Fenugreek — or methi — seeds are frequently used as a natural home remedy for thinning hair and other related conditions, such as dandruff or a dry, itchy scalp.
Beauty publications and other popular media sources claim they’re the secret to growing thick, shiny hair.
This article reviews whether fenugreek seeds can promote hair and scalp health and the best ways to incorporate them into your hair care routine.
What is fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a small green, leafy herb from western Asia, southern Europe, and the Mediterranean.
Culinary and medicinal applications use both the leaves and the small, brown seeds of the plant.
Ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practices used this herbal supplement to:
- induce labor
- improve digestion
- soothe skin irritation
- promote overall health
Research from 2011 suggests that fenugreek may also have favorable effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, and waist circumference.
The seeds and leaves have a distinct aroma and a slightly bitter flavor. Both are frequently used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines. Fenugreek can be found in curries, stews, spice rubs, and teas.
Summary: Fenugreek is an herb used for various culinary and medicinal purposes. As an herbal supplement, it has improved digestion, cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammation, and overall health.
Fenugreek may encourage hair growth
Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of iron and protein — two essential nutrients for hair growth.
They also contain a unique composition of plant compounds, including flavonoids and saponins. These compounds are presumed to induce hair growth due to their anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects.
Research on whether these seeds encourage hair growth is limited. Still, a small study suggests that there could be some validity to these claims.
This older human study from 2006 in 53 people evaluated the effect of a 300-mg daily oral dose of fenugreek seed extract over the course of 6 months.
Over 80% of study participants who received the supplement reported improved hair volume and thickness compared with those given a placebo.
However, more long-term human research is needed to better understand how fenugreek seeds may be used to prevent or treat hair loss.
Summary: A few small human and animal studies suggest that fenugreek seeds may effectively increase hair growth. However, more research is needed — especially since some studies used a remedy consisting of multiple herbs.
Fenugreek may support a healthy scalp
Fenugreek has long been used to treat conditions that lead to dry, irritated skin, including dandruff, marked by an itchy, flaking scalp. In some cases, these symptoms could lead to temporary hair loss.
Dandruff has many different causes, including excess oil production, fungal growth, inflammation, and dry skin.
It remains unclear whether fenugreek seeds could effectively treat all causes of dandruff and scalp irritation. Still, test-tube and animal studies show they possess anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, antifungal, skin-soothing, and wound-healing properties.
One 6-week study in 11 people on the efficacy of a cream containing fenugreek extract for improving moisture and reducing skin redness noted significant improvements in moisture content and skin irritation. However, the cream was applied to the cheeks and not the scalp.
While current research suggests that topical application with the extract could contribute to maintaining a healthy scalp, there is no guarantee it will work for everyone.
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More human research is needed to better understand how fenugreek may best be used as a therapy for dandruff and other types of scalp irritation.
Summary: Some research indicates that topical application with fenugreek extract may help treat scalp irritation and dandruff. However, more research is needed.
Other factors that influence hair growth
A supplement like fenugreek may be less effective if you’re not addressing other possible causes of hair loss, such as inadequate nutrition, stress, hormonal changes, and genetic makeup.
If you’re not sure why you’re losing hair, it may be a good idea to consult your healthcare provider to help you address the possible root causes of this issue.
Proper nutrition is essential for supporting a healthy head of hair. A deficiency of certain nutrients may contribute to hair loss.
Protein, essential fats, zinc, and iron are some nutrients that may play a role in supporting proper hair growth.
Some healthy food sources of these nutrients include:
- Protein: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, fish, plant oils
- Iron: meat, spinach, seeds, legumes, tofu, dark chocolate
- Zinc: meat, shellfish, nuts, legumes, cheese
Obtaining these nutrients from a balanced diet of primarily whole foods is best. Still, for some people, supplements may be necessary.
Before you begin taking supplements, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. Over-supplementation of some nutrients could worsen hair loss.
Stress and lifestyle
Stress-related to aging or your lifestyle or physical stress applied to the hair itself — like pulling it back too tightly or exposing it to harsh chemical treatments — could cause hair loss.
Research suggests that elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can weaken your hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
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Excessive exposure to reactive molecules called free radicals may also increase hair loss and graying by damaging cells, promoting inflammation, and accelerating aging.
Antioxidants are compounds in many foods that protect your cells against free radical damage.
Implementing effective ways to reduce stress while consuming a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods can help encourage hair growth and keep your body functioning optimally.
Some symptoms of hair thinning may be due to genetic factors that contribute to a type of hereditary hair loss known as androgenetic alopecia.
Little is known about what causes this condition, but experts believe it may relate to the expression of certain genes inherited from your family or changes in hormone production.
At this point, evidence is unavailable to suggest that supplements like fenugreek seeds could affect this particular cause of hair loss.
Summary: Many factors can influence hair loss and growth, including diet, lifestyle, and genetic makeup. Eating a balanced diet and reducing stress are two ways to improve hair health.
How to use fenugreek seeds for your hair
Evidence supporting the use of fenugreek seeds for hair growth is fairly weak. Whether taking supplements or applying the extract topically benefits hair growth or scalp health is unclear.
The seeds can be taken orally as a dietary supplement or applied topically to your hair through masks and pastes.
Fenugreek seed supplements are available as a powder or concentrated liquid extract.
There is no clear oral dosage recommendation, but some research has supported using up to 1,200 mg of seed powder or 300 mg of extract daily.
Though generally considered safe as a flavoring by the FDA, you should speak with your doctor about taking fenugreek supplements if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Additionally, if you are allergic or sensitive to peanuts, chickpeas or other legumes, you should avoid fenugreek.
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If unsure, consult a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your routine.
If you plan to use fenugreek topically, soak a few tablespoons of the seeds in water for a few hours or overnight. This will create a gelling effect.
Next, grind the seeds in the gel to form a thin paste. You can apply this paste directly to your hair and scalp or mix it with coconut oil, yogurt, honey, or milk to create a mask.
Leave the treatment on your hair for 10 minutes or more. Rinse with warm water and clean with a gentle shampoo.
Summary: Fenugreek seeds can be taken orally as a dietary supplement or applied topically as a hair and scalp treatment.
Fenugreek seeds are often used as an at-home treatment for hair loss and dandruff.
Research supporting the seeds’ efficacy for these purposes is sparse, though some evidence suggests they may promote hair growth and stronger hair follicles.
It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before adding new supplements to your self-care routine.