Fenugreek for diabetes and other medicinal uses
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L. Leguninosae) has been known for thousands of years. It is a source of food and medicine for both humans and animals. Fenugreek is now getting some attention among natural medicine enthusiasts, but still fairly unknown to most people. A large portion of the research come from Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine pharmacopoeia.
In India Fenugreek seeds have been commonly used to treat diabetes. This plant is also important economically and ecologically due to its soil nitrogen enhancing properties. It also provides a good source of protein for animals. Common names are, Bird’s Foot, Greek Clover, Greek Hay, Greek Hay Seed. Fenugreek is not hard to cultivate and it grows in just about any type of soil, such as hillsides and grasslands but requires intense sunlight. Fenugreek is native to Southeastern Europe; Northern Africa and Western Asia but grow in many other parts of the world. It is an annual plant that lives for only four to seven months. Fenugreek is wildly used across the world and used in many timeless recipes, breads, spices, beverages and confections. For a complete detailed research on Fenugreek’ history I recommend visiting this site.
How Fenugreek helps with diabetes
In several studies using humans and animals, Fenugreek seeds have been found to lower glucose both acutely and chronically. Fenugreek contains saponins which are transformed into sapogenins in the gastrointestinal tract. The seeds are composed of 50% fiber being 30% soluble and 20% insoluble. It slows the rate of postprandial glucose absorption but this is only a secondary action of hypoglycemic control.
Fenugreek seeds may also lower serum triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL, due to sapogenins which increase biliary cholesterol excretion. Fenugreek has a two prong approach to control diabetes: new studies show that Fenugreek seeds exert antidiabetic effects mediated by an inhibition of carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and peripheral insulin action enhancement.
The main compounds in Fenugreek are lysine and L-tryptophan rich proteins, mucilaginous fiber and other rare chemical constituents such as: saponins, coumarin, Fenugreekine, nicotinic acid, sapogenins, phytic acid, scopoletin and trigonelline. These compouds account for many of its presumed therapeutic effects.
1. Lowering glucose by reducing carbohydrate absorption
Reduction of sucrose absorption may be related to the inhibition of enzyme activity in the gut. Fenugreek liquid fiber has a relatively low molecular mass fraction of aqueous extracts and may be responsible for a reduction in action by the carbohydrate-degrading enzymes. This in turn reduces the post prandial hyperglycemia a very desirable outcome since post prandial sugars are the hardest to control. The other co factor is the increased gastro intestinal (GI) motility by soluble fiber. It is well known that hyperglycemia and electrolyte imbalances reduce gastric motility. Low gastric motility is associated with high blood sugar and high GI motility. High motility induction is how many anti diabetic drugs work to lower blood sugar.
2. Enhancement of peripheral insulin
The amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine found in Fenugreek increase glucose induced insulin release. This amino acid appears to only act in the pancreatic beta cells. Fenugreek reduces the area under the plasma glucose curve and increases the number of insulin receptors. Other mechanisms involved are the inhibition of activity of alpha-amylase and sucrase; two intestinal enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. These functions have been observed although the mechanism responsible still unclear. For a complete report on Fenugreek compounds and action see the references at the end of this post.
How to use Fenugreek to treat diabetes
Results from Fenugreek treatment can start being noticed after 1-2 months. Fenugreek lowers blood sugar in both non diabetics and diabetics but more so in diabetics. The anti diabetic properties of Fenugreek go beyond simply lowering blood sugar. Fenugreek helps with many other diabetes complications and metabolic disorders. Diabetes is a chronic disorder involving carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism problems. Fenugreek brings improvements in all of these areas. Fenugreek also has antioxidant properties which address the constant free radicals attacks common in diabetes. Though pathophysiology of diabetes remains not fully understood, experimental evidences suggest the involvement of free radicals in the pathogenesis of diabetes. In diabetic patients, extra-cellular and long lived proteins, such as elastin, laminin, collagen are the major targets of free radicals. In resume the major pharmacological effects of Fenugreek are: (1) hypoglycemia,(2) hypocholesterolemia,(3) anticancer,(4) anti-oxidant,(5) antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects (6)increases insulin production.
Ways to use it and administrate
For diabetes type II use Fenugreek seed powered in capsules from 2.5g twice daily for three months.
Seed powder 25 g divided into two equal doses daily for three months.
To add to foods:
Dry roast Fenugreek seeds by placing them in a large skillet and heating on medium-high heat for one to two minutes, stirring frequently. Add to salads or other dishes.
Use two tablespoons of dried Fenugreek leaves and seeds in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid and drink the resulting tea twice per day to help lower blood glucose levels.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 4 tablespoons of dried Fenugreek seeds and leaves and steep for 30 minutes to produce a tincture. Take half tablespoon of the tincture three times per day.
Fenugreek seeds can be obtained in the bulk food section of some health food stores, or you may be able to find them at a store that specializes in Indian or other eastern foods. Soak 1-2 teaspoons of the seeds in water overnight. Pour that water off the next day and rinse seeds with clear water. Place the seeds into a sprouter (this can be as simple as a small, clear plastic clamshell carry-out container), and place on a windowsill or table with the lid slightly ajar. Rinse with water daily. The seeds will sprout in around five days.
