If you like Indian cooking, you’ve probably eaten fenugreek. This little plant produces both leaves and seeds, which are used in cooking. The fresh leaves are cooked, or dried and used as flavoring; the seeds are often toasted and ground and used as a cooking spice. The flavor somewhat resembles maple syrup.
Healing with fenugreek
Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine also make use of this herb. Doctors in Asia have used it to treat many conditions. These include diabetes, fever, gout, atherosclerosis, indigestion, constipation, and heartburn. There isn’t yet research to prove its effectiveness in most cases, but it looks promising.
Fenugreek and Parkinson’s disease
Scientists found the cause of PD is associated with inflammation, damage to cellular mitochondria, and oxidative injury. They also knew that in cell studies, fenugreek seeds protect against inflammation and oxidation, and support the mitochondria. Researchers, therefore, wanted to determine whether the seeds might be used along with levodopa to help treat Parkinson’s disease (PD).1
Although small, the study lasted six-months. It was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled, which is considered good quality research. The study judged the effectiveness of an extract of the seeds as an aid to levodopa treatment.
Forty-two subjects with PD took either a placebo or 300 mg capsules of a standardized extract of fenugreek, twice daily, for six months. All the subjects were using levodopa to treat their PD. At the end of six months, the Hoehn and Yahr scores of 21.7% of the patients’ in the treated group were lower, compared to 5.3% in the placebo group. There was also a slower rise in total UPDRS scores in the treated group.
The study authors concluded that the fenugreek extract was safe, and could be a useful treatment along with levodopa in managing PD.
Cooking with fenugreek
The extract used in the study is not available, but cooks can easily purchase the seeds. If you’d like to try cooking with them, there are many recipes online. You may find a new favorite dish!
For recipes using fenugreek, click: Recipes
1Nathan J1, Panjwani S, Mohan V, Joshi V, Thakurdesai PA. Efficacy and safety of standardized extract of Trigonella foenum-graecum L seeds as an adjuvant to L-Dopa in the management of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Phytother Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):172-8.