Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), an aromatic annual plant with clusters of small yellow flowers, has been appreciated as a medicinal herb since ancient Egyptian times. The medicinal part of the plant, its dried seeds, are the staple spice in Indian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian cuisines. Because of its sweet, maple syrup-like, aroma and the gelling properties of a gum found in its seeds, fenugreek is widely used in the food industry.
Of all medicinal properties ascribed to fenugreek, it is its ability to lower the levels of blood glucose and lipids that has received the most scientific attention. Like other members of the legume family, fenugreek is a rich source of fiber. Although the exact mechanism of fenugreek’s ability to lower the blood glucose and lipid levels is still unknown, it is believed that its high fiber content plays a decisive role. Fenugreek fibers cannot be digested by the human enzymes and they reach the
large intestine intact. There, they form a gel-like substance with water which slows down stomach emptying and absorption of macronutrients, such as carbohydrates and fats.
Fenugreek for glycemic and lipid control
The efficacy of fenugreek in lowering blood glucose in diabetic patients differed greatly in clinical trials, most likely due to the variations in dosing and preparation of fenugreek. The minimum dose needed to achieve the blood glucose lowering effect was found to be 5 grams.
The only study that investigated the use of fenugreek in prediabetic population, found it to be effective in the prevention of diabetes. At a 3 year follow-up, the group of patients who received 5g of fenugreek twice a day along with advice on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle had significantly lower incidence of diabetes than the group that was only given the health counsel. During this long-term study, no serious adverse effects were reported. It remains to be seen whether new studies can confirm these promising results.
A number of clinical trials that investigated the use of fenugreek in diabetes also showed its efficacy in lowering the levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetic patients.
How to use
The minimum effective dose found in clinical trials was 5 grams.
One issue associated with the use of fenugreek is its bitter taste and strong odor. To hide its strong flavor you can add fenugreek to various foods: bread, pizza dough, and curries. Fenugreek supplements, packed in capsules, can very effectively conceal its bitter taste (although your urine might still smell like maple syrup). To get the full benefit of fiber from fenugreek, it is best to take these supplements with a meal.
Clinical trials did not report any serious side effects, even after prolonged use. Like other fiber-rich foods, large amounts of fenugreek can lead to abdominal discomfort.
Fiber-rich fenugreek can interfere with absorption of various medicines. As a general rule, always take fenugreek independently of any medication, leaving 2-4 hours in-between.
You need to be careful with fenugreek if you are taking any anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin or even aspirin. Fenugreek has an anticoagulant activity that can, in combination with other anticoagulant drugs, pose a risk of bleeding.
Pregnant women should not be taking fenugreek because of its potential to cause uterine contraction (historically, fenugreek was used to induce childbirth).
Fenugreek can enhance the effect of other agents that lower blood glucose levels. Check your blood glucose levels regularly to avoid the risk of hypoglycemia.
Although not as thoroughly researched as its blood glucose lowering ability, fenugreek has also been used to:
increase milk supply in breastfeeding women
ease gastrointestinal discomfort
soften the skin and reduce local inflammation
Organic fenugreek powder
Starwest Fenugreek Seeds Powder
Frontier Ground Fenugreek Seed
Nature’s Answer Fenugreek
Gaia Herbs Fenugreek Seed
Last updated: August 16, 2016