Fenugreek

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What other names is Fenugreek known by?

Alholva, Bird's Foot, Bockshornklee, Bockshornsame, Chandrika, Egypt Fenugreek, Fenogreco, Fenugrec, Foenugraeci Semen, Foenugreek, Greek Clover, Greek Hay, Greek Hay Seed, Hu Lu Ba, Medhika, Methi, Methika, Sénégrain, Sénégré, Trigonella, Trigonella Foenum, Trigonella foenum-graecum, Trigonella foenugraecum, Trigonelle, Woo Lu Bar.

What is Fenugreek?

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.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Diabetes. 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.
  • Painful menstrual periods (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.
  • Increasing interest in sex. 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.
  • Improving sexual performance. 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.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Exercise 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.
  • 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 cholesterol. There is conflicting evidence about the effects of fenugreek on 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 milk production. There are some reports that taking powdered fenugreek seed daily increases milk production in breastfeeding women. But evidence confirming this is limited. Some early research shows that drinking tea containing fenugreek, alone or along with other ingredients, increases milk volume. But other research suggests that taking capsules containing fenugreek three times daily for 21 days starting 5 days after giving birth does not affect breast-milk production.
  • 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.
  • Weight loss. 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's 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.
  • Ovarian cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome). 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.
  • Baldness.
  • Cancer.
  • Chapped lips.
  • Chronic cough.
  • Constipation.
  • Eczema.
  • Fever.
  • Gout.
  • "Hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis).
  • Hernias.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Mouth ulcers.
  • Sexual problems (erectile dysfunction, ED).
  • Stomach upset.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate fenugreek for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Quick GuideVitamin D Deficiency: How Much Vitamin D Is Enough?

Vitamin D Deficiency: How Much Vitamin D Is Enough?

How does Fenugreek 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. Fenugreek might also improve levels of testosterone and estrogen, therefore helping to improve interest in sex.

Are there safety concerns?

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.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy: Fenugreek is LIKELY SAFE in pregnancy when 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 unusual body 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.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.



Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.



Theophylline
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.

Dosing considerations for Fenugreek.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:br/>
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For diabetes: 5-50 grams of powdered fenugreek seed added to one or two meals daily for 4 days to 24 weeks has been used. A dose of 1 gram daily of an extract of fenugreek seeds has been used.
  • For painful menstruation (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 increasing interest in sex: 600 mg of fenugreek seed extract (Libifem, Gencor Pacific Ltd.) each day for two menstrual cycles.
  • For improving sexual performance: 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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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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