Fenugreek Herb

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Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a member of the Leguminous family indigenous to the Mediterranean area and now primarily cultivated in India, China and the Middle East. Its Latin name means “Greek Hay” which is a reference to its use to fortify cattle feed due its highly nutritive properties. Traditional Chinese Medicine classifies (hu loo BA) as a yang tonic; especially for kidney yang deficiency. In Ayurvedic Medicine it is called Chandrika or Medhika. In European folk health the ground seed was eaten as a meal in convalescence and to improve the assimilation of nutrients as well as for its gentle bulk laxative effects. It has been recommended by midwives for healthy support of lactation during the breastfeeding months.

Fenugreek, (Trigonella duodenum-graceful), also spelled foenugreek, fragrant herb of the pea family (Fabaceae) and its dried, flavorless seeds. Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, fenugreek is cultivated in central and southeastern Europe, western Asia, India, and northern Africa.

The seeds’ aroma and taste are strong, sweetish, and somewhat bitter, reminiscent of burnt sugar. They are commonly ground and used as a spice and may also be mixed with flour for bread or eaten raw or cooked. The herb is a characteristic ingredient in some curries and chutneys and is used to make imitation maple syrup. It is eaten as a vegetable in some places and is used as fodder in northern Africa. Traditionally considered an aid to digestion, the seeds have been used as an internal emollient for inflammation of the digestive tract and as an external poultice for boils and abscesses; it is sometimes used to promote milk production in lactating women.

The plants are erect, loosely branched, less than 1 meter (3 feet) tall with trifoliate, light green leaves and small white flowers. The slender pods are up to 15 cm (6 inches) long, curved and beaked, and contain yellow-brown seeds—flat rhomboids characterized by a deep furrow, less than 0.5 cm (0.2 inch) long. They contain the alkaloids trigonometrical and choline.

What is Fenugreek Used for?

There have been some good human clinical trials conducted using the whole seeds and various extracts prepared from the seeds. These studies focused on the effects of Fenugreek on supporting normal blood sugar levels and blood lipids. Two studies are referenced below for further information of these effects.

Fenugreek: An Herb with Impressive Health Benefits

Fenugreek is an herb long used in alternative medicine. It’s a common ingredient in Indian dishes and often taken as a supplement.

This herb may have numerous health benefits.

This article explains everything you need to know about fenugreek, including its benefits, side effects, and uses.

Nutrition facts

One tablespoon (11.1 grams) of whole fenugreek seeds contains 35 calories and several nutrients (2Trusted Source):

Effects on breast milk production

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby’s development (3Trusted Source).

However, some mothers may struggle to produce sufficient amounts (3Trusted Source).

While prescription drugs are commonly used to boost breast milk production, research suggests that fenugreek may be a safe, natural alternative.

One 14-day study in 77 new mothers found that drinking herbal tea with fenugreek seeds increased breast milk production, which helped babies gain more weight (4).

Another study split 66 mothers into three groups. One received fenugreek tea, the second a placebo, and the third nothing.

The volume of pumped breast milk increased from around 1.15 ounces (34 ml) in the control and placebo groups to 2.47 ounces (73 ml) in the fenugreek group (5Trusted Source).

These studies used fenugreek herbal tea instead of supplements, but supplements are likely to have similar effects (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Though this research is encouraging, you should discuss any concerns about breast milk production with your midwife or medical practitioner.

Effects on testosterone levels in men

One of the most common reasons men use fenugreek supplements is to boost testosterone.

Some studies have found that it has beneficial effects, including an increased libido.

In an 8-week study, 30 college-aged men performed 4 sessions of weightlifting per week, with half of them receiving 500 mg of fenugreek per day (7Trusted Source).

Although the non-supplement group experienced a slight decline in testosterone, the fenugreek group showed an increase. This group also had a 2% reduction in body fat (7Trusted Source).

One 6-week study provided 30 men with 600 mg of fenugreek extract to assess changes in sexual function and libido. Most participants reported increased strength and improved sexual function (8Trusted Source).

May help control diabetes and blood sugar levels

Fenugreek may aid metabolic conditions, such as diabetes.

It seems to affect both types 1 and 2 diabetes, along with increasing general carb tolerance in people without these conditions (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

In one study, people with type 1 diabetes took 50 grams of fenugreek seed powder at lunch and dinner. After 10 days, participants experienced better blood sugar levels and reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol (12Trusted Source).

In another study, people without diabetes took fenugreek. They experienced a 13.4% reduction in blood sugar levels 4 hours after intake (13Trusted Source).

These benefits may be due to fenugreek role in improving insulin function. That said, the effects seen in studies using whole fenugreek powder or seeds may be partly due to the high fiber content (14Trusted Source).

Other health benefits of fenugreek

Fenugreek has been used to treat a variety of conditions. However, many of these uses have not been studied well enough to reach strong conclusions.

