"Fenugreek" (Trigonella foenum-graecum)


Seeds of this slightly maple-tasting legume have a long heritage of use as a medicinal plant and culinary spice, especially in India. Gel fiber from Fenugreek resembles guar gum in chemical structure.

Traditionally, Egyptian, Ayurvedic Indian, Greek, and Roman healers used it as an aphrodisiac and to remedy colds and sore throats, indigestion, and other complaints. Lydia Pinkham included fenugreek in her famous 19th century "Vegetable Compound" nostrum for menstrual aches. Recent studies support traditional uses for digestion, menopausal complaints, heart disease, weight control, and diabetes.

Diabetes: Pre-clinical and clinical studies have documented the efficacy of the fiber-rich fraction of fenugreek seeds in the management of diabetes. In Type I and II diabetics, administration of de-fatted, fiber-rich seed significantly reduces fasting blood glucose levels and improves performance in the glucose tolerance test. Researchers have used 5g to 100g daily (one-fifth to three ounces) - of de-fatted fenugreek seed powder to control blood sugar swings in diabetes in the short term.

Weight Control: Like guar gum, fenugreek can bind dietary fats to reduce their absorption. Fenugreek fiber also contributes to a feeling of fullness that may curb excessive appetite.

Heart Health: Fenugreek is rich in steroidal (furostanol) saponins - notably trigoneosides and diosgenin - which appear responsible for its healthful effects on blood fat and cholesterol levels. Serum total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as triglyceride levels, can be significantly reduced, while HDL (good) cholesterol levels remained unchanged.

Some recent studies suggest that Fenugreek has a mild anti-inflammatory effect, which may be why herbalists find it useful for treating boils, rashes, and other skin wounds, as well as arthritis.

Do scientists know how it works? Chemical analysis of the seeds has identified steroidal, estrogen-like saponins trigoneosides, that have therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetes, menopausal symptoms, and hypercholesteremia. The seeds are also rich in soluble fiber. Fenugreek seeds contain mucilage, which is soothing to mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

Fenugreek is primarily available in capsules, liquids, tinctures, and bulk seeds. Fenugreek may stimulate uterine contractions so it should not be used during pregnancy. Persons at risk of vitamin or mineral deficiency should not take high doses of dietary fiber for extended periods except under medical supervision, as fiber can bind with these nutrients and reduce absorption.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.


The Olive Branch, On the Net since 1996