What Are the Health Benefits of Taking Fenugreek, and Are There Any Side Effects?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 8/2/2022

How to use fenugreek

Fenugreek is a clover-like plant that is consumed in three forms: as a vegetable, as a dried herb, and as a spice. Health benefits of fenugreek include that it lowers blood sugar and it reduces cholesterol and side effects include worsening asthma and reduced potassium.
Fenugreek is a clover-like plant that is consumed in three forms: as a vegetable, as a dried herb, and as a spice. Health benefits of fenugreek include that it lowers blood sugar and it reduces cholesterol and side effects include worsening asthma and reduced potassium.

If you are a fan of Indian, African, or Middle Eastern cuisine, you have probably eaten fenugreek. This clover-like plant is consumed in three forms: as a vegetable, as a dried herb, and as a spice. People around the world also use it for medicinal purposes. 

The health benefits of fenugreek are mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, dated around 1500 B.C, making it one of the oldest herbal medicines in the world. Botanists believe the plant originated in central Asia around 4000 B.C. Today it is grown in over a dozen countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America.

Fenugreek leaves can be eaten in salads or as cooked greens, or they can be dried and used as an herb. The leaves are rich in vitamin C and also contain minerals such as calcium and the antioxidant beta-carotene. But the most valuable part of the plant is the seed.  

Fenugreek seeds smell and taste like maple syrup. People grind the seeds, blend them with other spices, and use them to flavor food. Fenugreek is a common ingredient in curry powder. The seeds are also the part of the plant that is most often used in herbal medicine.

Health benefits of fenugreek 

Fenugreek seeds contain some important nutrients, including protein, iron, fiber, magnesium, and manganese. Since most people use it as a spice, they use it in small amounts. They don't eat enough to make much difference in their nutrition

Some people use fenugreek to improve their health. They believe it can:

Studies support all of these uses, but the evidence is not strong. For example, lab studies have suggested that fenugreek has anti-bacterial qualities that could fight infection, but studies with humans are lacking. 

Small studies indicate that fenugreek may relieve some symptoms of menopause and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Fenugreek and blood sugar 

There is some evidence that fenugreek could be helpful to people with diabetes. The elevated levels of blood sugar that occur in diabetes can damage the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Recently, type 2 diabetes has increased rapidly in countries of all income levels. We need safe and inexpensive treatments for the  422 million people worldwide who have diabetes

Several studies show that fenugreek can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar and blood sugar levels after meals. It can also lower your A1C. The A1C or HbA1c is a test used to measure the average blood sugar levels over three months. 

Some studies showing benefits for those with diabetes were of low quality. Scientists say we need more research to learn whether fenugreek is an effective treatment for diabetes

Fenugreek and cholesterol 

People with diabetes often have high cholesterol levels and high triglycerides. Some evidence suggests that fenugreek may lower those levels. In one study, researchers gave fenugreek to people with both coronary heart disease (CAD) and diabetes that did not require insulin treatment. Fenugreek lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with CAD and diabetes but not for those with CAD alone. 

A meta-analysis of 12 studies gave similar results. Fenugreek lowered total cholesterol in people with diabetes and prediabetes. Some studies were poorly controlled. The results need to be confirmed with further research.  

Fenugreek for lactation

Fenugreek is a traditional way of increasing breast milk production or lactation. Mothers in many areas of the world use it. Evidence to support this use is mainly anecdotal. Some animal studies suggest that fenugreek increases hormones that affect milk production. Still, the effect on breastfeeding mothers may be primarily psychological. 

One study of 66 mothers and infants compared mothers who drank fenugreek tea daily with a group that received a placebo and a control group. The mothers who drank the tea had a larger volume of breast milk. Their babies regained their birth weight more quickly than babies in the other two groups. The study suggests that fenugreek may be helpful for nursing mothers during the period immediately after birth.  

The United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) recognizes fenugreek as a safe flavoring. Some nursing mothers using fenugreek as a dietary supplement have reported adverse effects. The USDA does not certify the safety or effectiveness of dietary supplements. Breastfeeding mothers should use caution when taking supplements.  


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Side effects of fenugreek

Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and diarrhea, is one of fenugreek's most common side effects. Some users have reported headaches and dizziness

Other side effects have been reported in women taking fenugreek alone or with other herbs. These include:

Some of these side effects were single cases, and a cause-effect relationship was not clearly established.

In animal studies, fenugreek has negatively affected the ability of both males and females to reproduce.

Who should not take fenugreek

If you have reacted to peanuts or other legumes, you should be careful with fenugreek, which is also a legume.

Others who should use caution include:

Fenugreek may increase the risk of congenital disabilities. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not consume amounts larger than those contained in food.

Tell your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use, including herbal remedies. 

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Medically Reviewed on 8/2/2022

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