Trigonella foenum-graecum, Fenugrec
- Indications with possible efficacy:
- Indications with possible, but poorly documented efficacy :
Local inflammation - topical use
- Other indications with no proof of efficacy:
Dyspepsia (popular use)
Lactation stimulation (popular use)
Loss of appetite
- Risk of Drug Interactions: Moderate
- Adverse Effects: Not Frequent
Part of the plant used: seeds
In Europe, fenugreek is a common herbaceous annual plant that can reach 50cm in height. Fenugreek seeds have been used for centuries as a spice and probably, in folk medicine, for their medicinal properties. They are used to treat boils, diabetes, tuberculosis, skin infections (cellulitis) as well as gastrointestinal disturbances. They have been attributed anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies have shown that fenugreek might reduce cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Fenugreek affects intestinal transit and delays glucose absorption. In addition, the constituent 4-isoleucine may have a direct stimulatory effect on insulin.
In manufacturing, fenugreek extract is used in soaps and cosmetics, in spice blends and as flavoring agent in imitation maple syrup as well as in some beverages.
Direction of use
- Local inflammation :
Poultice - mix 50 grams of powdered fenugreek seeds with enough hot water (250 to 1000 mL) to make a paste that you apply on the affected skin
Bath - mix 50 grams of powdered fenugreek seeds with enough hot water, and add it to the bath
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that fenugreek seeds are effective in any other indication.
- Side effects
Fenugreek seeds are associated with no serious toxicity but it is not without adverse effects. There have been reports of diarrhea and flatulence. Large amounts are thought to cause hypoglycemia. Inhaling powdered seeds may trigger allergy symptoms and fenugreek paste may sometimes cause skin allergy.
It may cause an allergic reaction in individuals known to be allergic to leguminosae (such as chickpea).
Fenugreek seeds may apparently increase the effects of anticoagulants and thus increase the risk of bleeding. Since blood glucose levels could be modified, diabetics should monitor their blood glucose levels closely. Before taking fenugreek, check with your pharmacist to make sure that there are no drug interactions with your regular medication.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Pregnant women should avoid fenugreek seeds since they may cause uterine stimulation, which could induce premature labor.
- At this time, fenugreek has only limited clinical usefulness. Because fenugreek tastes and smells like maple syrup, it has been used to mask the taste of some medicines.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
- Blumethal M et al. The Complete German Commission E monographs, 1998
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2010
- Passeportsanté.net. Fenugrec. www.passeportsante.net
- Rotblatt M. et Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine, Hanley & Belfus, 2002
- Barnes J. et Al. Herbal Medicines, 2e édition, Pharmaceutical Press, 2002
- Taylor J. CE: Phytomedicinals: Uses, precautions, and drug interactions. Drug Topics 2003;1:79
- Natural Therapeutics Pocket Guide, 2000-2001
- The Review of Natural Products, 6th Edition, 2010
- Health Canada, Natural Products Database
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