Do you know the active ingredients of fenugreek seeds?

Anne Oberdorf

2 minutes | 28. July 2020
Degree of technical knowledge

Fenugreek – a versatile plant in animal feed (part 2)

While we have dealt with the history and botanical characteristics of fenugreek in the first part of our series, we now dive deeper into the active ingredients of the seeds of this special plant.

Do you know the main components in fenugreek seeds?

Discover more in this article and inform about the specifities of the main components with a special view on mucilages.

Fenugreek seeds have a high content of various minerals: calcium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese and iron are present in high concentrations compared to other legumes. The seeds are also rich in saponins, flavonoids, carotenoids and coumarins

Content of dried fenugreek seeds (according to Basu and Srichamroen, 2010)©GettyImages

According to Basu and Srichamroen (2010), fenugreek seeds contain three active components which are responsible for its health-promoting effect: galactomannans, saponins and 4-hydroxy-isoleucine. Here we would like to introduce you to these main components in fenugreek:


Galactomannans are polysaccharides which consist of galactose and mannose. These polysaccharides are abundant in the cell walls of the endosperm of legume seeds. Galactomannans differ in their ratio of galactose to mannose depending on the plant of origin. The structural properties of fenugreek galactomannans enable them to increase digesta viscosity in the intestine – this is why they are also called mucilages.


Saponins are particularly abundant in legumes – but are also found in numerous other plants, e.g. in the so-called soap tree Quillaja saponaria. Saponins can be very different in their structure, but they have one thing in common: they have a sugar residue which is linked to a triterpenoid or steroid part. In fenugreek, the sugar residue is connected to the steroid part. The saponins in fenugreek therefore belong to the steroidal saponins.


(4-OH-Ile)-hydroxy-isoleucine is a polar non-protein amino acid that occurs exclusively in some selected plants, especially in Trigonella species. In fenugreek seeds the amino acid is present as a diastereoisomer (Basu and Srichamroen 2010).

References upon request


Did you know?

Mucilages in animal feed can be used to protect the intestinal mucosa. According to Chowdhury et al (2017), mucilages can stimulate mucus secretion of the superficial epithelial cells and thus act against ulcer triggers.

Mucilages also help to relieve constipation by increasing peristalsis in the gastrointestinal tract and facilitating bowel evacuation (Wani and Kumar, 2018). In addition, certain mucilages have a prebiotic effect. The intestinal microbiota can break down the polysaccharides into short-chain fatty acids that serve as energy suppliers (Majeed et al., 2018).

Table 1: Effects of the active compounds of fenugreek seeds (according to Krämer, 2013)

Discover the history of fenugreek in part 1