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Fenugreek

Uses

Botanical names:
Trigonella foenum-graecum

Parts Used & Where Grown

Although originally from southeastern Europe and western Asia, fenugreek grows today in many parts of the world, including India, northern Africa, and the United States. The seeds of fenugreek are used medicinally.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
3 Stars
High Cholesterol
10 to 30 grams three times per day with meals
Fenugreek seeds contain compounds that inhibit both cholesterol absorption in the intestines and cholesterol production by the liver.

Fenugreek seeds contain compounds known as steroidal saponins that inhibit both cholesterol absorption in the intestines and cholesterol production by the liver. Dietary fiber may also contribute to fenugreek's activity. Multiple human trials (some double-blind) have found that fenugreek may help lower total cholesterol in people with moderate atherosclerosis or those having insulin-dependent or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. One human double-blind trial has also shown that defatted fenugreek seeds may raise levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. One small preliminary trial found that either 25 or 50 grams per day of defatted fenugreek seed powder significantly lowered serum cholesterol after 20 days. Germination of the fenugreek seeds may improve the soluble fiber content of the seeds, thus improving their effect on cholesterol. Fenugreek powder is generally taken in amounts of 10 to 30 grams three times per day with meals.

3 Stars
Type 2 Diabetes
5 grams or more daily
Fenugreek seeds appears to lower blood glucose levels by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and absorption.
Fenugreek seeds have a long history of use in the treatment of diabetes, and some fenugreek constituents have demonstrated anti-diabetes actions such as reducing starch digestion and glucose absorption in the gut, improving insulin sensitivity, and increasing insulin secretion. In clinical research, 60 subjects with type 2 diabetes who took 10 grams per day of hot water-soaked fenugreek seeds for six months had better blood glucose control than matched patients who received no fenugreek. Taking 10 grams per day of fenugreek seeds was reported to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes in another controlled study. A placebo-controlled trial found 500 mg of fenugreek extract containing high amounts of constituents called furostanolic saponins improved blood glucose control and reduced medication need in people with type 2 diabetes after 90 days. A meta-analysis that included eight randomized controlled trials noted that, despite the overall low quality of the studies, fenugreek, in doses of at least 5 grams per day, appears to improve blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes, and the effects are greater with higher doses. Doses of up to 100 grams per day of fenugreek were used in the studies.
2 Stars
High Triglycerides
100 grams seed daily or 25 to 50 grams defatted seed powder daily
Fenugreek has been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with high lipid levels in preliminary trials..

Fenugreek has been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with high lipid levels in preliminary trials. Bread made with 50 grams defatted fenugreek powder was used twice daily in the trial. Similar results have been seen at half that amount in people with diabetes and elevated blood levels of various lipids. A small randomized trial found similar results using 100 grams fenugreek seeds daily. One small clinical trial found that either 25 grams or 50 grams per day of defatted fenugreek seed powder were effective in reducing triglycerides over a 20-day period. Mild diarrhea and gas can accompany the first few days of fenugreek use, though it almost always fades as the person taking it adapts.

2 Stars
Type 1 Diabetes
3 tablespoons of fenugreek powder with each meal
Fenugreek seeds are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower blood sugar by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and absorption.
Fenugreek seeds are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower blood sugar by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Fenugreek extract has also been shown to increase the number and function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and improve blood sugar control, lipid levels, and antioxidant capacity in animal models of type 1 diabetes. In a controlled study in people with type 1 diabetes, incorporating powdered fenugreek seed into lunch and dinner meals (50 grams per meal) for ten days improved several measures of blood sugar control compared to a similar ten-day diet without added fenugreek.
1 Star
Constipation
Refer to label instructions
Fenugreek is a mild bulk-forming laxative that's best suited for long-term use in people with constipation.

The laxatives most frequently used world-wide come from plants. Herbal laxatives are either bulk-forming or stimulating.

