People have been trying to use fenugreek for medicinal purposes since ancient times. Purported benefits range from increasing breast milk production and relieving digestive upset to healing from cough and certain infections. Yet many of these purposes aren’t scientifically proven. Here are some of these purported benefits and whether research supports them.
May Promote Breast Milk Production
Fenugreek capsules and teas are used throughout the world by nursing women with the goal of increasing breast milk production. The herb is a source of diosgenin, a chemical compound used in the synthesis of steroid hormones, including progesterone. But there isn’t enough conclusive scientific evidence to support the use of fenugreek itself for this purpose, and it may carry safety concerns, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
Fenugreek has also been ingested with the aim of inducing childbirth, yet despite what you may find online, there isn’t scientific evidence supporting this practice.
May Help Lower Your Blood Sugar
Numerous studies have suggested fenugreek may help with glycemic control by lowering high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. But if you are interested in trying fenugreek while managing diabetes, first consult your healthcare team and monitor your blood sugar as usual.
For instance, a three-year randomized controlled study of 140 people with prediabetes compared people who received 5 g of fenugreek powder twice daily with a control group, who were not given fenugreek. However, both the fenugreek and control groups were given the same dietary and exercise instructions throughout the study period . Researchers observed that people in the control group had a 4.2 times higher chance of developing diabetes compared with those who were given fenugreek as a dietary supplement. Despite these interesting results, the research did not include people who had type 2 diabetes, and participants with type 1 diabetes and other chronic health conditions were excluded from the study.
Also, a meta-analysis from 2014 of 10 trials mostly on patients with diabetes found that fenugreek produced significant lowering of fasting blood gludocse, and HbA1c compared with controls, yet cautioned that most were of low methodological quality.
In general, studies on fenugreek for diabetes management are limited and low in quality, and more research is needed, according to the NCCIH.
May Lower Cholesterol
In addition to its hypoglycemic effects, fenugreek may lower lipid levels, thereby lowering cholesterol levels. Individuals taking fenugreek for these purposes often take 2 to 100 g daily, divided into two to three doses, according to the National Library of Medicine’s LiverTox. While such doses haven’t been shown to lead to liver injury, the agency also notes there’s not enough clinical trials in humans to prove fenugreek has cholesterol-lowering benefits.
For example, as one review and meta-analysis found, fenugreek statistically lowered total cholesterol in study participants with prediabetes or diabetes, though the exact effects on LDL and HDL cholesterol require further investigation in human studies.