What Is Fenugreek?

What it is: The seeds of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are ground up and used to flavor curries and other dishes. Rich in fiber, flavonoids, and other potentially beneficial compounds, fenugreek is also sold as a dietary supplement.

Intended uses: Promoted for a variety of uses, from managing diabetes to boosting libido and improving appetite.

What the science says: Several studies have found that high doses can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes—but other studies have not shown benefits, and a review in Canadian Family Physician in 2009 concluded that there’s “very limited evidence to support the use of fenugreek in diabetes management.” Fenugreek has also been shown to decrease appetite and fat intake, but there’s no evidence it helps in actual weight loss. The few studies on fenugreek’s effects on blood cholesterol have had inconsistent results. Preliminary research suggests potential benefits of fenugreek on sexual arousal and for Parkinson’s disease.

Special precautions: Fenugreek can lower glucose levels.

Common side effects: Stomach upset, skin irritation.

Possible interactions: Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, blood thinners, insulin, other diabetes drugs.

Our take: Fenugreek has interesting properties that make it worth studying. But we recommend that you limit its use to cooking and skip supplements, since their benefits are unproven and their long-term safety unknown. Keep in mind that if high-dose fenugreek does lower blood sugar, its effects could be unpredictable, which could be risky in people with diabetes.