Fenugreek seeds are used for a variety of purposes and have many benefits. This plant belongs to the pulse or bean family and is used as both, a herb (in the form of leaves) and a spice (in the form of seeds). It is mostly produced in India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Argentina, France, Turkey, and a few more countries. As its seeds fall in the category of spices, it is an essential ingredient used in used in many dishes in the Indian cuisine. Fenugreek tea is a popular drink in Egypt, and it has a number of health benefits as a herbal medicine. Making this tea is not that big a task and can be done in a few minutes, provided you have all the ingredients, the main ingredient being fenugreek.
- Low blood pressure and cholesterol: Fenugreek seeds are known to help in lowering high blood pressure and are also considered to be a good agent in lowering cholesterol levels.
- Diabetes: These seeds are helpful for diabetics, as they help in reducing the high blood sugar levels.
- Lactation: As fenugreek is a rich source of galactagogue, which is a substance that increases lactation, it helps in the production of breast milk.
- Inflammation: Over the years, fenugreek seeds are being used for treating inflammation and wounds. It is said that Egyptians were the ones to discover this use of this herbal plant.
- Sore Throat: Ground fenugreek seeds mixed with warm water soothe a raw throat, and regular use of it also helps in speeding up the healing process of a sore throat.
- Hair Growth: Fenugreek seeds are known to enhance hair growth. It is one of the natural remedies for hair growth, and is also beneficial in reducing dandruff.
Besides the above mentioned benefits, this herb is also known to be helpful in bringing down the body temperature or fever, and it also increases libido. Those who don't have access to fresh seeds can use capsules for the above mentioned health conditions.
Honestly speaking, substituting fenugreek with any other ingredient will not add the same flavor and taste that this spice has. Having said that, depending on the dish, you could try and vary it by using a seed that could add a similar taste, if not better than fenugreek. In certain recipes, a tinge of maple syrup may be used as a substitute, as a fragrant compound called sotolone which is present in fenugreek is also found in maple syrups. For curry dishes, mustard could work as an alternative. Also, fennel bulbs or seeds could be a fairly good substitute, as they have both taste and aroma very similar to that of maple.
When it comes to the benefits of fenugreek, it has many positive effects on the overall health. However, there is not enough clinical evidence for many of the applications and uses that it claims. It is popular because people have experienced better changes in their conditions. Therefore, if one cannot find fenugreek seeds or is not convinced with their various benefits, they can go for substitutes that are proven to work as good as them. For example, policosanol is a proven substitute for lowering cholesterol, though one must also consider the side effects before using it.
As I mentioned before, there is no ideal substitute for a strong flavored spice such as fenugreek seeds. However, you could try some of the above-mentioned fenugreek seeds substitutes, depending on the recipe that you are making. If your recipe requires you to use fresh leaves and you don't have them, you could use some celery leaves instead.