Google Fenugreek oil and most of the links will point you towards fenugreek essential oil. But that’s not the whole story. Fenugreek seeds play a large part in Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking traditions and have for thousands of years.
And like most seeds, fenugreek seeds also contain fatty oils that can be pressed for its lipid oils which are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. And like most lipid oils fenugreek can be used in cooking and in medicinal remedies as well as topically on the skin.
Unsaponifiables in fenugreek oil
Beyond the fatty acids in fenugreek oil, its beneficial unsaponifiable portion is significant. The unsaponifiable portion can also be called the healing fraction, or the non-fatty acid part of the oil that does not form soap in the presence of hydroxide ions.
Forming an idea of what this non-fatty part of the oil contains, the traditional herbal uses for the plant are an ideal guide. Used in Ayurvedic disciplines and popular in India, fenugreek is a universal herb solving many health issues and support of body systems.
Hair, skin, breast tissue, immune system, hormonal system, and digestive issues, fenugreek seeds appear to be the miracle plant for health especially for women. All parts of the plant are used in India, leaves both fresh and dried, seeds, and oil.
Looking up the herbal usage of fenugreek on the Internet, the first thing I noticed is that it is commonly suggested for breast enlargement, a nod to its ability to affect the hormonal system. Traditionally the herb is renowned for its ability to increase milk production and maintain the health of women’s breasts, yet it is also recommended for male fertility and erectile dysfunction.
The seed, in addition to female steroid precursors, contains similar compounds that increase production of milk. Since the seeds contain diosgenin and other plant, phyto-estrogens, fenugreek provides a mastogenic effect resulting in the growth of healthy breast tissue. Saponins found in fenugreek are significant in its ability to impact hormone levels.
For the digestive system, fenugreek has a variety of compounds that normalize glucose metabolism; 4-hydroxyisoleucine, trigonelline, galactomannan, and trigoneosides. These compounds work together to benefit and support blood sugar.
An EO, a herbal tea and a lipid oil…
Fenugreek seeds are multi useful, distilled to make an essential oil, pressed for fixed oil, brewed into teas and medicinal combinations, used in food, and for hair, skin and general body well being. When the seeds are pressed, 5 to 8% oil is recovered from to make a bitter fixed oil. There is certainly a place for this oil in skin care, herbalism and lipid formulating.
There is still little information on the uses of the fixed fenugreek oil with more information available on the aromatic distillations. Be warned, some posts confuse the volatile essential oils with the heavier fatty oil. The information is then a mixture of both but missing an accurate presentation of either. Reading articles with a discerning mind is always recommended.
Fenugreek as a lipid oil
As a lipid oil we first want to know the fatty acid profile to gain a fundamental knowledge of how the oil will behave on the skin, or nourish us, or how best to store for optimal shelf life.
The lipid oil of fenugreek is dominated by unsaturated fatty acids, namely linoleic at 37% and Alpha-linolenic acid at 19% and oleic at 21%. Here is what I’ve found so far for the fixed fenugreek oil.
Therefore fenugreek oil used topically will help maintain both barrier and passage functions of the skin, protect the moisture held in the cells while taming inflammation and nourishing new cell development.
The 20% of oleic acid will help protect the the suppleness and functionality of the skin and protect against moisture loss. Being monounsaturated, oleic acid will help to create a thin film of protection to the complexion.
The minor percentages of saturated and very-long chain, over 20 carbons, fatty acids will give the skin important trace fatty acids that it needs in very small amounts.
One of the obvious ways to use fenugreek lipid oil is to make massage oils for women. The use of the oil on the breasts to as well as full body will help maintain hormonal health and balance for women’s individual make up.
Fenugreek as a lipid oil is still pretty rare and hard to find, but the plant has been around for centuries.
Have you used Fenugreek as an herb, essential oil or lipid oil? Leave a comment below.