Fenugreek is sometimes used as a poultice. That means it is wrapped in cloth, warmed and applied directly to the skin to treat local pain and swelling (inflammation), muscle pain, pain and swelling of lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), pain in the toes (gout), wounds, leg ulcers, and eczema.
Is a weak form of the herb. For the tea: use a teaspoon of whole Fenugreek seeds. Steep in boiling water for 15 minutes or so.
Other Medicinal properties
The following is a list of all benefits most commonly found in my research. It is difficult to evaluate the validity of every single claim and there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove all of them. It is wise to use caution before relying in any particular medicinal use of any plant. It is also important to mention all the medicinal properties of Fenugreek because of their indirect benefit to diabetes.
- Gastro Intestinal: May be effective in digestive problems, loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, stomach inflammation (gastritis)
- Heart: Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) lowering lipids in the blood including cholesterol and tryglicerides
- Reproductive disorders: labor inducer, reduce menstrual pain, milk production
- Hormonal: Increase the libido and decrease premature ejaculation, increase male potency, helps with menopause and hot flashes, breast enlargement
- Respiratory: Asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis
- Tegumentary: Skin problems wounds, rashes and boils, cellulites
- Digestive system: Improve digestion, weight loss
- Kidney: Regulatory functions
- Anti Inflamatory properties
- Anti graying of hair
- Oral drugs or herbs taken at the same time as Fenugreek may have delayed absorption due to the mucilage content of Fenugreek.
- Glipizide and other antidiabetic drugs
Fenugreek reduces blood glucose levels and may enhance the effects of these drugs.
Fenugreek reduces blood glucose levels, so insulin dosage may need to be adjusted.
- Heparin, Warfarin and other anticoagulants
Ticlopidine and other platelet inhibitors
The Fenugreek plant contains several coumarin compounds. Although studies have not shown any problems, it potentially could cause bleeding if combined with these types of drugs.
Fenugreek contains amine and has the potential to augment the effect of these drugs.
Possible side effects and cautions
- Sweat and urine smells like maple syrup; milk and/or breastfed baby may smell like maple syrup.
- Occasionally causes loose stools, which go away when Fenugreek is discontinued.
- Use of more than 100 grams of Fenugreek seeds daily can cause intestinal distress and nausea (recommended dose is less than 8 grams per day).
- Repeated external applications can result in undesirable skin reactions.
- Ingestion of Fenugreek seeds or tea in infants or late-term pregnant women can lead to false diagnosis of maple syrup urine disease in the infant due to presence of sotolone in the urine. See and other studies on Fenugreek and maple syrup urine smell.
Use with caution or avoid if you have a history of:
- Peanut or chickpea allergy: Fenugreek is in the same family with peanuts and chickpeas, and may cause an allergic reaction in moms who are allergic to these things. Two cases of Fenugreek allergy have been reported in the literature.
- Diabetes or hypoglycemia: Fenugreek reduces blood glucose levels, and in the few studies using it as a hypoglycemic, also reduces blood cholesterol. Dosages higher than the recommended one (given above) may result in hypoglycemia in some people. If you’re diabetic, use Fenugreek only if you have good control of your blood glucose levels. While taking Fenugreek, closely monitor your fasting levels and post-prandial (after meals) levels. Mothers with hypoglycemia should also use Fenugreek with caution. For more on Fenugreek and glucose levels, see the references below.
- Asthma: Fenugreek is often cited as a natural remedy for asthma. However, inhalation of the powder can cause asthma and allergic symptoms. Some mothers have reported that it worsened their asthma symptoms.
- Fenugreek use during pregnancy
Medicinal doses of Fenugreek are considered a uterine stimulant. Fenugreek has been used to aid and induce labor and is considered to be an emmenagogue. For this reason, Fenugreek use is not recommended during pregnancy (particularly late pregnancy).
- Fenugreek is used as a morning sickness remedy in Chinese medicine.
- Use only in moderation during pregnancy. A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb or during labor.
- One study effectively used Fenugreek as a source of fiber to control blood glucose and lipid levels of pregnant diabetic women.
- A stimulant effect on the isolated uterus (guinea pig) has been reported and its use in late pregnancy may not be advisable.
- Water and alcohol extracts of Fenugreek are oxytocic. They stimulate contraction of uterine smooth muscles during the last period of pregnancy according to studies on isolated guinea pig uterus tissue.
- Fenugreek exerts an oxytocic effect in guinea pigs. Its use in humans has not been sufficiently studied, but could potentially lead to SAB or preterm labor and prematurity secondary to its oxytocic effects. Its use in pregnancy is not recommended.
- Not recommended during pregnancy.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||6.41 g||21%|
|Dietary Fiber||24.6 g||65%|
|Vitamin A||60 IU||2%|
|Vitamin C||3 mg||5%|
- Soluble dietary ﬁbre fraction of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek)
seed improves glucose homeostasis in animal models of type 1 and type 2
diabetes by delaying carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and enhancing
- Therapeutic Applications of Fenugreek
- Indian Herbs and Herbal Drugs Used for the Treatment of Diabetes
- In Vitro Effect of Fenugreek Extracts on Intestinal Sodium-dependent Glucose Uptake and Hepatic Glycogen Phosphorylase A
- The use of complementary and alternative medicine among people living with diabetes in Sydney
- Cardioprotective effect of fenugreek on isoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction in rats
- Effects of fenugreek seeds in blood glucose and serum lipids on diabetes type I