What Is Fenugreek?

Does it really help boost breastmilk production? Read on!

Alison Miksch/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Fenugreek is a plant with the scientific name of Trigonella foenum-graecum. This fragrant herb, along with peas and beans, also belongs to the legume family. Its dried seeds may also be used as a spice.

Fenugreek is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. But now, fenugreek is also planted and grown in other parts of the world—like central and southeastern Europe, India, western Asia, and northern Africa.

Fenugreek has certain components (parts)—like galactomannan fiber, saponin, and hydroxyisoleucine—that are likely responsible for how this plant might work.

This article discusses what you should know about fenugreek—its potential uses, side effects, and interactions.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. Choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF, when possible. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, talking to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and checking in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications is important.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredients (s): Galactomannan fiber, saponin, hydroxyisoleucine
  • Alternative name(s): Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum, Trigonella, Alhova, Bird's foot, Bockshornklee, Bockshornsame, Chandrika, Fenogreco, Foenugraeci Semen, Greek Clover, Greek Hay, Greek Hay seed, Hu lu ba, Medhika, Methi, Senegrain, Woo Lu Bar, and more
  • Legal status: Legal in most states (United States). Generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Substance added to food.
  • Suggested dose: May vary based on plant part, dosage form, and medical condition.
  • Safety considerations: Substance added to food. Children. Pregnancy (high dosages), breastfeeding (limited safety data). Fenugreek may also interact with some prescription medications and other supplements.

Uses of Fenugreek

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Like many herbs, people may use fenugreek for various reasons. But there are several studies assessing fenugreek for the following potential uses.


Two systematic reviews examined fenugreek's potential for controlling blood glucose (sugar). And according to another systematic review, fenugreek has the following effects:

Fenugreek has many dosage forms. And these sugar-lowering effects might be linked to the following fenugreek forms:

  • Cooked whole seeds
  • Extracted powder
  • Gum isolates of seeds
  • Whole raw seeds

It's unclear whether degummed seeds and cooked leaves of fenugreek would have these effects. Aside from dosage forms, specific daily dosages of fenugreek may have more effect than lower ones. While this information looks promising, larger, well-designed studies are still necessary.

High Cholesterol

Based on a systematic review and meta-analysis, results suggested that fenugreek decreased the following:

What's more, fenugreek may also increase high-density lipoprotein ("good cholesterol"). But fenugreek didn't appear to have any effect on weight. And well-designed clinical trials—especially in people with high cholesterol—are still necessary.

Breast Milk Production

Traditionally, fenugreek was used as a galactagogue. In other words, it was used for breast milk production. But the study results are mixed.

According to a systematic review, it's uncertain if galactagogues help you make more breast milk. But some evidence supports that natural galactagogues—like fenugreek—might help breastfeeding parents make more milk for their infants to achieve healthy weights.

However, well-designed clinical trials are still necessary to better study and measure this effect. What's more, well-designed studies may help evaluate the effectiveness and safety differences of various galactagogues.

Menstrual Cramps

In a systematic review, there was limited evidence to support using supplements like fenugreek for dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual period cramps). There was also little data to assess the safety of these supplements.

More research and higher-quality clinical trials are needed.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that affects people assigned female at birth. In PCOS, there is too much of a specific group of sex hormones called androgens. This may result in various symptoms that may include:

People with PCOS are also at risk for other medical conditions, such as diabetes (high blood sugar).

In a small clinical trial, 50 study participants took two capsules of 500 milligrams (mg) of Furocyst daily for 90 days. Furocyst is a specific fenugreek seed extract. At the end of the clinical trial, 46% of participants had smaller ovarian cysts—with an additional 36% experiencing no more cysts. Moreover, 71% of study participants reported regular periods—while 12% became pregnant. But there were no changes in blood sugar, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein ("good cholesterol").

While some of the data for PCOS is promising, this clinical trial was small. Aside from this, the participants were not randomized. Moreover, the fenugreek seed extract wasn't compared to a placebo (a substance with no medication). For these reasons, larger and well-designed studies are necessary.


According to the results of a small clinical trial, people with mild asthma might benefit from fenugreek as an add-on treatment to an as-needed beta-agonist (e.g., albuterol). In this clinical trial, some of the study participants took 10 milliliters (mL) of fenugreek syrup by mouth twice daily for four weeks. The fenugreek seed extract was compounded (prepared) into syrup with a honey solution.

By the end of the clinical trial, the fenugreek study participants experienced the following when compared to the honey syrup and placebo syrup groups:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Lower levels of interleukin-4 (a naturally occurring protein that plays a role in inflammation or swelling of the airways)

The fenugreek participants also had better lung function when compared to the placebo group. But larger and well-designed studies are still needed.

What Are the Side Effects of Fenugreek?

Like many medications and herbs, side effects are possible with fenugreek.

