Fenugreek is an herbal supplement that is used for treating a variety of conditions, including high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar. It contains several compounds that may stimulate the secretion of insulin and slow down the digestive tract. Potential side effects include diarrhea, gas, and indigestion. There is currently no scientific evidence suggesting that fenugreek is effective for any use.
What Is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an herbal supplement often claimed to be beneficial for the following uses:
- Lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes
- Helping with a loss of appetite
- Lowering cholesterol
- Lowering triglycerides
- Stimulating milk production in breastfeeding women.
There are many other purported uses, some of which are more valid than others. The herb is also used non-medicinally as a spice or flavoring agent for a maple-like flavor.
(Click Benefits of Fenugreek for more information on what it is used for.)
How Does It Work?
Fenugreek contains sotolon, trigonelline, and 4-hydroxyisoleucine, compounds that are thought to be the active components of it. 4-hydroxyisoleucine may stimulate the secretion of insulin, which is why fenugreek may theoretically lower blood sugar. The seeds also contain fiber and pectin, a complex carbohydrate, both of which may slow down the digestive tract, which can help lower blood sugar.
Fenugreek may also contain "blood-thinning" compounds known as coumarins, but it is not known if these compounds are present in high enough quantities to actually make a difference in humans. The herb may also stimulate the uterus, heart, and intestines.