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, polycystic ovary syndrome, 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.
In manufacturing, fenugreek extracts are used in soaps and cosmetics.
How it works
Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Fenugreek might also improve levels of testosterone and estrogen, therefore helping to improve interest in sex.
Some research shows that consuming fenugreek seed, mixed with food during a meal, lowers blood sugar levels after the meal in people with type 2 diabetes. However, while taking 5-50 grams of fenugreek seed once or twice daily seems to work, lower doses of 2.5 grams don't seem to work. In people with type 1 diabetes, taking 50 grams of fenugreek seed powder twice daily seems to reduce the amount of sugar in the urine.
Taking 1800-2700 mg of fenugreek seed powder three times daily for the first 3 days of a menstrual period followed by 900 mg three times daily for the remainder of two menstrual cycles reduces pain in women with painful menstrual periods. The need for painkillers was also reduced.
Taking 600 mg of a specific fenugreek seed extract (Libifem, Gencor Pacific Ltd.) each day seems to increase interest in sex in healthy younger women with a low sex drive.
Taking 600 mg of a specific fenugreek seed extract (Testofen, Gencor Pacific Ltd) each day seems to improve ability and interest in sex in older men that have started to lose interest and in healthy younger men.
Fenugreek is LIKELY SAFE for people when taken by mouth in amounts normally found in foods
It is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts used for medicinal purposes (amounts larger than normally found in food) for up to 6 months. Side effects include diarrhea, stomach upset, bloating, gas, dizziness, headache, and a "maple syrup" odor in urine. Fenugreek can cause nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, facial swelling, and severe allergic reactions in hypersensitive people. Fenugreek might lower blood sugar.
Pregnancy: Fenugreek isLIKELY SAFEinpregnancywhen used in amounts greater than those in food. It might cause early contractions. Taking fenugreek just before delivery may also cause the newborn to have an unusualbody odor, which could be confused with "maple syrup urine disease." It does not appear to cause long-term effects.
Breast-feeding: Fenugreek is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth to increase breast-milk flow in the short-term. Some research shows that taking 1725 mg of fenugreek three times daily for 21 days does not cause any side effects in infants.
Children: Fenugreek is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in children. Some reports have linked fenugreek tea to loss of consciousness in children. An unusual body odor resembling maple syrup may also occur in children drinking fenugreek tea.
Allergy to plants in the Fabaceae family: People who are allergic to other plants in the Fabaceae, including soybeans, peanuts, and green peas might also be allergic to fenugreek.
Diabetes: Fenugreek can affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use fenugreek.
Fenugreek might lower blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking fenugreek along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.Fenugreek might slow blood clotting. Taking fenugreek along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.Fenugreek might reduce how much theophylline is absorbed in the body. In theory, using fenugreek while taking theophylline might reduce the effects of theophylline.Warfarin (Coumadin)
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Fenugreek might also slow blood clotting. Taking fenugreek along with warfarin (Coumadin) might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.