Fenugreek can be used both as an herb and a spice. The spice is frequently used in curry. The fenugreek seed has been proven to reduce blood sugar. When applied to the skin fenugreek can reduce inflammation. In India fenugreek is used to suppress coughs. The medicinal parts of this herb are the dried, ripe seeds. Fenugreek has been clinically proven to help patients with loss of appetite and inflammation of the skin. Fenugreek should not be used during pregnancy. No side effects with use have been recorded. People taking anticoagulants, low molecular weight heparines, and thrombolytic agents as well as antidiabetic agents should use caution and consult a doctor before combining these medications. Fenugreek can be found in capsule form.
The medicinal parts are the ripe, dried seeds.
Flower and Fruit
The 0.8 to 1.8 cm long flowers are solitary or in pairs in the leaf axils. They are almost sessile. The calyx tube is membranous and usually longer than the lanceolate tips. The corolla is usually pale yellow, occasionally darker or violet, and about double the length of the calyx. The wings are about half as long as the standard and the carina is very obtuse, round, and barely longer than the calyx. The fruit is a 2.5 to 10 cm long and 0.5 to 1 cm wide, erect, leaning, linear and appressed pubescent pod with a long lip. The 4 to 20 seeds are flattened, divided into two uneven halves by a deep groove, ovate, yellow-brown, or brown-red and very hard when dry.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
The plant is an annual, 10 to 50 cm high herb with a long vertical taproot. The stem is sturdy, round, erect, or decumbent and branched. The leaves are trifoliate and the petioles are 0.5 to 2 cm long. The leaflets are 1 to 3 cm long, obovate to oblong-lanceolate, obtusely deltoid to rounded. The stipules are fairly large, membranous, ovate, acute and more or less softly pubescent.
The species is common all over the Mediterranean region as far as India and China and southward as far as Ethiopia. The main regions of cultivation are southern France, Turkey, northern Africa, India and China.
Fenugreek consists of the ripe, dried seed of Trigonella foenum-graecum.
Greek Hay Seed, Bird's Foot
Actions & Pharmacology
Mucilages (25-45%, mannogalactans)
Steroid saponins (1.2-1.5%): including trigofoenosides A to G (to some extent bitter), aglycones including diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, smilagenin, tigogenin, yuccagenin
Steroid saponin-peptide ester: including foenugraecin
Sterols: chief constituents 24xi-ethyl-cholest-5-en-3beta-ole (65%), sterols that are to some extent estered
Flavonoids: including isoorientin, isovitexin, orientin, orientin arabinoside, isoorientin arabinoside, saponaretin, vicenin-1, vincenin-2, vitexin
Trigonelline (coffearin, N-methylbetaine of the nicotinic acid, 0.4%)
Volatile oil (0.01%): aroma bearer 3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone
Externally, the drug acts as an emollient. Internally, Fenugreek reduces blood sugar, but the mode of action is unclear. In addition, a lipid-lowering effect attributed to the saponin fraction has been proved as well as a hydrogogic effect. There is no indication of a lactation-promoting effect.
Indications & Usage
Approved by Commission E:
- Loss of appetite
- Inflammation of the skin
Internal uses include upper respiratory catarrh, diabetes, and to increase milk production. Externally, the drug is used as poultice for local inflammation, ulcers, and eczema.
The drug is used to treat cold pain in the lower abdomen, impotence, and hernia (said to be due to cold “chi”).
The drug is used for fever, vomiting, anorexia, coughs, bronchitis, and colitis.
The drug should not be used during pregnancy.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. Sensitization is possible through repeated external administration of the drug.
Anticoagulants, Low Molecular Weight Heparins and Thrombolytic Agents
Concurrent use may result in increased risk of bleeding. Clinical Management: Monitor for signs and symptoms of excessive bleeding.
Concurrent use may result in increased risk of hypoglycemia. Clinical Management: Monitor blood glucose levels for signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Mode of Administration
Whole and powdered drug is available in the form of teas and compound preparations.
- Capsules — 575 mg, 610 mg, 626 mg
To prepare a tea, leave 0.5 gm drug to steep in cold water for 3 hours, then strain; the tea may be sweetened with honey. A poultice is prepared as a thick paste made from the powdered seeds: add 50 gm of powdered drug to 1/4 liter of boiling water for 5 minutes. To make a cold maceration, soak 0.5 g of drug in cold water, then filter.
The daily internal dose of the drug is 6 g. One cup of the tea may be taken several times a day. For loss of appetite, take 2 g of cut drug with fluid 3 times daily, before meals. The cold maceration can be drunk several times a day.