FENUGREEK: USES, BENEFITS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Fenugreek is truly an amazing plant with so many health benefits. People from Western Asia and the Mediterranean have used fenugreek for thousands of years to improve the flavour of their food, improve health, and soothe skin maladies. In more recent times, this herb has supposedly gained global popularity as a herbal supplement with a variety of health benefits.
While fenugreek has many promising applications/ benefits, not all of its uses have yet been backed up by rigorous scientific examination. This tour will tell us which of fenugreek’s health benefits are supported by evidence, and which ones remain more assumptions and advertising gimmicks than fact.
Let’s take a dive together to learn what fenugreek is, what it does in the body, and how best to utilize all its
benefits. Shall we?
What Is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek (scientific name Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant native to Western Asia and the Mediterranean. It has three green or yellow oblong leaves, which can be consumed fresh or dried.
Fenugreek leaves and seeds are important for cooking and medicines. Because of their sweet, maple-syrup like smell and flavour, fenugreek seeds are also added to artificial maple syrup, candies, ice cream, beverages, tobacco, soaps, and cosmetics.
What Makes Fenugreek Work? Important Compounds
Well, as stated below, the health benefits of fenugreek involve the regulation of blood sugar, stimulation of milk flow in new mothers, maintenance of hormones, and treatment of inflammation; made possible by the presence of the outlined compounds:
- Trigonelline: a betaine molecule also present in coffee and alfalfa that may help prevent and treat diabetes.
- 4-hydroxyisoleucine and 2-oxoglutarate: molecules with an insulin-stimulating effect.
- Protodioscin: compound that may have aphrodisiac effects.
- Diosgenin and Yamogenin: compounds used in the commercial synthesis of progesterone and other steroid products.
- 3-Hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone: compound that causes a maple-syrup scent in body excretions.
Now that we’ve taken a look at what fenugreek does, let’s appreciate its functions.
Look before you leap! Some retailers care more about their pockets than your health. (Shine your eyes)
Why You Should Be Cautious About Herbal Supplements
Herbal remedies can be very effective alternative treatments to prescription medication. At the same time, there’s a big business of retailers that exaggerate health claims to market their products and make money.
The best way to evaluate these claims is to take a look at objective, rigorous scientific research. Has the supplement been tested in a randomized control trial and been proven to have statistically significant effects? Has it been used on human subjects and not just lab mice? If its benefits are purely anecdotal, then you might not want to waste your time or money, or worst case scenario, risk causing yourself more harm than good.
With these guiding principles in mind, we’ve done a thorough research on fenugreek, its uses, contraindications and special cases.
Fenugreek Benefits: Analysis of 4 Popular Uses
People take fenugreek in a variety of forms as an herbal supplement. Its most common form is a pill or capsule, but it can also be made into a tea or ground up and combined with other ingredients to make a poultice and applied to injured skin.
The most commonly claimed fenugreek benefits are milk production in new mothers, blood sugar levels, testosterone and male libido, and treating inflammation.
Fenugreek can act as a galactagogue.
Use 1: To Enhance Milk Production in New Mothers
Fenugreek is widely used as a galactagogue, or a milk flow-enhancing agent in new mothers. Nursing women take fenugreek in pill form or drink it as a tea after they’ve had a baby.
While fenugreek appears to be an effective galactagogue, it can have adverse effects if you take it while pregnant. Most doctors advise that women should only take fenugreek supplements once they’ve had their baby and not before.
Scientists believes it contains phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals similar to the female sex organs oestrogen. They really don’t know how it happens though, they only believe breasts are modified sweat glands, and fenugreek promotes sweat production.
The plant has aggravated asthma symptoms in women and caused low blood glucose in diabetics; it should not be used by all.
Since its evidence backed that fenugreek could be used as a milk-enhancing agent, how should you take it?
How to Take Fenugreek to Stimulate Milk Production
Its best to speak to your doctor/ dietitian before taking fenugreek as it could have significant side effects during pregnancy. I remember one woman complaining to me how it makes her add more weight.
If you decide to take fenugreek, you could take it as fenugreek tablets or drink it as a fenugreek tea. A typical dosage is two to three capsules (580 to 610 mg each) taken by mouth three times a day. Drinking it as a tea is a milder amount. You might drink between 1-3 cups a day as a hot tea, iced tea, or mixed with apple juice.
Use 2: To Maintain Blood Sugar Levels
Fenugreek seeds are commonly used as a supplement to control blood glucose, especially to prevent or treat diabetes. It appears to alleviate problems around the metabolism of blood sugar.The seed contains fibre and other possible compounds that could slow digestion and the body’s absorption of carbohydrates and sugars.
How to Take Fenugreek to Control Blood Glucose
The most common ways to take fenugreek to control blood sugar levels are in capsule form, ground up and added to food, or made into a tea. The recommended dosage falls between 2.5 and 15 grams a day. The amount you take varies depending on your weight, any other medications you take, and other factors.
It would be really unwise to just depend solely on fenugreek to help in the treatment of diabetes; speak to your dietitan and doctor for possible and sustainable ways to handle your diabetes.
Use 3: To Boost Libido
One of fenugreek’s ancient uses is to enhance libido. Mediterranean and Western Asian cultures have incorporated the herb into their diets for thousands of years to enhance sexual desire. Recent studies have suggested that fenugreek may increase libido in both men and women.
Well, research holds that it’s a better aphrodisiac than banana, asparagus and almonds.
