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Fenugreek for Diabetes

What Should I Know About Using It?

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Updated September 24, 2012

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).

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.

Side Effects of Fenugreek

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.

How to Use Fenugreek

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

Sources:

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.

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