Fenugreek

Scientific names: Trigonella foenum-graecum

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...No safety concerns despite wide use.

What is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek spice commonly is sold as the dried ripe seed. Also known as methi, fenugreek is an annual that is native to Asia and southeastern Europe.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The European herb fenugreek has been used for centuries as a cooking spice and has been used in folk medicine for almost as long. The herb has been used in folk medicine in the treatment of boils, diabetes, cellulitis, and tuberculosis. Extracts of the seeds are used to flavor maple syrup substitutes. Fenugreek also has been used as an insect repellent. The seeds are rich in protein and the plant is grown as an animal forage. Following commercial extraction of diosgenin (which is used as a natural precursor in commercial steroid synthesis), the nitrogen and potassium-rich seed residue is used as an agricultural fertilizer.

Cholesterol-lowering effects

Clinical data from very small studies suggest the use of fenugreek for cholesterol lowering. Further studies are necessary to determine the full benefits of fenugreek to reduce cholesterol.

Glucose-lowering effects

Glycemic control was improved in a small study of patients with mild type-2 diabetes mellitus. Since patients receiving the fenugreek were also allowed to receive their other diabetic medications, caution is advised in the interpretation of these results.

Miscellaneous uses

There has been no clinical data reported to support the use of fenugreek as an anti-inflammatory, as an antitumor agent, or for its antioxidant effects.

What is the recommended dosage?

Studies investigating the use of fenugreek in diabetes and cholesterol lowering have used 5 g/day of seeds or 1 g of a hydroalcoholic extract.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Avoid use in pregnancy as fenugreek has documented uterine stimulant effects. It has been used to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers. Excretion into milk has not been studied.

Interactions

The effects of anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin may be potentiated. Patients taking anticoagulants should consult their health care provider before taking fenugreek; dosing adjustments may be necessary.

Side Effects

Dyspepsia and mild abdominal distention have been reported in studies using large doses of the seeds. Culinary quantities are essentially devoid of adverse effects. However, a case of hypersensitivity to fenugreek in curry powder has been reported.

Toxicities

The acute toxicity from a large dose of fenugreek has not been characterized. Hypoglycemia is a potential danger.

References

  1. Fenugreek. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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