Ultimately, researchers concluded that “T foenum-graecum [fenugreek] seed extract is a well-tolerated and an effective botanical medicine for use in the support of sexual function for pre-menopausal women, in particular increasing sexual desire and arousal, with positive effects in concentration of E2 [estradiol] and free testosterone.” The studies suggest that fenugreek supplements may increase libido in both men and women.
How to Take Fenugreek to Boost Libido
Fenugreek can be taken as a capsule or brewed into a tea, or the seeds can be ground up and added to food or bread. A dose of 500 to 600 mg fenugreek capsules per day is recommended to boost libido. As with any herbal supplement, you should check with your doctor to determine the right amount for you.
Is your skin red, bumpy, or injured? A fenugreek-based poultice can help.
Use 4: To Soothe Skin Inflammation or Injury
Fenugreek powder has long been combined with other soothing herbs to make poultices and treat skin inflammation and injury. Recent studies have suggested that fenugreek may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
How to Use Fenugreek to Treat Skin Inflammation
To soothe injured or inflamed skin, people traditionally grind dried herbs or boil fresh herbs in water and make a paste. You might combine fenugreek seed powder with other skin-soothing herbs, like slippery elm, flaxseed, as well as medicinal charcoal. After combining everything into a paste, just spread it across a clean piece of gauze, linen, or cotton and apply it directly to the skin.
Leave the poultice on the affected area for about 1 to 24 hours, taking it off when the skin feels better.
Along with the four main uses described above – enhancing milk production, controlling blood glucose, boosting libido, and treating skin inflammation – people claim a number of other fenugreek health benefits. Let’s take a look at other potential positive effects of taking fenugreek; with little scientific back up though.
Other Potential Health Benefits of Fenugreek (anecdotal)
People have been consuming fenugreek for thousands of years, and many believe that it has a wide range of physical benefits. These are a few additional anecdotal fenugreek seeds benefits:
- Balance cholesterol
- Soothe upset stomach and digestive problems
- Reduce menstrual cramps
- Reduce appetite
- Control obesity
- Maintain liver and kidney health (hepatic and renal issues)
- Soothe muscle pain
- Reduce fever
At this point, there’s little scientific evidence behind these alleged benefits, so much more research is needed to assess the efficacy of this herbal supplement.
Apart from having health benefits, Fenugreek also has some potential adverse side effects, and it’s important to be aware of them before incorporating the supplement into your routine because physiology differs.
Fenugreek Side Effects: 6 Potential Problems
‘They are just supplements (herbal at that), they should not pose any threat; calm down first.
The following are the six main potential fenugreek side effects.
Side Effect 1. Induce Childbirth
For the most part, pregnant women are advised not to take fenugreek. Because it contains oxytocin, fenugreek could act as a uterine stimulant, meaning it could cause contractions and preterm labour. Some people have used fenugreek to induce labour, don’t try this at home.
The other side effect of taking fenugreek while pregnant is that it can give a false alarm of Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD). MSUD is an inherited genetic disorder so named because it causes a maple syrup-like smell in body excretions (urine).
Side Effect 2. Diarrhoea
Fenugreek may cause stomach irritation and diarrhea. Excessive intake in pregnancy could lead to episodes of diarrhoea, gastrointestinal disturbances as nausea, vomiting and flatulence could also occur.
Side Effect 3. Bleeding
Fenugreek contains a chemical compound called coumarin that can act as a blood thinner. People on blood-thinning or anti-coagulant medications to be careful and consult their doctors before taking fenugreek supplements.
Be careful if you take a blood thinner, as fenugreek could cause excessive bleeding.
Side Effect 4. Hypoglycemia
If you’re taking both medicine for diabetes and fenugreek supplements, you should measure your blood sugar levels so they don’t become too low and cause hypoglycemia. Since fenugreek can lower blood glucose levels, its best you are always alert about your glucose levels.
Consult with your doctor about the right amount, and carefully monitor the effects that fenugreek supplements have on your blood sugar levels.
Side Effect 5. Allergic Reactions
Before introducing new things to your, you should be conscious of the possible allergic effects attached to that food.
Check with your doctor, and try just a small dosage of fenugreek at first. Stop taking it if you experience a rash, hives, swelling, or trouble breathing.
Side Effect 6. “Maple Syrup” Sweat or Urine
This last side effect doesn’t cause any harm, apart from the false alarm about MSUD in infants described above. Fenugreek has a strong, sweet odour, and eating the seeds might pass that maple syrup-like smell into your sweat and urine or the sweat and urine of a nursing baby. If you start to notice this maple syrup-like odour, then you’ll know the cause and what to do.
How to Take Fenugreek
Either in tea, pill, tincture or powder form, dosages should not exceed the under listed:
- Capsule: 500 to 600 mg, three times a day.
- Tea: two to three cups a day. You can make hot or iced tea or combine it with juice.
- Powder: five to 30 grams of de-fatted seed powder up to three times a day. It’s best to consume fenugreek powder before or as part of a meal.
- Tincture: three to four mL three times a day. One drop is similar to a 500-600 mg capsule.
Your dosage depends on a number of factors, including weight, age, and health status.
Every seed, herb or fruit has potential health benefits attached to them if used in appropriate amounts, but when abused or used by the wrong groups, they could pose great health threats.
While adding fenugreek to your diet, remember its health benefits and also remember its contraindications and remember too that some presumed back up don’t have sufficient scientific claims.