Fenugreek and Diabetes

Although fenugreek is originally from southeastern Europe and western Asia, it grows today in many parts of the world, including India, northern Africa, and the United States. Its seeds are used medicinally. A wide range of uses were found in ancient times. Medicinally it was used for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis, bronchitis, and digestive problems. Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract. It was, and remains, a food and a spice commonly eaten in many parts of the world.

Constituents

Its seeds contain alkaloids (mainly trigonelline) and protein high in lysine and L-tryptophan. Its steroidal saponins (diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin) and mucilaginous fiber are thought to account for many of its beneficial effects. The steroidal saponins are thought to inhibit cholesterol absorption and synthesis, while the fiber may help lower blood sugar levels. One human study found that it can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with moderate atherosclerosis and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes. Preliminary and double-blind trials have found that it helps improve blood sugar control in patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes. Double-blind trials have shown that it lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. This has also been found in a controlled clinical trial with diabetic patients with elevated cholesterol. Generally, it does not lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

Side Effects and Interactions

Use of more than 100 grams of its seeds daily can cause intestinal upset and nausea. Otherwise, it is extremely safe. Due to its potential uterine stimulating properties, which may cause miscarriages, it should not be used during pregnancy.

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