Common Side Effects

Fenugreek is "generally regarded as safe" by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But since there are few high-quality human studies, there is limited information about this herb's safety.

In a review, no or minor side effects with fenugreek were typically found. But some possible common side effects are generally related to the digestive system. For example, some people may experience the following:

Severe Side Effects

There were no significant side effects with fenugreek in a small 90-day study in people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). But possible serious side effects may include:

  • Serious allergic reaction: If you have a severe allergic reaction to fenugreek, you may experience symptoms of swelling, itchiness, rash, and breathing difficulties. It's also possible to have this reaction to fenugreek if you have a severe allergy to peanuts, chickpeas, or other members of the legume family.
  • Liver problems: There are reports of liver problems with fenugreek. If you're having liver problems, symptoms may include dark-colored urine and yellowing of the eyes or skin.
  • Low blood sugar: While lowering blood sugar is a potential use of fenugreek, this effect might be excessive and severe with large doses. If you're experiencing seriously low blood sugar, symptoms may include sweating, tremors, and excessive tiredness.
  • Low potassium: There are reports of low potassium levels with fenugreek. If you have hypokalemia (low potassium), you might experience symptoms of muscle weakness or cramps, abnormal heartbeat or heart rhythm, and numb or tingling sensations.
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN): One report of a breastfeeding parent experiencing TEN might be due to fenugreek. TEN is a severe and life-threatening skin condition. If you have TEN, symptoms may include blistering, peeling, and painful skin.
  • Worsening asthma symptoms: While results from a small study suggested that people with mild asthma might benefit from fenugreek, there are also reports of worsening asthma with this herb. Symptoms of worsening asthma may include wheezing and breathing difficulties.

Call 911 and get medical help immediately if you have a severe allergic reaction or any of your symptoms feel life-threatening.


Your healthcare provider may advise against using fenugreek if any of the following applies to you:

Severe allergic reaction: If you have a severe allergic reaction to fenugreek or its components (ingredients), you shouldn't take this medication. You should also avoid fenugreek if you're severely allergic to peanuts, chickpeas, or other members of the legume family.

Pregnancy: Fenugreek was linked to adverse effects on the unborn fetus. For this reason, it isn't recommended during pregnancy. To discuss the benefits and risks of fenugreek while pregnant, reach out to your healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding: In a systematic review, some evidence supported natural galactagogues—like fenugreek. However, while they might help breastfeeding parents make more milk for their infants to achieve healthy weights, more extensive and well-designed studies are necessary to assess fenugreek's effects and safety on breastfeeding parents and their nursing babies.

With few high-quality studies, fenugreek's safety while breastfeeding is uncertain. But there is one report of a breastfeeding parent experiencing a severe and life-threatening skin condition, which might be linked to fenugreek. Reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss the benefits and risks of fenugreek while breastfeeding.

Children: Children should likely avoid fenugreek.

Older adults over 65: There is little data about fenugreek—including in older adults. Some older adults may be more sensitive to side effects from medications. For this reason, take fenugreek with caution.

Liver problems: There are reports of liver problems with fenugreek. For this reason, your healthcare provider may recommend avoiding fenugreek if you have a liver condition.

Dosage: How Much Fenugreek Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

While there are some small human studies on fenugreek, larger and well-designed studies are still necessary. For this reason, there are no guidelines on the appropriate dosage to take fenugreek for any condition.

In India, some adults may consume 0.3 to 0.6 grams (g) of fenugreek seed daily. As for fenugreek supplements, people usually take between 1 to 5 grams every day. If you want to try fenugreek, talk with your healthcare provider first. And follow their recommendations or the label instructions.

What Happens If Take Too Much Fenugreek?

There are limited high-quality human studies on fenugreek, but the FDA placed this herb on its GRAS list. GRAS means substances that are generally recognized as safe.

While fenugreek is a GRAS substance, the maximum recommended daily intake is 21 grams (g) to avoid an overdose. But fenugreek supplements might have doses as high as 100 grams.

If you take large doses of fenugreek, you'll likely have dangerously low blood sugar, a possible serious side effect of this herb. It's also a possibility that you might experience other severe side effects, such as liver problems or low potassium.


