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Overview InformationFenugreek is an herb that is similar to clover. It is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. The seeds are used in cooking, in medicine, and to hide the taste of other medicine. Fenugreek seeds smell and taste similar to maple syrup. Fenugreek leaves are eaten in India as a vegetable.
Fenugreek is taken by mouth for diabetes, menstrual cramps, high cholesterol, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
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 does it work?Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Diabetes. Taking fenugreek seed may lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Doses of at least 5 grams daily seems to help. Lower doses don't seem to work.
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). 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.
- Sexual problems that prevent satisfaction during sexual activity. 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.
- Increasing response to sexual stimuli in healthy people. 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.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Taking fenugreek for 12 weeks doesn't seem to improve symptoms of BPH.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Athletic performance. There are conflicting results regarding the effects of fenugreek on exercise performance. Some early research shows that taking 500 mg of fenugreek supplement (Indus Biotech, India) for 8 weeks decreases body fat and increases testosterone levels, but does not change muscle strength or endurance in young men. However, other research shows that taking 500 mg of fenugreek extract (Torabolic, Indus Biotech) daily for 8 weeks reduces body fat and increases leg and bench press performance in a similar group of young men. Also, other early research shows that taking 300 mg fenugreek chemicals (Fenu-FG, Indus Biotech Private Limited, Pune, India) each day might help men do more bench press exercises. But it does not seem to help them lift more weight or do more leg press exercises.
- Persistent heartburn. Research shows that taking a specific fenugreek product (FenuLife, Frutarom Belgium) before the two biggest meals of the day reduces symptoms of heartburn.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Limited research shows that fenugreek lowers cholesterol levels. Early research shows that taking fenugreek seed reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol. But the effects of fenugreek seed on high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol and triglycerides are inconsistent.
- Breast-feeding. There are some reports that taking fenugreek capsules or drinking fenugreek tea beginning shortly after giving birth can increase milk production in breastfeeding women. Fenugreek seems to help the most when it is started a day or two after giving birth. But not all research agrees. And some research shows that taking fenugreek is less beneficial than taking Indian borage or palm date.
- Conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility). Early research suggests that taking fenugreek seed oil drops by mouth three times daily for 4 months improves sperm count in men with a low concentration of sperm. But taking the other parts of the fenugreek seed does not seem to have this effect.
- Obesity. Early research shows that a fenugreek seed extract can reduce daily fat intake in overweight men when taken by mouth at a dose of 392 mg three times daily for 2-6 weeks. But a lower dose does not appear to have this effect. Neither dose affects weight, appetite, or fullness. Adding 4 or 8 grams of fenugreek fiber to breakfast seems to increase feelings of fullness and reduce hunger at lunchtime. But it's not clear if this increases weight loss.
- Parkinson disease. Research suggests that taking fenugreek seed extract (Indus Biotech Private Limited, Pune) twice daily for 6 months does not improve symptoms in people with Parkinson's disease.
- A hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). There are conflicting results regarding the effect of fenugreek for ovarian cysts. Research suggests that taking fenugreek seed extract (Goldarou Pharmaceutical Co. Isfahan Iran) daily for 8 weeks does not improve symptoms for women with ovarian cysts. However, other early research suggests that taking 1000 mg of a specific type of fenugreek seed extract (Furocyst, Cepham Inc., Piscataway, NJ) each day might reduce the size of the ovarian cysts and help to regulate the length of the menstrual cycle and time between having a period.
- Chapped lips.
- Chronic cough.
- "Hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis).
- Kidney disease.
- Mouth ulcers.
- Sexual problems (erectile dysfunction, ED).
- Stomach upset.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWhen taken by mouth: Fenugreek is LIKELY SAFE for people when taken by mouth in amounts normally found in foods. It is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as a medicine for up to 6 months. Side effects may include diarrhea, stomach upset, bloating, gas, dizziness, headache, and a "maple syrup" odor in urine. It may also cause nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, facial swelling, and severe allergic reactions in sensitive people.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy: Fenugreek is LIKELY UNSAFE in pregnancy when used in amounts greater than those in food. It might cause malformations in the baby, as well as early contractions. Taking fenugreek just before delivery may also cause the newborn to have an unusual body odor, which could be confused with "maple syrup urine disease." This odor does not appear to cause long-term effects.
Breast-feeding: Fenugreek is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth to increase breastmilk 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 UNSAFE 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.
Be cautious with this combination
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with FENUGREEK
Fenugreek might decrease 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.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with FENUGREEK
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.
Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with FENUGREEK
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.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For diabetes: 5-100 grams of powdered fenugreek seed added to one or two meals daily for 4 days to 3 years has been used. A dose of 1 gram daily of an extract of fenugreek seeds has been used.
- For menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea): 1800-2700 mg of fenugreek seed powder three times daily for the first 3 days of menstruation, followed by 900 mg three times daily for the remainder of two menstrual cycles, has been used.
- For sexual problems that prevent satisfaction during sexual activity: 600 mg of fenugreek seed extract (Libifem, Gencor Pacific Ltd.) each day for two menstrual cycles.
- For increasing response to sexual stimuli in healthy people: 600 mg of fenugreek seed extract (Testofen, Gencor Pacific Ltd) each day alone or with magnesium 34 mg, zinc 30 mg, and vitamin B6 10 mg, for 6-12 weeks has been used.
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