A small annual plant 30-60 cm (1-2 ft) high (Trigonella foenum-graecum). It is found widely in the Mediterranean, South America, North Africa and India. It has small oval, bright green leaves and has pods containing about 2 dozen seeds. The fresh plant has a pronounced curry aroma

The seeds are an important spice in Indian cookery, included in many curry powders, as well as the Bengali spice blend, panch phora. It has a customary association with childbirth in India and a small fenugreek scented sweet, laddoos, is given to new mothers for a 40 day period after birth.

The seed itself is about 3 mm (1/8 in) long, burnt orange in colour and has a distinctive rectangular shape.

It is quite easy to grow in a temperate climate from seed and the leaves can be used, as in India, as a tasty vegetable.

Medicinally, the spice is quite interesting. The seeds are crushed and fed to cows to increase lactation (perhaps this is the origin of the childbirth association) and they contain a compound, diosgenin, which is used in some oral contraceptives. The powdered seed is also used as a clothing dye.

Fenugreek is a food product that has the effect of increasing milk production. It is an ancient and historical herb used in many parts of the world. Did you ever eat pancakes with "maple" syrup, well that was probably fenugreek (unless you paid top dollar for true maple sugar syrup). Fenugreek is used for making artificial maple flavors.

When used to increase human milk production fenugreek is eaten in large enough amounts that it may cause the woman's body odor to take on a maple like scent. In cultures used to eating fenugreek it is viewed more as a food than a medicine. Note the "ladoos" mentioned by sneff above or as I heard one Indian grandmother instruct her Americanized daughter, "eat it ground with almonds by the spoonful". Another Indian mom had a jar full of fenugreek, coconut and spices that her grandmother instructed her to eat a spoonful of after each meal. In North America however we are not used to the taste of fenugreek and most women who take the seed as a lactogogue (a substance used to increase milk production) prefer it to be in a capsule form. Because fenugreek capsules are simply a ground up seed placed into a capsule quite a few capsules must be taken to get an adequate "dose". Typically 2 - 3 capsules are taken 3 - 4 times a day for a couple of weeks to give the milk supply a boost. The active ingredients of fenugreek are also available in a tincture form and this is felt to be a very effective method to take them by most herbalists. Sometimes tinctures are of one herb and sometimes a combination of herbs. Teas, on the other hand, are not felt to be very effective as too little of the active ingredients are able to be extracted.

I am not an herbalist, so I refer, when needed, to a local, respected herbal shop. If you have need of this product I strongly recommend consulting with real life experts to choose an appropriate product for your own use and to manage the lactation problems that may be occurring. Fenugreek alone will not solve lactation problems but can be used very effectively with other proper management techniques.

Two further cautions. First, fenugreek is known to lower blood sugar. This can be a therapeutic effect but in cases of actual diabetes fenugreek should only be taken with the collaboration of the physician in charge of managing the mother's diabetes. Less insulin or more food may be called for. Second, allergies can exist and if they do asthma symptoms may worsen. Again, involve your doctor and research the botanical names of the plants you may be allergic to, if they are in the same family as fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) proper caution should be exercised.

One reference from the web that goes into great detail about the medicinal effects is:
http://www.advancedherbals.com/herbs/div/trigonella_foenum_graecum.html
and a reference about the culinary use of the seed is: http://www.foodreference.com/html/artfenugreek.html

I've been using Fenugreek as a male for years and I can verify a few things;

*Fenugreek will give you a maple sweet body odor, acting as a natural deodorant, however you will cease to notice this similarly to not noticing the smell of your house after about two three weeks of usage.

*Fenugreek does lower blood sugar, after taking a large amount, 20-30 grams or more I find myself strangely hungry despite having a full stomach in many cases.

*Fenugreek has some action on stimulating LH Luteinizing hormone and therefor BOTH testosterone and estrogen, in the quantities the body wants it. This has the opposite side effect of taking steroids (testicular atrophy) but the amounts of testosterone in circulation will not exceed demand. It is not a way to increase testosterone just normalize it by force.
The danger in this is, theoretically, that the body is producing something it does not think it should be making. There are controls in place to stop the production of hormones for various reasons, the most relevant one being because there are not enough resources.
Therefor; I stress to all males interested in the effects (my testicles have certainly grown, you can find many testimonials to the seed and formulations of the seed likewise on the internet) to first make sure they have more than enough food, lest they risk whatever dangers arrive from the body producing things with resources it doesn't have.

*Fenugreek is sproutable to a 1-2cm tail within 24 hours.

As a side note, I would personally attribute all effects to the stimulation of LH. Testosterone will lower blood sugar and make you hungry, estrogen will make you produce more milk etc. The compounds assumed to have this action have been isolated as saponins, extract of which is usually referred to as "furostanol saponins"

I have not noticed any side effects however a rational assumption is that if someone is suffering from estrogen dominance as a male or visa-versa, this will just aggravate the symptoms as LH will only produce what hormones are called for.

Fen"u*greek (? ∨ ?), n. [L. faenum Graecum, lit., Greek hay: cf. F. fenugrec. Cf. Fennel.] Bot.

A plant (trigonella Fenum Graecum) cultivated for its strong-smelling seeds, which are

"now only used for giving false importance to horse medicine and damaged hay." J. Smith (Pop. Names of Plants, 1881).

 

© Webster 1913.

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