Found in both kitchen pantries and medicine cabinets across the world, fenugreek— also known as methi—has been used by Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal systems for centuries. Usually found in powder or seed form, it has been used in the treatment of many ailments through alternative medicine. It is reported to be one of the oldest medicinal plants, with its origins tracing back to India and Northern Africa.
Fenugreek powder is made from the seeds of the fenugreek plant. It is a small, leafy green plant whose leaves and seeds are used in supplements and cooking. The seeds and the powder they create are known for their distinctive sweet, nutty flavor, which many describe as similar to that of maple syrup.
Alternative medicinal systems have long used fenugreek powder to address maladies such as inflammation, indigestion, and skin irritation. Its density in iron and protein, as well as its believed ability to treat hypothyroidism, has lead many to question whether it can be beneficial for hair growth and health. To help us sort fact from fiction, we turned to BosleyMD Certified Trichologist Gretchen Friese and board-certified dermatologists Dr. Janiene Luke of Loma Linda University Faculty Medical Group, and Dr. Nianda Reid of Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Center.
Type of ingredient : Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties
Main benefits: Soothes scalp inflammation, treats dandruff, strengthens hair, and prevents shedding.
Who should use it: In general, anyone can benefit from the protein and anti-inflammatory properties found in fenugreek powder. Those with coarse or curly hair may notice added softness and shine. You should avoid fenugreek if you’re pregnant or allergic to peanuts or chickpeas. If you’re unsure, consult your doctor before adding fenugreek to your regime.
How often can you use it: More research is needed to determine the most effective amount of use, but it can be safely used once a week.
Works well with: There are no known supplements that complement the effects of fenugreek powder.
Don’t use with: Medications for conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol or during pregnancy as it can lead to abnormal contractions.
Benefits of Fenugreek Powder for Hair
Fenugreek powder was used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for its ability to treat indigestion, weakness, edema of the legs, and even baldness. Research has also shown that it may even have hypoglycemic and hypothyroid properties. Both the seeds and the leaves of the fenugreek plant have been noted to be rich in antioxidants and possess anti-inflammatory properties.
The benefit of fenugreek powder for hair lies in its nutritional breakdown. Dr. Luke notes that "Fenugreek is a rich source of iron and protein, which are essential nutrients for hair." She also explained that there are active phytochemicals, specifically flavonoids and saponins, that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation of the scalp can lead to a host of other issues for hair, such as shedding.
- Antimicrobial Dandruff Treatment: Dr. Luke explains that the saponins in fenugreek powder have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which may help with scalp issues such as dandruff, however this has not been extensively studied. Dr. Reid adds that fenugreek has been shown effective against various forms of yeast that may affect the scalp and cause dandruff.
- Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory properties: Researchers believe that the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Fenugreek can reduce inflammation of the hair follicles, Dr. Reid shares. By reducing inflammation, fenugreek powder can boost the overall health of the scalp.
- Reduces Hair Loss: In reducing inflammation of the hair follicle, fenugreek powder can reduce shedding, as inflammation is responsible for certain types of hair loss, Dr. Reid explains. She adds that fenugreek leaves have also been shown to reduce hair loss by increasing hair density and decreasing hair shedding.
- Strengthens Hair: Fenugreek powder is a rich source of iron and protein, which are essential nutrients for hair, according to Dr. Luke. Protein treatments are especially helpful for those with dry or damaged hair, as they help to repair the hair shaft.
- Promotes Hair Growth: Fenugreek powder is a rich source of vitamins A, K & C, folic acid, potassium, calcium, iron, and protein, which are essential nutrients for hair growth, says Friese. Additionally, fenugreek powder promotes a healthy scalp environment which contributes to hair growth.
- Boosts Shine: As with other protein treatments, fenugreek powder can help to repair the hair shaft from damage caused by heat tools and coloring. By repairing the damage, those with dry, damaged, coarse, or curly hair "will see the benefits of softer, shiner hair," Friese says.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that fenugreek powder is safe for all hair types, but that those with dryer or more damaged hair will see more observable benefits from its use. All of our experts caution that much research is still needed to conclusively understand the relationship between fenugreek powder and hair growth/loss. Friese warns that "it is safe for most people, but you should avoid fenugreek if you’re pregnant or allergic to peanuts or chickpeas. If you’re unsure, consult your healthcare provider before adding fenugreek to your regime." Dr. Luke echoed her warning for pregnant women, saying "While fenugreek has been used to aid in lactation, it should not be used in pregnant patients since it can lead to abnormal contractions. It is always recommended that people consult with their medical provider prior to starting any new supplements, herbals or other active ingredients."
How to Use Fenugreek Powder for Hair
Fenugreek powder can be taken orally as a dietary supplement or applied topically to your hair in the form of masks or pastes. Additionally, the fenugreek seeds that create the powder and the leaves of the fenugreek plant are used in several traditional Indian and North African dishes. There are several medications and supplements that can be disrupted by fenugreek powder, so a doctor should always be consulted before starting use. Dr. Luke adds that with "using fenugreek locally to the hair, there is less of a chance that it will be absorbed into the system to interact with other supplements," than if taken orally.
- Create a paste: Both Dr. Luke and Friese recommend creating a paste using fenugreek powder and a few tablespoons of water. Apply the paste directly to your scalp and coat your strands. Leave on for 10-15 minutes before shampooing and conditioning.
- Deep condition with a mask: After creating a paste of water and fenugreek powder, Friese recommends adding coconut oil, yogurt, honey, or milk to create a mask with protein and moisture. Leave the mask on for at least 10 minutes and then rinse with warm water. Follow with shampoo and conditioner.
- Take it as an oral supplement: Fenugreek powder can be taken as an oral supplement to take advantage of some of its other holistic health benefits. Fenugreek powder should never be started without first consulting a medical professional due to its ability to interact with other medicines and conditions.