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Fenugreek



Background

Fenugreek is in the spice blend garam masala. It’s used to flavor imitation maple syrup and as a condiment. Its extracts are also in soaps and cosmetics.

Historically, fenugreek was used for a variety of health conditions, including digestive problems and to induce childbirth.

Today, fenugreek is used as a dietary supplement for diabetes, to stimulate milk production during breastfeeding, and for other health conditions. It’s also used topically as a dressing for wounds or eczema.

The seeds are made into capsules, powders, teas, liquid extracts, and a dressing for the skin.

How Much Do We Know?

We have little conclusive evidence about the effects of fenugreek on health conditions, though we do have a fair amount of information on its possible side effects.

What Have We Learned?

A few small studies found that fenugreek may help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (generally type 2), but the evidence is weak.

Some studies suggest—but haven’t proven—that fenugreek may increase milk production in women who are breastfeeding.
There isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the use of fenugreek for any health condition.

What Do We Know About Safety?

Do not take fenugreek while pregnant because it may affect uterine contractions.

Fenugreek may act like estrogen in the body and be unsafe for women with hormone-sensitive cancers.

Side effects of fenugreek may include diarrhea; a maple-like smell to urine, breast milk, and perspiration; and a worsening of asthma.
There’s little information on the risks of taking fenugreek while breastfeeding.

Fenugreek should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking care if you have health problems. This is particularly true if you have diabetes.

Keep in Mind

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Key References

  • Deng R. A review of the hypoglycemic effects of five commonly used herbal food supplements. Recent Patents on Food, Nutrition & Agriculture. 2012;4(1):50-60.
  • Fenugreek. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/ on April 7, 2015. [Database subscription].
  • Forinash AB, Yancey AM, Barnes KN, et al. The use of galactogogues in the breastfeeding mother. Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 2012;46(10):1392-1404.
  • Nahas R, Moher M. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Canadian Family Physician. 2009;55(6):591-596.
  • Sreeja S, Anju VS, Sreeja S. In vitro estrogenic activities of fenugreek Trigonella foenum graecum seeds. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2010;131:814-819.
  • Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Boonkaew S, et al. Meta-analysis of the effect of herbal supplement on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2011;137(3):1328-1333.
  • Turkyılmaz C, Onal E, Hirfanoglu IM, et al. The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011;17(2):139-142.
  • Zuppa AA, Sindico P, Orchi C, et al. Safety and efficacy of galactogogues: substances that induce, maintain and increase breast milk production. Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2010;13(2):162-174.

-NIH



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