Fenugreek for Diabetes

What Should I Know About Using It?

fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds. Lew Robertson/StockFood Creative/Getty Images

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an herbal remedy sourced from the dried seeds of a plant native to India and North Africa. It has long been used in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India) as a laxative and demulcent (a substance that soothes irritation of the skin, mouth, nose, or throat).

In alternative medicine, current health claims for fenugreek include the treatment of type 2 diabetes, arthritis, inflammation, alopecia, muscle pain, gastrointestinal disorders, and skin ulcers.

Benefits of Fenugreek

Although fenugreek has yet to be extensively studied, preliminary research suggests that the remedy may be helpful in treatment of the following health problems. (Remember: Though encouraging, effectiveness in animals does not confirm the same in humans.)

1) Diabetes

4-hydroxyisoleucine (an amino acid derived from fenugreek) may help stimulate the secretion of insulin, reduce insulin resistance, and decrease blood sugar levels in diabetes patients, according to a 2009 study on mice. However, a 2009 research review concludes that there is very limited human-based evidence to support the use of fenugreek in diabetes management.

2) High Cholesterol

Several animal-based studies have suggested that fenugreek may help lower cholesterol levels. Scientists theorize that fiber found in fenugreek seeds may reduce the rate at which the liver produces cholesterol.

3) Liver Damage

In a 2008 study of rats with alcohol-induced liver damage, researchers demonstrated that an antioxidant extract from fenugreek helped enhance liver health in a manner similar to that of milk thistle.


When eaten or taken in capsule form, fenugreek may cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Fenugreek may also cause irritation when applied to the skin.

Since fenugreek may increase the potency of certain medications (such as blood-thinning drugs) and interact with hormonal agents, it's important to consult your physician before using fenugreek.

Used in ayurvedic medicine to induce childbirth, fenugreek should also be avoided by pregnant women.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Using Fenugreek for Health

Supplements and teas containing fenugreek can be found in many health food stores. Fenugreek seeds can also be used as a spice in cooking.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend fenugreek as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using fenugreek in the treatment of a condition, make sure to consult your physician first.


Jetté L, Harvey L, Eugeni K, Levens N. "4-Hydroxyisoleucine: a plant-derived treatment for metabolic syndrome." Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs 2009 10(4):353-8.

Kaviarasan S, Sundarapandiyan R, Anuradha CV. " Protective action of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seed polyphenols against alcohol-induced protein and lipid damage in rat liver." Cell Biology and Toxicology 2008 24(5):391-400.

Nahas R, Moher M. "Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes." Canadian Family Physician 2009 55(6):591-6.

Srichamroen A, Field CJ, Thomson AB, Basu TK. "The Modifying Effects of Galactomannan from Canadian-Grown Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) on the Glycemic and Lipidemic Status in Rats." Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition 2008 43(3):167-74.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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