Botanical: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Family: Leguminosae (legume) - Fabaceae (pea)
Other common names: Bird's Foot, Greek Hayseed, Trigonella
"The greatest medical discovery since the dawn of history" is how the makers of Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound described their Fenugreek-rich remedy for "female complaints" in 1875. Fenugreek's value in herbal medicine is still respected today, and it continues to be a wonderful way to soothe the stomach and gastrointestinal tract and also clear the body of accumulated mucus. Recent research indicates that Fenugreek Seed may be helpful for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Fenugreek is a tender, erect annual with three-part leaves and pea-like flowers that grows in fertile, well-drained, alkaline soil in full sun. It reaches a height of less than three feet and has a sweet hay scent when dried. A native of the Mediterranean area, the seeds have been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. It is one of the oldest known medicinal plants and dates back to ancient Egypt, where archaeological evidence suggests that Egyptians used it as a food, as a medicine and in their embalming process. Likewise, the Greeks and Romans considered it a valuable food and medicine and used it to remedy sore throats and colds and also considered it an effective aphrodisiac. The Romans gave Fenugreek its botanical specific, foenum-graecum, which is Latin for "Greek hay," as it was a well-known fodder crop for animals. Fenugreek has been cultivated for medicinal use in China, India, Morocco and Turkey, where seeds have been used as a potent antioxidant with beneficial effects on the liver and pancreas. In India, the spicy seed is included in curry powder and the shoots curried as a vegetable. Fenugreek is also used as a bright yellow dye. Some of Fenugreek's chemical constituents include mucilage, diosgenin, coumarin, protein, lecithin, gum, beta-carotene, essential fatty acids, amino acids
(4-hydroxyisoleucine, histidine, lysine, arginine) and other acids, high fiber, saponins (graecunins, fenugrin-B, fenugreekine, fenuside, trigofoenosides A-G), lipids, steroidal sapinogens (yamogenin, diosgenin, smilagenin, sarsasapogenine, tigogenin, neotigogenin, gitogenin, yuccagenin), flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin, orientin, vitexin, quercetin), folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, B-vitamins and vitamin C.
Fenugreek has many beneficial effects on the respiratory system and is an effective treatment for lung disorders. It is a fine herbal expectorant that may relieve asthma and sinus problems by reducing mucus and is also good for coughs and cold. Fenugreek is said to dissolve hardened masses of accumulated mucus and is considered a treatment for tuberculosis. As a body cleanser and expectorant, Fenugreek is said to expel toxic waste and mucus through the elimination system. Used externally, Fenugreek's mucus-dissolving properties help to ease sore throat when used as a gargle.
Fenugreek is believed to be an anti-inflammatory agent that alleviates gastrointestinal disorders and digestive problems. Moreover, increased bile acid secretion also helps the digestive process, and the high mucilage content in the herb soothes mucous membranes and lubricates the intestines. Fenugreek is also thought to relieve intestinal gas and act as a mild laxative.
Used as a topical anti-inflammatory, Fenugreek helps to relieve external inflammations of all kinds. When made into a poultice, it is effective in relieving ulcers, swollen glands, gout, sciatica, neuralgic pains, skin irritations, wounds and bruises. When applied to the skin, Fenugreek is thought to decrease skin pain and reduce swelling.
Some reports by non-nursing women indicate that Fenugreek may enlarge the breasts. The effect was not due to any estrogen supplied by the herb, but to the changes in liver enzymes that slow the rate in which a woman's body breaks down estrogen. Fenugreek has been used for centuries to promote lactation in nursing mothers and may ease the symptoms of mastitis.
The diosgenin content in Fenugreek is said to be important in the synthesis of oral contraceptives and sex hormone treatments.
Fenugreek's properties as an aphrodisiac were considered valuable in ancient times, and some believe that use is still valid today.
Apropos of the above, a 2011 randomized, double-blind controlled study from Australia’s University of Queensland suggested that daily supplements of an extract from Fenugreek may enhance male libido and help with the maintenance of normal testosterone levels. The scientists found that Fenugreek was associated with an improvement in libido for 81 percent of the men in the study and a 63 percent improvement in the ‘quality of sexual performance, compared with no such improvements in the placebo group. In addition to the reported improvements in libido and quality of sexual performance, the researchers noted that 66 percent of the men in active intervention group reported improvements in recovery time; 82 percent reported improvements in general energy; and 56 percent reported improvements in wellbeing. Commenting on the active ingredients in Fenugreek and the mechanism involved in these results, the researchers note that Fenugreek's saponin content (as a Standardized Extract) is probably responsible for these physiological effects, and the mechanism involved were very complex.
Pursuant to the previous information, another, later study (2015) from three Australian universities found that a standardized Fenugreek extract was able to enhance healthy sexual desire in women with self-reported low sex drive. The results were associated with significant increases in measures of sexual cognition, arousal, sexual behavior, drive and orgasm - and in particular, desire and arousal.
Recent research has indicated that Fenugreek may have excellent positive results in treating diabetes.
Preliminary and double-blind trials have found that Fenugreek helps improve blood sugar control in patients with insulin-dependent (Type 1) and non-insulin-dependent (Type 2) diabetes. The herb was shown to lower blood glucose levels for Type-2 diabetes sufferers, and some insulin-dependent diabetics in one study in India, who were on low doses of insulin, took Fenugreek, and it reduced blood sugar and other harmful fats. Furthermore, an amino acid in Fenugreek (hydroxyisoleucine) is said to stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin, another way the herb may help diabetics.
Fenugreek is said to also lower high cholesterol. In further studies, the herb decreased the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) in the blood without affecting the good cholesterol. The seeds contain natural saponins (or "soaps") that cleanse the bulkier forms of cholesterol from the bile, and the high fiber content in the seeds may be another reason for its cholesterol lowering qualities, because fiber frequently inhibits the absorption of cholesterol and facilitates its movement through the system.
Fenugreek is considered a restorative tonic that is often given to people recovering from a variety of illnesses.
Because Fenugreek Seed may interfere with the absorption of iron, people with anemia should avoid its use. Pregnant women should not use this herb, as it may stimulate uterine contractions, and it is advisable for nursing mothers to consult their physicians before use. There may be a maple syrup smell in your sweat or urine, and in infants exposed to Fenugreek through breast milk, you may notice a maple syrup odor in their urine. Fenugreek may also alter the balance of various forms of thyroid hormones and should not be used by those taking thyroid hormone medication. Large doses (many times the recommended amounts) are not recommended, as it may cause nausea, diarrhea and gas. Diabetics should always consult a physician before using Fenugreek. Do not take Fenugreek without talking to your doctor first if you are taking blood thinning medicine (examples: warfarin, aspirin, enoxaparin, etc.) or medicine for diabetes (examples: metformin, glyburide, insulin, etc.). Do not take Fenugreek at the same time as other medications; separate administration by an hour or two. The FDA lists Fenugreek as "generally regarded as safe."