Use caution when taking fenugreek with the following:

  • Blood thinners: Fenugreek has been shown to thin blood. This may worsen blood thinners' bleeding and bruising side effects, such as Jantoven (warfarin).
  • Diabetes medications: Fenugreek has lowered blood sugar. For this reason, this herb may have additive effects with your diabetes medications. Symptoms of low blood sugar may include sweating, tremors, and excessive tiredness. One blood sugar-lowering product is Glumetza (metformin). Examples of blood sugar-lowering insulin products include Humalog, Humulin R, Lantus, Levemir, Basaglar, and Apidra. More information about how different types of insulin work may be found here.
  • Heart-related medications: Fenugreek might make the following heart medications more effective: beta-blockers (e.g., metoprolol), calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine), and cardiac glycosides (e.g., digoxin). So, fenugreek may also worsen these medications' side effects, such as excessively slow heart rate and low blood pressure. Symptoms of these side effects may include lightheadedness and fainting spells.
  • Potassium-lowering medications: Fenugreek has lowered potassium levels. So, this herb may have additive effects with other medications—like certain diuretics (water pills)—with similar effects. For example, Lasix (furosemide) may lower potassium levels. Low potassium symptoms may include muscle weakness or cramps, abnormal heartbeat or heart rhythm, and numb or tingling sensations.
  • Theophylline: While Theo-24 (theophylline) isn't commonly used anymore, it's an asthma medication. When taken with fenugreek, this herb may affect how theophylline is absorbed or broken down in the body.

How to Store Fenugreek

Since storage instructions may vary for different herbal products, carefully read the directions and packaging label on the container. But in general, keep your medications tightly closed and out of the reach of children and pets, ideally locked in a cabinet or closet. Try to store your medications in a cool and dry place.

Discard after one year or as indicated on the packaging. Avoid putting unused and expired drugs down the drain or in the toilet. Visit the FDA's website to know where and how to discard all unused and expired drugs. You can also find disposal boxes in your area.

Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have any questions about how to dispose of your medications or supplements.

Similar Supplements

A systematic review attempted to analyze several herbal medications on their effectiveness and safety for painful menstrual period cramps. Aside from fenugreek, this review also included ginger. Limited evidence supports both fenugreek and ginger in relieving painful menstrual period cramps.

Fenugreek and ginger were also included in a systematic review of several natural therapies or drugs for their possible effectiveness and safety as galactagogues. Galactagogues are used to improve milk production. Evidence suggests that fenugreek and garlic might help breastfeeding parents make more milk for their infants to achieve a healthy weight. But there isn't enough data to conclude whether one is better. Also, garlic may cause digestive discomfort in some infants.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most common dosage form for fenugreek?

    Fenugreek is available in several different dosage forms—with capsules potentially being the most common.

  • Is fenugreek available from manufacturers in the United States?

    Yes. There are fenugreek products that manufacturers make in the United States.

  • Does fenugreek have any nutritional benefit?

    Yes. Fenugreek has several nutrients, including proteins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate (vitamin B9), calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc.

  • Does fenugreek cause weight gain?

    In a systematic review and meta-analysis, fenugreek didn't seem to significantly affect weight.

  • How do I take fenugreek safely?

    To safely take herbal medications like fenugreek, inform your healthcare providers and pharmacists about any medication changes. This includes over-the-counter (OTC), herbal, natural medications, and supplements.

    They can help prevent possible interactions and side effects. They can also ensure you’re giving fenugreek a good trial at appropriate doses.

Sources of Fenugreek & What to Look For

There are several different sources of fenugreek.

Food Sources of Fenugreek

Fenugreek is naturally available as a plant in the legume family—along with peas and beans. The FDA also generally recognizes fenugreek as safe to be used as a seasoning or flavoring agent. So, you may see it used as a culinary (cooking) herb. It's also a flavoring agent in foods, drinks, and tobacco.

Dietary changes may interact with your medications or affect your medical conditions. For this reason, talk with your healthcare provider first. They will help you safely make any dietary changes.

Fenugreek Supplements

Fenugreek is available in a few different forms, including capsules. If you have difficulties swallowing pills, fenugreek might also be available in the following dosage forms:

  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Tea bags

There are also vegetarian options.

According to a review, fenugreek might also be available in the following forms:

  • Whole raw seeds
  • Cooked whole seeds
  • Cooked leaves
  • Extracted powder
  • Gum isolates of seeds
  • Degummed seeds

Your specific product will depend on your preference and what you hope to get in terms of effects. Each product may work a bit differently, depending on the form. So, following your healthcare provider's recommendations or label directions is essential.


Fenugreek is a spice used for cooking. People may also have other uses for this herb. There are studies assessing fenugreek for the following potential uses:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Breast milk production
  • Menstrual period cramps
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Asthma

With limited high-quality human studies available, further research is needed better to evaluate fenugreek's effectiveness and safety for these uses.

As a seasoning or flavoring agent, fenugreek is generally considered safe. But side effects are still possible. Common side effects may include diarrhea and gas. This herb may also lower your blood sugar and potassium levels. For this reason, use caution with diabetes medications and certain water pills.

There are no specific recommendations regarding dosing. As for fenugreek supplements, people usually take between 1 to 5 grams every day. Fenugreek can be found in several dosage forms, including capsules and liquids.

22 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ross Phan, PharmD, BCACP, BCGP, BCPS
Ross is a writer for Verywell with years of experience practicing pharmacy in various settings. She is also a board-certified clinical pharmacist and the founder of Off Script Consults.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process