Botanical family: Fabaceae
Parts used: Seeds
Main active ingredients: Alkaloids, saponins, mucilaginous fibre, coumarins and proteins
Actions: Hormone regulation, Anti-inflammatory
Good for: Breastmilk production, weight management, blood sugar balance, male libido, cholesterol reduction, digestion.
Fenugreek is a perennial plant that grows to about 3 feet tall. It has green leaves, small white flowers, but importantly golden-brown seeds. Fenugreek seeds and powder are used in many Indian dishes and they deliver a sweet, nutty taste. It is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. The seeds can be used in tea infusions or added to curries and vegetable dishes.
History of Fenugreek
Fenugreek has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine both for culinary and medicinal purposes. Fenugreek was originally cultivated for the Egyptians and then used as a herbal remedy in traditional Arabian, Greek, Chinese and Indian medicine.
In western herbalism Fenugreek has been used widely, but more specifically to support digestion with its high fibre content and for nursing mothers. The name ‘Trigonella’ is derived from Greek meaning ‘three-angled’ referring to its shape and ‘foenum-graecum’ means ‘Greek hay’ as it was used to scent poor-smelling hay.
Current uses of Fenugreek
Stimulation of breastmilk production
Whilst the mechanism is not fully understood, fenugreek appears to proliferate breast tissue, which in turn can increase production of breastmilk, and is especially useful in women who are struggling to produce sufficient quantities.
Fenugreek appears to increase testosterone levels in men, which has a positive effect on libido
Steroidal saponins may inhibit cholesterol synthesis and absorption.
Blood sugar balance
The high fibre content of fenugreek seeds may help balance blood sugar levels, also improving weight management.
Fenugreek seeds have been traditionally used for centuries in many culinary dishes, especially curries, and to aid digestion.
How to take FenugreekIn capsule form you need to take around 500 mg daily initially. If using seeds, then a minimum of two teaspoons of ground fenugreek each morning.
There have been no contraindications with medication been identified (but see below)
Avoid if any allergies to the Fabaceae family exist
You may need to take Fenugreek for around a month before any benefits are noticed
WatchpointsAvoid during pregnancy but it may be beneficial during lactation
Avoid if taking anticoagulants as there may be interactions