Generic Name: fenugreek
Other Names: birds foot, bockshornsam, chilbe, foenugraeci semen, Greek hay, griechische Heusamen, hu lu ba, methi, trigonella foenum graecum
Drug Class: Herbals
What is fenugreek, and what is it used for?
Fenugreek is an aromatic herb (Trigonella foenum-graecum) commonly grown in West and South Asia, North Africa and the Mediterranean region.
Fenugreek is a common ingredient in herbal medicine, fenugreek leaves are eaten as a vegetable and dried leaves and seeds are used whole or powdered, as flavoring in food. Fenugreek has been traditionally taken as a supplement for many health benefits such as increasing milk production in lactating women, and reducing blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Fenugreek has a bitter taste and aroma resembling maple syrup. Fenugreek’s medicinal properties come from the many substances it contains such as amino acids, saponins, steroidal sapogenins, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, proteins, oils, fatty acids, fiber, and mucilage.
Studies show that some of the compounds in fenugreek may control the spike in blood glucose levels that comes after a meal (postprandial) and reduce the absorption of cholesterol. The fiber and mucilage also reduce the absorption of glucose and cholesterol in the digestive tract.
Nursing women have traditionally been consuming fenugreek to stimulate breast milk production, however, limited studies show mixed results. Fenugreek is also used to relieve menstrual cramps and other abdominal pain, and topically applied for cellulitis and boils. Fenugreek is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies indicate fenugreek may lower postprandial glucose levels, however, there is insufficient scientific evidence for any of its other uses.
Fenugreek is available as a dietary supplement in various forms such as powders, capsules, and oils. The suggested uses of fenugreek include the following:
- Do not use if you are hypersensitive to fenugreek
- Do not administer fenugreek to children
- Use with caution if you have diabetes, it may cause a harmful drop in blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia), particularly when taken along with other antidiabetic drugs
What are the side effects of fenugreek?
Common side effects of fenugreek include:
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.
Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of fenugreek?
There is no established dosage for fenugreek.
- 1-2 g orally three times daily
- No more than 6 g/day
- 1 cup multiple times/day; 500 mg seed/150 mL water
- Apply topically as needed
- Paste: 50 g of powdered seed in 0.25-1 L hot water
Diabetes Mellitus, Postprandial Glucose Control
- 10-15 g orally once/day or in divided doses with meals OR
- Hydroalcoholic extract: 1 g orally once/day OR
- Seed: 5 g/day orally
- 0.6-2.5 g orally twice daily with meals
- Fenugreek overdose may cause a harmful drop in blood glucose levels.
- In case of overdose, discontinue fenugreek and if symptoms do not resolve, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.
What drugs interact with fenugreek?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
Fenugreek has no known severe, serious, or moderate interactions with other drugs.
- Mild Interactions of fenugreek include:
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Animal reproductive studies of fenugreek show evidence of antifertility effect in males and females, and fetal harm when consumed during pregnancy.
- Small amounts of fenugreek in food may be acceptable during pregnancy. Avoid taking fenugreek as a supplement during pregnancy.
- Fenugreek consumed in food to improve milk flow in nursing mothers may be safe, however, there are no studies on the safety and efficacy of fenugreek either in food or supplements. Avoid supplements while breastfeeding.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement, including fenugreek, during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What else should I know about fenugreek?
- Fenugreek is generally safe for most people when consumed in food or as supplements.
- Take fenugreek supplements exactly as per label instructions.
- Fenugreek supplements are marketed as herbal supplements and are not stringently regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement, including fenugreek.
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Medically Reviewed on 6/28/2022