormeh Sabzi. In the Indian kitchen, Fenugreek leaves generally are stir-fried with beans. Like many foods in Indian cuisine, Fenugreek has secret medicinal benefits in addition to delicious taste. In fact, it has been used in Ayurveda to treat diabetes for many centuries.

As a medicine, the seeds and leaves of Fenugreek have the unique capacity to aid both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Seeds are the most commonly used medicinal parts. Among various proven effects of seeds include blood sugar balance and improved cholesterol levels. In one study, the use of Fenugreek seeds helped to improve insulin sensitivity, ensuring that sugar was picked by cells where it can be used for energy rather than sticking around in the blood stream where it can cause damage.1Gupta A, Gupta R, Lal B. “Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A double blind placebo controlled study.” J Assoc Physicians India. 2001. 49:1057-61. When Fenugreek seeds are taken with food, the fiber in them also contributes to balancing blood sugar by slowing down absorption of carbohydrates.2Hannan JM, Ali L, Rokeya B, et al.  “Soluble dietary fibre fraction of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seed improves glucose homeostasis in animal models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes by delaying carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and enhancing insulin action.” Br J Nutr. 2007. 97(3):514-21. This action allows the body to produce adequate insulin to prevent sharp increases in blood sugar after eating a meal.

Leaves of Fenugreek contribute to blood sugar balance by improving production of insulin from the pancreas.3Devi BA, Kamalakkannan N, Prince PSM. “Supplementation of fenugreek leaves to diabetic rats. Effect on carbohydratemetabolic enzymes in diabetic liver and kidney.” Phytother Res. 2003. 7:1231-3. This action is especially useful for individuals who experience Type 1 diabetes, where production of diabetes is very limited. In addition, Fenugreek leaves also aided liver activity to convert excess blood sugar into glycogen, further contributing to blood-sugar–lowering effects.

Additional benefits of Fenugreek are observed in the liver. Treatment with Fenugreek seeds was shown to reduce alcohol-related cell damage and death of liver cells.4Kaviarasan S, Ramamurty N, Gunasekaran P, et al. ”Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seed extract prevents ethanol-induced toxicity and apoptosis in Chang liver cells.” Alcohol. 2006. 41(3):267-73. A closer examination in animal studies found that Fenugreek improved activity of anti-oxidant enzymes in the liver, preventing oxidative damage.5Middha SK, et al. “Protective role of Trigonella foenum-graceum extract against oxidative stress in hyperglycemic rats.” Euro Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2011. 15:427-335. The liver was further protected by Fenugreek’s blood sugar balancing effects. In this case, the liver accumulated less fat, which reduced “fatty liver” effects to prevent liver congestion.

To take Fenugreek seeds as medicine:

  1. Soak 1 tablespoon of Fenugreek seeds overnight in warm water.
  2. Drain the water in the morning.
  3. Take 1 teaspoon of seeds before every meal; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Or, use Fenugreek in your cooking. Try out this recipe for a bitter melon and Fenugreek seed stirfry. Check out all of my Ayurvedic recipes here.

In short, Fenugreek serves as the perfect medicine for controlling blood sugar and supporting healthy liver function.

References   [ + ]

1. Gupta A, Gupta R, Lal B. “Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A double blind placebo controlled study.” J Assoc Physicians India. 2001. 49:1057-61.
2. Hannan JM, Ali L, Rokeya B, et al.  “Soluble dietary fibre fraction of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seed improves glucose homeostasis in animal models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes by delaying carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and enhancing insulin action.” Br J Nutr. 2007. 97(3):514-21.
3. Devi BA, Kamalakkannan N, Prince PSM. “Supplementation of fenugreek leaves to diabetic rats. Effect on carbohydratemetabolic enzymes in diabetic liver and kidney.” Phytother Res. 2003. 7:1231-3.
4. Kaviarasan S, Ramamurty N, Gunasekaran P, et al. ”Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seed extract prevents ethanol-induced toxicity and apoptosis in Chang liver cells.” Alcohol. 2006. 41(3):267-73.
5. Middha SK, et al. “Protective role of Trigonella foenum-graceum extract against oxidative stress in hyperglycemic rats.” Euro Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2011. 15:427-335.