Fenugreek leaves are part of the fenugreek plant, which is used as an herb, spice, and natural remedy. Cultivated worldwide, fenugreek leaves are used both dried and fresh in many different regional cuisines. Some believe that the leaves may have medical properties, leading to several interesting studies on the potential medicinal applications of the plant.
A small bushy plant, fenugreek blooms with white or cream-colored flowers during the summer and has lush greenery throughout its bloom. The bright leaves can be harvested for fresh use or drying. When fresh, fenugreek leaves have a clean, slightly bitter taste that significantly increases with drying.
Fresh fenugreek leaves are used in salads, stir-frys, and curries. Along with the dried seed pods, the leaves have a major influence on the flavor palate for many different regions. India, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Georgia all incorporate fenugreek into a wide variety of dishes. The dried leaves may be boiled into teas, baked into breads, or sprinkled as a garnish on nearly any savory dish.
Medicinally, the seeds of the fenugreek plant are more commonly used as a remedy. Nevertheless, fenugreek leaves have gained considerable attention for their possible effect on certain conditions such as diabetes. Used in Indian medicine for centuries, fenugreek has been shown in some studies to have a highly positive effect on diabetic mice. In addition to increasing body weight and improving liver function, the leaves were also shown to stabilize insulin, blood sugar, and hemoglobin levels in some studies.
Eaten fresh, the greens pack a high content of minerals and necessary supplements for a low amount of calories. Fenugreek leaves are known to be very high in iron as well as having significant levels of potassium, fiber, and calcium. Some health and diet experts say the leaves are nearly as healthy as spinach, providing an excellent dose of vitamin K along with other beneficial minerals. Leaves may be difficult to find commercially, but growing fenugreek in an herb garden can provide an adequate supply of both leaves and seeds.
Ayurvedic medicine provides much of the basis for scientific research on fenugreek leaves. Although studies have already shown that fenugreek may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes, the leaves are attributed as remedies to several other conditions that have yet to undergo much study. In addition to diabetes, fenugreek leaves are believed by some to be beneficial for digestion and liver problems, anemia, and as an anti-inflammatory.