What are Fenugreek Leaves?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

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 bowl of fenugreek seeds.
A bowl of fenugreek seeds.

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.

The fenugreek plant is considered a natural remedy.
The fenugreek plant is considered a natural remedy.

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.

Fenugreek is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India.
Fenugreek is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India.

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.

Spinach and fenugreek leaves are both rich in vitamin K and other nutrients.
Spinach and fenugreek leaves are both rich in vitamin K and other nutrients.

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.

Some research indicates that fenugreek leaves can benefit people with diabetes.
Some research indicates that fenugreek leaves can benefit people with diabetes.

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.

Fresh fenugreek leaves are a popular ingredient in salads.
Fresh fenugreek leaves are a popular ingredient in salads.
Fenugreek leaves may be helpful in improving liver function.
Fenugreek leaves may be helpful in improving liver function.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments

discographer

I have diabetes and I started making a tea from fenugreek leaves a few weeks ago after hearing about fenugreek leaves' benefits for diabetes.

I'm still trying to get over my excitement over this because my blood sugar readings have been slightly lower since I started drinking fenugreek tea once a day. It's working! It doesn't taste very good but I'm willing to deal with that for the health benefits.

I did check with my doctor before I started doing this though, and I suggest the same for other diabetics.

donasmrs

@literally45-- How much does the recipe call for?

If you just need a few leaves, you can substitute fresh fenugreek with fresh celery leaves. If you need more than that, you can use spinach leaves. For dry fenugreek, you can substitute mustard seeds, fennel seeds or cumin.

Fenugreek has a very distinct taste, so the dish will not taste exactly the same. But these are the closest substitutes.

You can get dried fenugreek leaves and seeds at Southeast Asian grocery stores.

literally45

I'm making a curry dish that calls for fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves, which I don't have. What can I substitute fenugreek leaves with?

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