Fenugreek: benefits, side effects and medications.

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Fenugreek ( Trigonella foenum-graecum ) is an herb that is used in cooking and industry, but has also been used in traditional and alternative medicine. Fenugreek seed extract is used in tablet form as an additive and the seeds are used to make medicinal tea.

The health benefits attributed to fenugreek include lowering blood sugar levels in diabetes and prediabetes , increasing milk supply during lactation, relieving menstrual cramps, and increasing testosterone levels. However, studies have not shown any benefit and there are risks of poisoning and birth. disadvantages in the use of large doses.

Fenugreek comes from the Latin word for Greek hay. It is native to southern Europe and Asia, where it has been cultivated since the Bronze Age as a condiment, spice, and medicinal plant. Today, India is a major producer of fenugreek.

Health benefits

While fenugreek has many traditional uses, there is no good scientific evidence that fenugreek or tea supplements can alleviate or prevent any health problems.

Low blood sugar.

Formulations made from fenugreek seeds have been studied to improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes and prevent the transition from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes .

Animal studies have shown special effects to support this use, such as slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. But human studies have not revealed what mechanisms can lower blood glucose levels.

A meta-analysis of 10 human clinical trials has shown that fenugreek seeds lower fasting blood glucose , 2-hour glucose, and hemoglobin A1c . These effects have been seen mainly in studies using high doses. However, the authors noted that all included studies were of low quality, including methodological flaws and publication bias.

A randomized study of 140 people, published in 2015, found that taking 10 grams of fenugreek powder daily in pill form reduced the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes over a three-year period compared to a control group. People taking fenugreek have also seen an improvement in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels .

Since diabetes can have serious consequences if not treated properly, you should see your doctor for diagnosis, testing, and treatment. Talk to your doctor about herbal remedies before using them.

Breast milk production

Fenugreek seed tea or fenugreek seed tablets are popular home remedies to stimulate increased breast milk production. Certain substances in fenugreek are believed to have estrogen-like effects. Although research has been done, so far there have been mixed results .

A companion study found that breast milk volume was significantly higher in the fenugreek tea group and their babies regained their birth weight earlier than the control and placebo groups .

Perhaps the biggest benefit is psychological. In studies, people who breastfeed have reported the purported benefits of taking fenugreek, which likely gives them the confidence to continue breastfeeding .

Fenugreek is recognized as "generally safe" by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, it passes into breast milk and little is known about whether high doses are safe for breastfeeding .

Menstrual cramps

Fenugreek seeds and tea have traditionally been used for menstrual cramps. According to a 2016 systematic review of research, there is limited evidence to support such use .

One study compared fenugreek seed pills to a placebo. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found greater pain relief and shorter pain duration in the fenugreek capsule group .

Testosterone and libido

Although research on the use of fenugreek to increase testosterone levels is very limited, it is speculated that compounds called furostanol saponins may help stimulate testosterone production.

Available studies on the use of fenugreek to increase testosterone include a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2011 that found that a supplement containing fenugreek extract and multiple minerals improves some aspects of libido , but does not significantly affect testosterone levels. .

A study published in 2015 measured testosterone levels in men participating in a controlled resistance training program for eight weeks, comparing those taking fenugreek glycoside fraction capsules with those taking a placebo.

The fenugreek group initially had a greater increase in free testosterone than the placebo group. But after eight weeks, the difference between the groups was not significant. Larger studies are needed to study the herb's effectiveness.

Possible side effects.

Fenugreek can cause a number of side effects including diarrhea , dizziness, and gas. Additionally , consuming large doses of fenugreek can lower blood sugar levels. Therefore, taking fenugreek in combination with diabetes medications can have harmful effects .

Fenugreek can also lower potassium levels. People taking potassium-lowering medications, such as certain diuretics, and people with heart disease should avoid fenugreek supplements .

Another problem is allergies due to possible cross-reactivity with related plant allergens. People allergic to peanuts , chickpeas, or coriander should avoid fenugreek supplements .

Urine and sweat can smell like maple syrup when fenugreek is added, due to a compound called sotolon, which can pass through the body relatively unchanged. While it is not a health concern, it can make maple syrup urine difficult to diagnose. disease in infants.

There may also be more serious reactions to taking more than you normally take. Cases of liver toxicity have been reported and its use during pregnancy has been associated with birth defects .

Selection, preparation and storage

As a herb and spice, fenugreek leaves and vegetables are used in curries and dishes in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and South Asia. The dried leaves are used as a condiment. You can find fresh fenugreek leaves on the international market or grow them yourself from seed.

Raw fenugreek seeds are bitter, so they are usually roasted to soften the flavor, which then turns mild and nutty. The seeds can be crushed or used whole to flavor food or to make tea. Fenugreek seeds can be incorporated into spice mixes.

The fenugreek compound smells like maple and is used to produce simulated maple syrup.

Since fenugreek seeds are rich in fiber, some people soak them overnight and then eat a teaspoon to increase the fiber. Whether you are buying whole seeds or ground spices, find the freshest product and use it as soon as possible for the best quality and flavor. Store in a cool dark place.

Fenugreek supplements are usually crushed or powdered seeds or seed extracts. Fenugreek seed powder or extract can be included along with other herbs and substances in products marketed for various purposes. There is no clear evidence on which way is better or more effective.

It is important to remember that the safety of supplements has not been tested and that nutritional supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product can deliver doses that differ from the amount indicated for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be greater when purchasing supplements marketed for bodybuilding, sexual performance, and weight loss.

When buying a supplement, look for products that are certified by third-party agencies like ConsumerLab, USP, or NSF International.

Treating a disease on your own and avoiding or delaying standard treatment can have serious consequences. If you plan to use fenugreek for any wellness purpose, consult your doctor first.

Frequently asked questions

Does fenugreek contain protein?

Like most seeds, fenugreek seeds contain a good amount of protein, about 1 gram of protein per teaspoon or 2.5 grams per tablespoon.

Does fenugreek cause weight gain?

Research is limited regarding the effects of fenugreek on human weight. Fenugreek's ability to slow carbohydrate digestion, stimulate insulin release, and lower blood glucose levels could, in theory, increase appetite. Fenugreek has traditionally been used to treat anorexia. However, some people use fenugreek seeds as an appetite suppressant. The seeds are rich in soluble fiber, and when consumed with water, they can help you feel fuller. But a meta-analysis of 12 studies published in 2020 found no effect of fenugreek supplementation on weight.

Can fenugreek improve the health of my hair?

Research on uses such as hair growth or dandruff treatment is very limited. A small, older study found that oral fenugreek supplementation improved hair growth compared to placebo. In laboratory studies, fenugreek leaf extract has shown some anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. They can help with dandruff and other scalp conditions. However, there is not enough research to back this up.

Where can I buy fenugreek?

You can find fresh fenugreek leaves on the international market. Dried fenugreek leaves, seeds, and powders can be purchased online.

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