Over the centuries, many medicinal effects have been attributed to fenugreek: it is said to be an aphrodisiac, to promote hair growth, to strengthen the immune system, and to increase appetite. Not all of these effects are evidence-based. But with regard to the regulation of blood sugar and blood lipid levels, there is solid evidence and scientifically verifiable correlations of effects.
Let's look at the biochemical composition of fenugreek: in addition to the protein content (30%) and a fat content of 10%, the high proportion of mucilage sugar (40%) and the steriod saponins contained (3%) are relevant. Saponins are secondary plant substances whose name is derived from the Latin term "sapo" (soap). The reason for this name: The bitter substances foam up in liquid. You can observe this very well when you cook legumes. It is precisely these special saccharides (mucilage sugar) and saponins that are significantly involved in the blood sugar and blood fat lowering effect.
Mucilage sugar is a starch-like substance consisting of branched carbohydrate chains. In various animal studies, mucilage sugar actually shows blood sugar and cholesterol-lowering effects, which are presumably based on a reduced absorption rate in the intestine. This is consistent with the effect of guar, the ground nutritive tissue of the guar bean, which consists of about 90% of these branched carbohydrate chains. Guar Verlan® is accordingly the only herbal drug approved for the adjunctive therapy of diabetes mellitus II and hypercholesterolemia.
Studies with alcoholic extracts that are free of mucilage sugars show that the steroid saponins explained above are also significantly involved in this positive effect.
Thus, fenugreek is at least suitable for the prevention of blood sugar and blood lipid problems and is also recommended for the accompanying treatment of diabetes mellitus II. Here, however, attention must be paid to interactions with any antidiabetic drugs that may be prescribed, and a medical clarification is recommended.
With fenugreek, with its bitter and pungent flavors, you can not only prepare tasty dishes and add an exciting dimension to your own cuisine, but also provide effective health benefits. And who knows: maybe one day the aphrodisiac effect will also be proven in scientific studies (randomized double-blind studies).
Written by: Peter Warns