Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a culinary and medicinal herb that is grown in dry sandy soils around the world. It is most commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, where it imparts a sweet, maple syrup-like flavor to complex blends of curry spices. Fenugreek, whether used as a spice or taken as a supplement or extract, has a number of effects that impact breast function and health.
The use of fenugreek for breast enhancement has not been supported by scientific medical study. However, some believe that fenugreek is a powerful breast-enhancing agent when applied topically, such as herbalist and physical therapist Caitlin MacKenna. Writing at Natural Remedies, MacKenna states that fenugreek stimulates breast growth by mimicking estrogen and by stimulating prolactin. The effects of fenugreek on breast growth can be maximized by rubbing the extract into the skin, where it can be absorbed directly into the affected tissue rather than being diminished in potency through digestion. Although fenugreek is a culinary herb fit for human consumption as a flavoring in food, consult a physician before consuming significant quantities of fenugreek or any other herbal treatment.
Fenugreek contains phytoestrogens, chemical compounds similar to estrogen, and consuming fenugreek has been used as a method of increasing a breastfeeding mother's milk for thousands of years, according to registered nurse Cindy Curtis, an international board-certified lactation consultant who founded the informational resource website Breastfeeding Online. Fenugreek extract is most commonly taken in capsule form for breastmilk stimulation purposes. A boost in milk production will be apparent 24 to 72 hours after consuming fenugreek capsules, Curtis advises. Fenugreek supplements can be discontinued after an adequate supply of milk has been reached, as continued nursing by the infant will maintain an ongoing production. Fenugreek should absolutely not be used by pregnant women, however, as it may trigger uterine contractions that can lead to miscarriage.
Studies have demonstrated numerous medical properties of fenugreek, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Among the physiological effects demonstrated are positive impacts on both cholesterol and diabetes, Memorial Sloan-Kettering reports. Fenugreek extract has also shown anti-microbial and nematocidal properties, consistent with its use in traditional medicine for remedying gastrointestinal disorders and fighting inflammation. Fenugreek has also shown preventive action against cancer cells in in vitro testing, although tests on humans have not yet been conducted. Among these tests, Sloan-Kettering references a 2007 in vitro study in which fenugreek arrested the development of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. More study is necessary before fenugreek can be confirmed as a breast cancer treatment, but the effects in in vitro study are promising.