Fenugreek capsules contain ground seeds of the herb fenugreek, a nutritional supplement that has been used historically as a spice in Middle Eastern food and medicinally for a variety of ailments, including digestive upsets and to induce childbirth. In modern times, fenugreek capsules are taken most frequently by diabetics to control blood sugar levels and by lactating women to increase milk supply. Other conditions that may be treated using fenugreek capsules include gastrointestinal problems, skin conditions, and a variety of medical conditions.
The effects of fenugreek on reducing blood sugar in type I and type 2 diabetes have been established in several studies. It is thought that fenugreek slows the rate that sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive system and stimulates production of insulin. In one study, diabetics experienced lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels while leaving good cholesterol levels unchanged. Other evidence does not support fenugreek’s effect on cholesterol. Some research has suggested that fenugreek may lower triglycerides in diabetes patients.
Fenugreek may increase milk production in nursing mothers, although this has not been proved in research studies. Many doctors prescribe fenugreek capsules because they are a relatively safe herbal supplement with few side effects. When using fenugreek capsules to promote milk production, fenugreek can be passed to the baby through breast milk. Although this is considered safe, it may cause the baby’s urine to develop a maple syrup odor. This may be confusing as this is also a symptom of maple syrup disease.
Many cultures have used fenugreek throughout history for a variety of uses. It is considered an aphrodisiac and effective at treating both male and female sexual problems. It is believed to improve erectile dysfunction and may help balance female hormones, especially during menopause.
For many years, fenugreek has been used as a poultice to treat skin infections and inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory effects are especially useful for treating eczema, burns, and abscesses. Fenugreek may also be ingested to treat stomach ailments. Fenugreek is extremely high in fiber, which may account for its beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and regulating blood sugar.
Fenugreek capsules are considered relatively safe, but there are a few serious side effects. Pregnant women should never take fenugreek because it may induce uterine contractions and cause premature labor. Fenugreek tea has caused unconsciousness in children that later resolved. Some people may experience stomach upset when taking fenugreek. In rare cases, someone may experience an allergic reaction to fenugreek. Like other herbal supplements, fenugreek is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).