Preliminary research suggests that fenugreek may aid:

  • Appetite control. So far, 3 studies show a reduction in fat intake and appetite. One 14-day study found that participants spontaneously reduced total fat intake by 17% (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
  • Cholesterol levels. Some evidence indicates that fenugreek can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
  • Heartburn. One 2-week pilot study in people with frequent heartburn found that fenugreek reduced their symptoms. In fact, its effects matched those of antacid medications (20Trusted Source).
  • Inflammation. This herb has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in rats and mice. More research is needed to confirm this in humans (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

In addition, some reviews and anecdotal reports from traditional medicine suggest that fenugreek can help with ulcerative colitis, skin problems, and numerous other conditions (23, 24Trusted Source).

Have medical questions? Connect with a board-certified, experienced doctor online or by phone. Pediatricians and other specialists available 24/7.

How to use fenugreek

Fenugreek is an ingredient in many supplements. Since formulations differ, the recommended dose depends on the supplement. There is no single recommended dose.

Additionally, the dosage may vary depending on the benefit you seek.

Most testosterone-based research uses only around 500 mg of fenugreek extract, while research in other areas has used around 1,000–2,000 mg.

If using the whole seed, doses of around 2–5 grams seem effective, but it varies from study to study.

Supplements should generally be taken before or with a meal. Since this herb aids blood sugar control, it may be best to take it with your highest-crab meal of the day.

Always follow the dosage instructions on the label. If unsure, consult your healthcare practitioner.

Safety and side effects

Fenugreek appears relatively safe for healthy people.

However, as with most supplements, less serious side effects like diarrhea and indigestion have been reported anecdotally.

People may also experience reduced appetite, which could be harmful if you have an eating disorder or are trying to gain weight (16Trusted Source).

Moreover, some people report a strange and slightly sweet body odor when supplementing, but this is unconfirmed.

Given its effect on blood sugar, fenugreek should be used with caution if you’re taking diabetes medication or other supplements that lower blood sugar levels.

Animal studies suggest that very high doses cause numerous adverse side effects, including DNA damage, decreased fertility, neurological problems, and an increased risk of miscarriage.

Although most of these side effects haven’t been confirmed in people, and the dosages used are unusually high, some scientists are concerned about the use of fenugreek supplements (25Trusted Source).

It’s always a good idea to check with a medical practitioner before starting a new supplement. Most importantly, ensure that you’re taking a safe dose.

Fenugreek is an herb similar to clover that is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. The seeds are used in cooking, to make medicine, or to hide the taste of other medicine. Fenugreek seeds smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup. Fenugreek leaves are eaten in India as a vegetable.

Fenugreek is taken by mouth for digestive problems such as loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, inflammation of the stomach (gastritis). Fenugreek is also used for diabetes, painful menstruation, menopause, poly cystic ovary syndrome, arthritis, poor thyroid function, and obesity. It is also used for conditions that affect heart health such as “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) and for high blood levels of certain fats including cholesterol and triglycerides.

Fenugreek is used for kidney ailments, a vitamin deficiency disease called beriberi, mouth ulcers, boils, bronchitis, infection of the tissues beneath the surface of the skin (cellulitis), tuberculosis, chronic coughs, chapped lips, baldness, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and exercise performance.

Some men use fenugreek for hernia, erectile dysfunction (ED), male infertility, and other male problems. Both men and women use fenugreek to improve sexual interest.

Women who are breast-feeding sometimes use fenugreek to promote milk flow.

Fenugreek is sometimes used as a poultice. That means it is wrapped in cloth, warmed, and applied directly to the skin to treat local pain and swelling (inflammation), muscle pain, pain and swelling of lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), pain in the toes (gout), wounds, leg ulcers, and eczema.

In foods, fenugreek is included as an ingredient in spice blends. It is also used as a flavoring agent in imitation maple syrup, foods, beverages, and tobacco.

Is fenugreek good for you?

Fenugreek is an herb in the same family as soy. People use its fresh and dried seeds, leaves, twigs, and roots as a spice, flavoring agent, and supplement. While more research is necessary, some studies show that fenugreek may have varied health benefits.

Fenugreek may be able to help reduce the risk of:

However, using or consuming compounds in fenugreek may cause uterine contractions during pregnancy and worsen hormone-sensitive types of cancer.

Fenugreek may also cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and bloating.

Fenugreek uses

Fenugreek is present in soaps, cosmetics, teas, and garam masala.

Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinally used plants, with roots in both traditional Indian and Chinese systems of medicine.

Fenugreek extracts are ingredients in many common products, including:

Fenugreek is truly a multi-purpose herb. People from Western Asia and the Mediterranean have used fenugreek for thousands of years to flavor food, improve health, and soothe skin maladies. In more recent years, fenugreek has gained global popularity as an herbal supplement with a variety of health benefits.

While fenugreek has many promising applications, not all of its uses have yet been backed up by rigorous scientific examination. This guide will tell you which of fenugreek health benefits are supported by evidence, and which ones remain more folklore than fact.

Read on to learn what fenugreek is, what it does in the body, and where you can buy fenugreek to try it for yourself.

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