Fenugreek may have some anti-diabetic properties, such as improving insulin resistance, but more research is necessary to support the claim.

Fenugreek is a herb that people have long used as an alternative or traditional medication. People often take the herb as a supplement, and many believe it has several potential health benefits.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects the body’s ability to convert food to energy. The body breaks down most of the food a person eats into glucose and sugar and releases it into the bloodstream.

When the sugar level in the blood rises, it sends signals to the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin allows the body’s cells to use glucose as energy.

This article looks at fenugreek, how it might help with type 2 diabetes, health benefits and risks, how to use it, and alternatives.

Fenugreek seeds on a plate with a spoonShare on Pinterest
YelenaYemchuk/Getty Images

Fenugreek is a herb from the same family as soy.

People use it in a variety of forms, such as:

  • fresh herbs
  • dried roots
  • leaves
  • twigs
  • seeds
  • spice
  • supplement
  • flavoring agent

How to use it in cooking

Fenugreek seeds have a nutty, maple syrup-like smell and taste. A person can use the seeds in spice blends for curries, sauces, and pickles or sprinkled as a powder over yogurt or desserts. Some people add fenugreek to tea.

Some people believe fenugreek has several health benefits, although more research is necessary to determine its effectiveness.

Studies on animals have found that compounds in fenugreek contain anti-diabetic properties. These properties can:

Improve insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity refers to how the body’s cells respond to insulin. When insulin sensitivity is high, the body’s cells use glucose more effectively, which results in lower blood sugar.

A 2018 experimental study observed participants who consumed fenugreek seeds for 10 days. The researchers concluded that fenugreek does exhibit insulin-sensitizing effects.

Delay gastric emptying

Gastric emptying refers to how long it takes for food to leave a person’s system after they eat it. Diabetes can cause rapid gastric emptying, resulting in postprandial spikes, which are temporary rises in blood sugar. These spikes can lead to complications and gastrointestinal symptoms.

2020 research on male rats with diabetes demonstrates that fenugreek seeds and milk thistle may delay gastric emptying, which prevents a rise in blood glucose levels after a meal.

Reduce glucose absorption in the intestine

In a person with diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use it as effectively as it should. This means too much sugar remains in the blood, which can cause severe problems over time. These include:

People with diabetes tend to have high glucose concentrations in the intestine, and an increase in proteins that transport sodium and glucose can increase the likelihood of hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.

Research showed that fenugreek seeds decreased the glucose absorption rate. If fenugreek can reduce the absorption of high glucose levels in the intestine, it may help lower the risk of hyperglycemia.

A 2017 study found that mice fed a high fat diet with fenugreek seed had better glucose tolerance than mice who did not receive the fenugreek. However, they saw no improvement in glucose intolerance in mice who ate a low fat diet.

The researchers also found that mice who exercised on a spinning wheel showed higher glucose tolerance than mice who received fenugreek. This may suggest that a low fat diet and exercise can achieve far better results than fenugreek supplementation for people with diabetes.

A person should speak to a doctor before using fenugreek. Potential side effects may include:

Fenugreek is not safe for use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding in greater amounts than the amounts commonly found in foods. Its safety in larger amounts is unknown, although some research has linked it to increased risks of congenital disabilities in animals and people.

People believe that fenugreek may have several benefits for health conditions, including:

Although there are many reported health benefits of fenugreek, scientific evidence only supports a few of them. These include:

  • Increase sperm levels and testosterone: In a 2017 study, researchers found that 85.4% of males who took an extract of fenugreek seeds for 12 weeks had an increased sperm count, and results suggested that the participants had improved:
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: A 2016 animal study found that extracts of fenugreek seeds are rich in linolenic acids, which can have significant anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. Although more research is necessary, including human trials and long-term, large-scale studies, initial research is promising.
  • Help with weight loss: Due to its high fiber content, fenugreek may increase feelings of fullness, decreasing appetite. Although research has found that people may feel fuller due to taking fenugreek supplements, evidence has not shown that people necessarily consume less because of this.
  • Reduce risks of heart conditions: Recent studies on fenugreek seed extracts support their effectiveness in promoting lean body mass and lowering cholesterol in males.

People with type 1 diabetes usually need a daily insulin injection to maintain blood glucose levels.

For people with type 2 diabetes, balanced meals and exercise are important in controlling the condition. Over time, however, a person with type 2 diabetes may also require insulin or other medication.

Alternative remedies

There is insufficient research for evidence-based support for many alternative or complementary treatments for diabetes. A person should not abandon traditional treatment for these treatments without first seeking advice from a medical professional.

Natural treatments that are of interest regarding diabetes include:

Studies have found that fenugreek does contain some anti-diabetic properties, such as improving insulin sensitivity, delaying gastric emptying, and reducing glucose absorption.

More research is necessary to determine the effectiveness and safety of fenugreek as a treatment for diabetes, as it can have some unwanted side effects.

A person should not stop traditional treatment for diabetes, such as insulin, fenugreek, or other alternative treatments, without discussing it with a doctor first.