Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Traditional Indications 

Fenugreek is anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, cardiotonic, carminative, demulcent, deobstruent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, galactogogue, hypoglycaemic, hypocholesterolaemic, hypotensive, laxative, parasiticide, restorative. Fenugreek is much used in herbal medicine, especially in North Africa, the Middle East and India. The seed yields a strong mucilage and is therefore useful in the treatment of inflammation and ulcers of the stomach and intestines. The seed is very nourishing and body-building and is one of the most efficacious tonics in cases of physical debility caused by anaemia or by infectious diseases, especially where a nervous factor is involved. It is also used in the treatment of late-onset diabetes, poor digestion (especially in convalescence), insufficient lactation, painful menstruation, labour pains etc. Fenugreek acts as a carminative to lessen any colic associated with constipation.

In Ayurvedic medicine, fenugreek is known to have anti-carcinogenic properties and reduce blood cholesterol levels. It is also used as a laxative. The seeds should not be prescribed medicinally for pregnant women since they can induce uterine contractions. As a galactogogue it specifically stimulates the flow of breast milk. (1)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fenugreek is known as Hú Lú Bā 胡庐巴. Hú Lú Bā is bitter and warm and enters the Kidney and Liver channels to Warms the Kidneys, disperse Damp-Cold, alleviates pain and increase lactation. (2)


A network meta-analysis looking at the effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue found that consumption of fenugreek significantly increased amount of the produced breast milk versus placebo. (3)

Drinking fennel seed tea is a significantly effective aid to suppress subjective appetite among overweight women in South Korea. (4)

In relation to lowering glucose and cholesterol, human clinical studies with volunteers showed a dosage form of 500 mg given once or twice daily either alone or in combination with standard, synthetic anti-diabetic drugs such as metformin and glipizide provided beneficial effects on controlling plasma glucose levels. (5) The hypoglycaemic activity of fenugreek seed extract is mediated through the stimulation of an insulin signalling pathway. (6)

Various dietary components that can potentially be used for the prevention and treatment of cancer have been identified. A study demonstrated that fenugreek seed extract (FE) is cytotoxic in vitro to a panel of cancer but not normal cells. (7) The in vitro effect of fenugreek as a substance with significant cytotoxicity to cancer cells points to the potential usefulness of fenugreek in the prevention and treatment of cancer. (8) Diosgenin isolated from fenugreek extract prevents telomerase activity by down regulation of the hTERT gene expression in A549 lung cancer cell lines. (9)

Findings of a study on fenugreek and pyridoxine induced peripheral neuropathy in mice demonstrate that treatment with fenugreek seed extract can potentially facilitate healing. (10)

1. PFAF. Foeniculum vulgare. 2019.
2. Info CH. Hu Lu Ba – Fenugreek seed – Trigonella 2019 [Available from: https://chineseherbinfo.com/hu-lu-ba-fenugreek-seed-trigonella/.
3. Khan TM, Wu DB-C, Dolzhenko AV. Effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue: A network meta-analysis. 2018;32(3):402-12.
4. Bae J, Kim J, Choue R, Lim H. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) Tea Drinking Suppresses Subjective Short-term Appetite in Overweight Women. Clinical nutrition research. 2015;4(3):168-74.
5. Deng R. A review of the hypoglycemic effects of five commonly used herbal food supplements. Recent patents on food, nutrition & agriculture. 2012;4(1):50-60.
6. Vijayakumar MV, Singh S, Chhipa RR, Bhat MK. The hypoglycaemic activity of fenugreek seed extract is mediated through the stimulation of an insulin signalling pathway. 2005;146(1):41-8.
7. Shabbeer S, Sobolewski M, Anchoori RK, Kachhap S, Hidalgo M, Jimeno A, et al. Fenugreek: a naturally occurring edible spice as an anticancer agent. Cancer biology & therapy. 2009;8(3):272-8.
8. Alsemari A, Alkhodairy F, Aldakan A, Al-Mohanna M, Bahoush E, Shinwari Z, et al. The selective cytotoxic anti-cancer properties and proteomic analysis of Trigonella Foenum-Graecum. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. 2014;14:114-.
9. Rahmati-Yamchi M, Ghareghomi S, Haddadchi G, Milani M, Aghazadeh M, Daroushnejad H. Fenugreek extract diosgenin and pure diosgenin inhibit the hTERT gene expression in A549 lung cancer cell line. Molecular biology reports. 2014;41(9):6247-52.
10. Moghadam FH, Vakili-Zarch B, Shafiee M, Mirjalili A. Fenugreek seed extract treats peripheral neuropathy in pyridoxine induced neuropathic mice. EXCLI journal. 2013;12:282-90.