You may see fenugreek used to treat numerous ailments such as diabetes, stimulating milk production among breastfeeding women or to combat menopausal problems. The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine notes that the herb may help lower blood sugar levels, but more research is needed before fenugreek can be advocated for this use. Science does not support using the herb for any other health conditions, advise the experts at NCCAM. Fenugreek also can have side effects regarding your appetite. Always consult a health care professional before adding any herb to your regimen.
Fenugreek can cause your appetite to increase. In fact, Germany’s Commission E, that country’s regulatory body for herbs, approves the herb to treat appetite loss, according to “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide,” by George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox. In cases of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 250 to 500 mg up to three times a day.
Fenugreek has insulin-stimulating effects as well as hypoglycemic, or blood-sugar lowering, effects in people. A decrease in blood sugar may stimulate cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates, according to the American Heart Association. Eating carbs raises insulin, which then works in your body to lower your blood sugar, AHA notes. Some people have a hard time controlling their cravings and have a “carbohydrate addiction.” Not all researchers agree on what causes food cravings—some believe people who have low levels of the “feel good” brain chemical serotonin are prone to cravings, advise the experts at AHA.
You may gain weight when taking fenugreek due to its appetite stimulating properties, according to “Herbs, Botanicals and Teas” by G. Mazza and B. Dave Oomah. In fact, North African women eat fenugreek seeds to plump themselves up prior to marriage. The seeds also are used in feed for horses and cattle to promote weight gain.
Fenugreek may affect your digestive tract itself. It may relax the smooth muscles of your duodenum, or first section of your small intestine, according to the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy Monographs. This is a theoretical effect for humans, however, based on animal studies. You also may suffer gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or flatulence if you take fenugreek in large doses, such as 100 g.
- National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Fenugreek
- “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide; George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox; 2007
- European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy Monographs; 2003
- “Herbs, Botanicals and Teas;” G. Mazza, B. Dave Oomah; 2000
- American Heart Association: Carbohydrate Addiction