Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a plant that's used as a seasoning in the Middle East, Egypt, and India. As a supplement, fenugreek seeds are used as a treatment for diabetes and high cholesterol.

Why do people take fenugreek?

People have been using fenugreek seeds for diabetes for centuries. There's some evidence that it works. Some studies show it can lower blood sugar after eating. Early research also suggests that fenugreek may lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. But proof of its effect on “good“ HDL cholesterol or unhealthy triglycerides is lacking.

Research suggests that fenugreek can help with acid reflux

People use fenugreek for other conditions. They range from improving appetite to helping nursing women produce more breast milk. As a skin treatment, people use it for swelling, rashes, and wounds. There's no good evidence that these uses of fenugreek help.

Because fenugreek is an unproven treatment, there's no established dose. Some people take 10 to 15 grams of the seeds daily for diabetes. Fenugreek is available in teas marketed to women who are breastfeeding, although it's not clear that they have any benefit, One study did find it increased milk production in breastfeeding women. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get fenugreek naturally from foods?

Many people eat fenugreek seeds and greens. The seed is also a common seasoning.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

  • Side effects. Fenugreek as a food is safe. High doses can cause upset stomach and gas.
  • Risks. Women who are pregnant should not take fenugreek because in doses higher than that found in food, it can stimulate the uterus to contract. Also women who arer nursing, children, and people with liver or kidney disease should not use fenugreek supplements unless a doctor says it's safe.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using fenugreek supplements. They could interact with insulin or other diabetes drugs.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way that food and drugs are.  The FDA does not review these supplements for safety or efficacy before they hit the market.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 11, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Fundukian, L., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 3rd edition, 2009.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site: "About Herbs: Fenugreek."

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site: "Fenugreek."

NYU Langone Medical Center: "Fenugreek."

Rakel, D. Integrative Medicine, 3rd edition, Saunders, 2012.

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