What is fenugreek? Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant in the Fabaceae family. It has small round leaves, is cultivated around the world as a semi-arid crop, and has a wide variety of benefits. Fenugreek has been used as far back as 1500 BC to treat digestive problems and menopausal symptoms. It’s used as a folk remedy to treat loss of appetite, diabetes, and stimulate lactation in breastfeeding women.
Fenugreek comes in many forms including fresh leaves, dried leaves, seeds, and powder. Although its taste is slightly bitter, it’s a common ingredient in dishes from India, which makes use of both its leaves and seeds. The seeds are toasted to enhance its flavor, and the leaves add an interesting twist to dishes when combined with vegetables, lentils, or soups.
Fenugreek is also widely used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat various diseases. Its a solid source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is often used to treat colds and sore throats. Alternative medicine uses fenugreek seeds to treat arthritis. Fenugreek supplement is also used to treat high cholesterol, skin problems, hair loss, male impotence, and other types of sexual dysfunction.
Fenugreek – An Anti-Diabetic Agent
Because fenugreek seeds are high in soluble fiber, it lowers blood sugar by slowing down breakdown and assimilation of carbohydrates. Clinical studies have been done to study the potential anti-diabetic benefits of fenugreek. Most studies showed that fenugreek seeds can improve conditions associated with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels, and improving glucose tolerance. Fenugreek is thought to work in a similar way to common anti-diabetic drugs. It lowers insulin resistance and delays sugar absorption in the intestines. It protects against heart disease and obesity due to its mucilaginous properties by reducing fat absorption from the intestines.
Fenugreek seeds that are powdered and soaked in hot water or yogurt are effective in controlling diabetes.
Indian researchers conducted a double-blind placebo controlled study in two groups of patients who were given hydroalcoholic extract of fenugreek seeds for two months. Group I received 1 gm. /day and Group II received usual care of dietary control and exercise with placebo capsules. It was found that the adjunct use of fenugreek seeds improved glycemic control and decreased insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetic patients. Baquer et al. reported that fenugreek’s blood glucose lowering action is almost comparable to the effect of insulin.
Adverse Effects of Fenugreek
Although fenugreek is generally safe to use for medical purposes, some side effects have been reported in people allergic to chickpeas. Diarrhea, dizziness, and flatulence may occur. It can cause certain drug interactions due to its rich fiber content and interference with absorption of oral medications. Any prescription medications should be taken separately as the associated use might lower glucose levels more than expected.
It is important to discuss with your physician before you begin using fenugreek to treat diabetes.
Sources for this article include:
- Gupta A, Gupta R, Lal B. Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a double blind placebo controlled study.J Assoc Physicians India. 2001 Nov;49:1057-61.
- Baquer NZ et al. Metabolic and molecular action of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) and trace metals in experimental diabetic tissues.J Biosci. 2011 Jun;36(2):383-96.