Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
Although originally from southeastern Europe and western Asia, fenugreek grows today in
many parts of the world, including India, northern Africa, and the United States. The seeds of
fenugreek are used medicinally.
Fenugreek has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
A wide range of uses were found for fenugreek in ancient times. Medicinally it was used for
the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis,
bronchitis, and digestive problems.
Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male
reproductive tract.1 Fenugreek was, and remains, a food and a spice commonly eaten
in many parts of the world.
Fenugreek seeds contain alkaloids (mainly trigonelline) and protein high in lysine and L-tryptophan. Its steroidal saponins
(diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin) and mucilaginous fiber are thought to account for many of the
beneficial effects of fenugreek. The steroidal saponins are thought to inhibit cholesterol
absorption and synthesis,2 while the fiber may help lower blood sugar
levels.3 One human study found that fenugreek can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with
moderate atherosclerosis and
non-insulin-dependent (type 2)
diabetes.4 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.5 6 7 Double-blind
trials have shown that fenugreek lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood,8
9 This has also been found in a controlled clinical trial with diabetic patients with
elevated cholesterol.10 Generally, fenugreek does not lower HDL
(“good”) cholesterol levels.
How much is usually taken?
Due to the somewhat bitter taste of fenugreek seeds, de-bitterized seeds or encapsulated
products are preferred. The German Commission E monograph recommends a daily intake of 6
grams.11 The typical range of intake for diabetes or cholesterol-lowering is 5–30 grams with each
meal or 15–90 grams all at once with one meal. As a tincture, 3–4 ml of fenugreek
can be taken up to three times per day.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Use of more than 100 grams of fenugreek seeds daily can cause intestinal upset and nausea.
Otherwise, fenugreek is extremely safe. Due to the potential uterine stimulating properties of
fenugreek, which may cause miscarriages, fenugreek should not be used during pregnancy.12
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with fenugreek. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. Escot N. Fenugreek. ATOMS 1994/5;Summer:7–12.
2. Sauvaire Y, Ribes G, Baccou JC, Loubatieres-Mariani MM. Implication of
steroid saponins and sapogenins in the hypocholesterolemic effect of fenugreek.
3. Ribes G, Sauvaire Y, Da Costa C, et al. Antidiabetic effects of
subfractions from fenugreek seeds in diabetic dogs. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med
4. Bordia A, Verma SK, Srivastava KC. Effect of ginger (Zingiber
officinale Rosc) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum L) on blood lipids,
blood sugar, and platelet aggregation in patients with coronary artery disease.
Prostagland Leukotrienes Essential Fatty Acids 1997;56:379–84.
5. Sharma RD, Raghuram TC, Rao NS. Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood
glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr 1990;44:301–6.
6. Madar Z, Abel R, Samish S, Arad J. Glucose-lowering effect of
fenugreek in non-insulin dependent diabetics. Eur J Clin Nutr 1988;42:51–4.
7. Raghuram TC, Sharma RD, Sivakumar B, Sahay BK. Effect of fenugreek
seeds on intravenous glucose disposition in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients.
Phytother Res 1994;8:83–6.
8. Sharma RD, Raghuram TC, Dayasagar Rao V. Hypolipidaemic effect of
fenugreek seeds. A clinical study. Phytother Res 1991;5:145–7.
9. Prasanna M. Hypolipidemic effect of fenugreek: A clinical study.
Indian J Phramcol 2000;32:34–6.
10. Sharma RD, Sarkar DK, Hazra B, et al. Hypolipidaemic effect of
fenugreek seeds: A chronic study in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Phytother
11. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete
Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative
Medicine Communications, 1998, 130.
12. Brinker F. Herb Contradictions and Drug Interactions. Sandy,
OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998, 70–1.