Bulk-forming laxatives come from plants with a high fiber and mucilage content that expand when they come in contact with water; examples include psyllium, flaxseed, and fenugreek. As the volume in the bowel increases, a reflex muscular contraction occurs, stimulating a bowel movement. These mild laxatives are best suited for long-term use in people with constipation.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

A wide range of uses were found for fenugreek in ancient times. Medicinally it was used for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis, bronchitis, and digestive problems. Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract.1 Fenugreek was, and remains, a food and a spice commonly eaten in many parts of the world.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Trigonella foenum-graecum

How It Works

Fenugreek seeds contain alkaloids (mainly trigonelline) and protein high in lysine and L-tryptophan. Its steroidal saponins (diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin) and mucilaginous fiber are thought to account for many of the beneficial effects of fenugreek. The steroidal saponins are thought to inhibit cholesterol absorption and synthesis,2 while the fiber may help lower blood sugar levels.3 One human study found that fenugreek can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with moderate atherosclerosis and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes.4 Preliminary and double-blind trials have found that fenugreek helps improve blood sugar control in patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes.5 , 6 , 7 Double-blind trials have shown that fenugreek lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood,8 , 9 This has also been found in a controlled clinical trial with diabetic patients with elevated cholesterol.10 Generally, fenugreek does not lower HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

How to Use It

Due to the somewhat bitter taste of fenugreek seeds, de-bitterized seeds or encapsulated products are preferred. The German Commission E monograph recommends a daily intake of 6 grams.11 The typical range of intake for diabetes or cholesterol-lowering is 5–30 grams with each meal or 15–90 grams all at once with one meal. As a tincture, 3–4 ml of fenugreek can be taken up to three times per day.

Interactions

Botanical names:
Trigonella foenum-graecum

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • none

Support Medicine

  • Insulin

    In a controlled study of patients with type 1 diabetes, fenugreek (100 grams per day for ten days) was reported to reduce blood sugar, urinary sugar excretion, serum cholesterol, and triglycerides, with no change in insulin levels. In a controlled study of people with type 2 diabetes, fenugreek (25 grams per day for 24 weeks) was reported to significantly reduce blood glucose levels. People using insulin should talk with their prescribing doctor before incorporating large amounts of fenugreek into their diet.

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • Glipizide

    In a randomized study of 15 patients with type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) (100 grams per day for ten days) was reported to reduce blood sugar, urinary sugar excretion, serum cholesterol, and triglycerides, with no change in insulin levels, compared with ten days of placebo. In a study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes, fenugreek (25 grams per day for 24 weeks) was reported to significantly reduce blood glucose levels. People using glipizide should talk with their doctor before making any therapy changes.

  • Heparin

    Although there are no specific studies demonstrating interactions with anticoagulants, the following herbs contain coumarin-like substances that may interact with heparin and could conceivably cause bleeding. These herbs include dong quai, fenugreek, horse chestnut, red clover, sweet clover, and sweet woodruff. People should consult a healthcare professional if they're taking an anticoagulant and wish to use one of these herbs.

Explanation Required

  • none

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers' package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Trigonella foenum-graecum

Side Effects

Use of more than 100 grams of fenugreek seeds daily can cause intestinal upset and nausea. Otherwise, fenugreek is extremely safe. Due to the potential uterine stimulating properties of fenugreek, which may cause miscarriages, fenugreek should not be used during pregnancy.12

References

1. Escot N. Fenugreek. ATOMS 1994/5;Summer:7-12.

2. Sauvaire Y, Ribes G, Baccou JC, Loubatieres-Mariani MM. Implication of steroid saponins and sapogenins in the hypocholesterolemic effect of fenugreek. Lipids 1991;26:191-7.

3. Ribes G, Sauvaire Y, Da Costa C, et al. Antidiabetic effects of subfractions from fenugreek seeds in diabetic dogs. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1986;182:159-66.

4. Bordia A, Verma SK, Srivastava KC. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraceum L) on blood lipids, blood sugar, and platelet aggregation in patients with coronary artery disease. Prostagland Leukotrienes Essential Fatty Acids 1997;56:379-84.

5. Sharma RD, Raghuram TC, Rao NS. Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr 1990;44:301-6.

6. Madar Z, Abel R, Samish S, Arad J. Glucose-lowering effect of fenugreek in non-insulin dependent diabetics. Eur J Clin Nutr 1988;42:51-4.

7. Raghuram TC, Sharma RD, Sivakumar B, Sahay BK. Effect of fenugreek seeds on intravenous glucose disposition in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Phytother Res 1994;8:83-6.

8. Sharma RD, Raghuram TC, Dayasagar Rao V. Hypolipidaemic effect of fenugreek seeds. A clinical study. Phytother Res 1991;5:145-7.

9. Prasanna M. Hypolipidemic effect of fenugreek: A clinical study. Indian J Pharmacol 2000;32:34-6.

10. Sharma RD, Sarkar DK, Hazra B, et al. Hypolipidaemic effect of fenugreek seeds: A chronic study in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Phytother Res 1996;10:332-4.

11. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 130.

12. Brinker F. Herb Contradictions and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998, 70-1.

 

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