Fenugreek is an herb that is commonly used as a spice in cooking. The earliest recorded use of fenugreek is shown on an Egyptian papyrus dated to approximately 1500 BC.
Why fenugreek is used
Historically, fenugreek has been used as an herbal remedy for digestive problems. It was also used to treat the symptoms of menopause and to help induce childbirth.
In modern times, fenugreek is still used as a spice in foods. It is also used as an herbal supplement to treat diabetes, digestive issues including loss of appetite, and to stimulate the production of milk in women who are breastfeeding. Fenugreek is also used to treat sore throats and is used topically to treat skin inflammation.
Most of the claims of fenugreek have not been scientifically verified. Some small studies have shown that fenugreek may help lower blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes.
How fenugreek is used
Fenugreek seeds are used in a variety of ways. The dried seeds can be ground and made into tablets which are taken by mouth. They can also be boiled in water to make a tea, or crushed to make a poultice.
Cautions for fenugreek
Fenugreek has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means it has not been rated for safety, effectiveness, or the quality or purity of specific supplements. Fenugreek can cause digestive problems including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. It can also be an irritant when applied to the skin. Cautions for using fenugreek include:
• Clotting disorders – If you have a disorder that keeps your blood from clotting or if you are taking drugs such as Coumadin to prevent clotting, do not take fenugreek without first discussing it with your doctor.
• Diabetes – Do not take fenugreek without first talking to your doctor if you have diabetes (high blood sugar) or if you take any medications to treat diabetes. Although some studies show fenugreek may help lower blood sugar, it should not be taken in place of or along with prescribed diabetes medications without the consent of your doctor.
• Pregnancy – Do not take fenugreek if you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. Historically, fenugreek has been used to induce labor.
• Breastfeeding - Talk to your doctor about fenugreek if you are breastfeeding a baby.
Fenugreek has been known to change the color and odor of urine. Because fenugreek has a high fiber content, it can affect how other medications are absorbed. Do not take fenugreek within two hours of taking other medications. In rare cases, fenugreek can cause serious allergic reactions. Get emergency medical help if you experience difficulty breathing, swelling around the mouth, or hives after taking fenugreek.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about all the medications and supplements you take, including fenugreek.