Fenugreek, a plant that grows primarily in Mediterranean areas of the word, is often used in cooking, most commonly in curry dishes from India. The plant's seeds can also be used in whole or supplement form to treat a number of health conditions.
India is the largest producer of fenugreek plants in the world and is also home to seven of the top producing cities. The seeds of the fenugreek plant are used primarily for culinary purposes in and around this region, often being crushed or ground into a fine powder. The spice created from fenugreek seeds is a main component of many of the rich curry dishes of the area—they are sometimes being used as a bread seasoning as well. In other areas of the world, the seeds can also be used to create a maple-like flavoring that can be added to syrups and sauces.
A primary component of fenugreek seeds is diosgenin, a chemical with many estrogen-like qualities. One of the primary medical uses for the seeds is, therefore, as an estrogen supplement. This supplement can be taken for a variety of reasons, the most common being to ease the side effects of pre-menstrual syndrome and menopause, including mood swings and hot flashes. It can also be taken to help ease the pain of childbirth and increase the flow of breastmilk after pregnancy.
Fenugreek seeds also contain a high amount of protein, potassium, vitamin C, and niacin. The combined qualities of these components are said to have the ability to help reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol. When taken in supplement form, fenugreek seeds may be able to help regulate blood sugar levels in the body as well, often alleviating the symptoms in type 2 diabetes patients. They can also be used to reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes in some high-risk patients.
On a more infrequent basis, the seeds can be taken as part of a variety of home remedies. They are believed to act as a fever reducer, primarily due to the high levels of nutrients in the seed itself. Minor cases of acid reflux and some types of heartburn can be treated with fenugreek seeds as well. Finally, for first aid purposes, a paste made from ground fenugreek seeds is said to alleviate a variety of skin inflammations, including acne, gout, boils, and eczema.