Fenugreek is a herb found in the Middle Eastern regions, southern Europe and western Asia. Fenugreek seeds are used in cooking, medicine manufacturing or as a flavoring to enhance the taste of some medicines. In India, fenugreek leaves are used as a type of vegetable and eaten directly.
Uses of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is used for infections, stomach disorders, constipation, to gain weight, diabetics, menstrual pain and after menopause. It is also used to stimulate the activity of the thyroid gland as well as in atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia. Fenugreek is also used in kidney diseases, chest infections, and some neurological diseases such as tremors or Parkinson’s. Men also use fenugreek in cases of impotence, infertility as well as to raise sexual potency.
Fenugreek is most commonly used as a type of food or as a spice that adds flavor to food and drinks. In some Arab countries, fenugreek sweets are also made. Fenugreek seeds are also used in manufacturing cosmetics. Fenugreek contains many nutrients, one tablespoon (11 g) of the fenugreek contains:
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 3g
- Carbohydrates: 6 g
- Fats: 1g
- Iron: 20% of daily requirements
- Manganese: 7% of daily requirements
- Magnesium: 5% of the daily requirements
Benefits of Fenugreek
- Fenugreek for Diabetes
Research has shown that taking fenugreek with meals reduces blood sugar readings after meals in patients with type 2 diabetes. In patients with type 1 diabetes, studies have shown that fenugreek reduces the concentration of sugar in the urine which correlates to a reduction of blood sugar readings.
- Fenugreek for Menstrual Pain
Consuming fenugreek seed powder during the first days of menstruation greatly alleviates menstrual pain reducing the need for painkillers.
- Fenugreek in Heartburn
Studies have shown that consuming fenugreek before main meals during the day greatly reduces symptoms of heartburn after eating.
- Fenugreek for Cholesterol
Initial studies have shown that fenugreek seeds help reduce elevated levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) also known as harmful fats in the body. Further studies are still being conducted on the effect of fenugreek consumption on high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides.
- Fenugreek for Breastfeeding Mothers
Studies have shown that consuming fenugreek seeds may increase milk production in breastfeeding women. However studies are still ongoing therefore it is advised not to overindulge in fenugreek seeds during this period.
- Fenugreek and Physical Activity
Some studies have shown that consuming fenugreek for several weeks reduces elevated lipids and increases testosterone levels. It also enhances performances in physical activity and sport. However, studies have not yet shown if taking fenugreek increases muscle mass.
- Fenugreek for Male Fertility
Studies have shown that consuming fenugreek daily may increase the level of the male hormone; testosterone, which helps increase male fertility. Other studies have also shown that consuming three drops of fenugreek seed oil daily for 4 months increased sperm count in men.
- Fenugreek for Weight Loss
Studies have shown that taking 390 mg of fenugreek 3 times daily, before meals, may help reduce appetite and reduce fat consumption. Adding fenugreek to breakfast has been shown to increase satiety until lunchtime. As a result, it aids in the reduction of snacking and heavy meals and leads to weight loss.
- Fenugreek for PCOS
Some studies have shown that taking fenugreek daily on a regular basis may help reduce the size of ovarian cysts. However, studies are still ongoing.
- Other potential benefits of fenugreek which are still being studied:
- Baldness cancer.
- Chronic cough.
- Kidney disease.
- Mouth sores.
- Sexual problems.
- Stomach upsets.
Side Effects of Fenugreek
When fenugreek is taken frequently and for long periods of time, this may increase the risk of its side effects, such as:
- Intestinal fluctuations.
- Bloating and flatulence.
- Dizziness and headache.
Fenugreek also has a distinct scent that remains on the body after frequent and prolonged consumption.
- Fenugreek & Pregnancy
Research is still ongoing but it is recommended that pregnant women should avoid overindulging in fenugreek because it may lead to contractions in the uterus. It is also advised to stay clear of fenugreek before childbirth as its smell may overwhelm the newborn baby.
- Fenugreek & Children
Children are advised to avoid consuming fenugreek since it’s frequent consumption may lead to loss of consciousness. Moreover the smell of fenugreek is more pungent in children.
- Fenugreek & Diabetes
Since some studies have documented that the fenugreek reduces blood sugar readings. Therefore it is advised to practice caution especially when taking fenugreek with various anti-hyperglycemic medications and insulin. Patient education about the signs of hypoglycemia should be performed.
Drug Interactions with Fenugreek
- Fenugreek & Blood Thinners
Fenugreek slows down blood clotting. Therefore, taking fenugreek along with antithrombotic medications may increase the likelihood of bleeding and bruising on the skin. Some blood thinning medications include:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix)
- Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn)
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Warfarin & Fenugreek
Warfarin is used to slow down blood clotting and as stated above, fenugreek has that same effect. Therefore, routine blood coagulation tests should be conducted in order to identify if dosage changes need to be made based on concomitant consumption of fenugreek with warfarin.