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Plant Part Used

Seed and leaves

Active Constituents

galactomannans (20%)-soluble dietary fibre (SDF), gum (19.0%), hemicellulose (23.6%), cellulose (8.9%), lignin (2.4%), diosgenin, tigogenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, neogitogenin, smilagenin, sarsasapogenin, yuccagenin, fenugreekine, Lipids (7.9%), trigonelline (0.13%), choline (0.05%), gentianine, carpaine, yellow colouring materials, trigocoumarin, trigomethylcoumarin, anthraquinone glycoside/piperidine, tannins, cyanogens glycosides, volatile oil (


Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum (L.); family Leguminoceae) is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine. This plant has been widely cultivated in Central and Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, India and Northern Africa. Its dried ripe seed is well known for its pungent aromatic properties (1) and is often used to add flavour to foods in Malaysian homes. (2) The plant is an erect, strongly aromatic, annual herb reaching 60 cm high. The leaves are trifoliate with a large petiole and leaflets 2-2.5 cm long. A stipule is found at the base of the petiole. The flowers are small and yellowish-white, borne singly or in pairs in the leaf axils. The fruit, a legume, which arises from the leaf axil, is 5-10 cm long, narrow, and pointed containing about 10-20 brownish-yellow seeds. (3)

In Malaysia, the Malay usually use this herb as a spice but for other communities it has been used in the treatment of diabetes, abdominal colic, bronchitis and cough, sprains, anorexia, furunculosis, myalgia, lymphodenitis, gout, wounds, leg ulcer and epilepsy.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

Seed 1-6 g or equivalent; three times daily.

Most Common Dosage

Seed 1-6 g or equivalent; three times daily.


No standard marker reported. Other standard profiles have been documented in Malaysian Herbal Monograph. (4)

Toxicities & Precautions


Information is not available.

Side Effects

High doses of fenugreek are associated with primarily gastrointestinal symptoms such as cramping, diarrhoea and flatulence.

Pregnancy/ Breast Feeding

Fenugreek is reputed to be oxytocic with in-vitro uterine stimulant activity. (5) It is not advisable to use fenugreek in doses greatly exceeding those normally encountered in foods during pregnancy and lactation.

Age Limitations

Safety in young people and in the elderly has not been established.


Antihyperglycaemic activity
The oral administration of 0.5 and 1 g/kg of aqueous extract and 1g/kg of methanolic extract of Trigonella foenum-graecum produces significant hypoglycaemic effects in normal fasting animals. (6) The aqueous extract of Trigonella foenum-graecum leaves given both orally and intraperitonelly possesses a hypoglycaemic effect in both normal and alloxan-induced hyperglycaemic rats. (7) A possible mode of action is an effect on intestinal carbohydrate digestion. It was found to decrease digestion of starch and glucose absorption both in vivo and in vitro due to its inhibitory effects of its mucilaginous fibers. (8) , (9)

Immunomodulatory effects
The immunomodulatory effect of the extract was observed in mice treated orally with 50 and 100mg/kg of the extract. At the stated dose, it increased the bone marrow cell counts indicating its stimulatory effect on haematopoietic stem cells of bone marrow. It was most effective in inducing the immune functions at the dose of 100mg/kg. (10) Furthermore, the extract showed stimulatory effects on macrophage (the body's primary line of defense against infections). Macrophages play a role in cell mediated immunity by producing various kinds of cytokines like interleukin, interferon, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), active substances like prostaglandin, hydrogen peroxide, super oxide and nitrite. (11)

Hypocholesterolaemic activity
The ethanol extract of the seed of defatted fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) showed a tendency for lower concentrations of liver cholesterol. The hypercholesterolaemic rats were fed 30 or 50 g /kg of ethanolic extract for a 4 week period. The results indicated that the plasma cholesterol levels were reduced from 18 to 26%. The chemical constituent of Trigonella foenum-graecum, particularly saponins, interacted with bile salts in the digestive tract to cause hypocholesterolaemia. (12) In addition, the ethanol extract had the ability to inhibit taurocholate and deoxycholate absorption in a dose–dependent manner.

Other activities
Fenugreek has also been reported to possess antiulcerogenic, antiviral activity against vaccinia virus and antineoplastic effects. It acts as an antihypertensive agent due to its high iron content, antioxidant for the gastric mucose by lowering mucosa injury, antinematodal agent and antiinflammatory agent where it acts as an internal emollient for inflammation of the digestive tract.

Reported uses:

Uses reported in folk medicine, but not supported by clinical data:
Fenugreek has been used in the treatment of diabetes, abdominal colic, bronchitis and cough, sprains, anorexia, furunculosis, myalgia, lymphodenitis, gout, wounds, leg ulcer and epilepsy. It seems to have immunomodulatory effects and may lower blood lipids.

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  1)  Safety


  1. Max B. This is that: the essential pharmacology of herbs and spices. Trends Pharmacology Sciences. 1992;13:15-20.
  2. Perry IM. Medicinal plants of East and South East Asia. Cambridge: MIT Press; 1980:620.
  3. Mariam A, Norhayati I, Zhari I. Pharmacognostic Profile of Trigonella Seed and Its Hypoglycaemic activity. Natural Product Sciences. 1995;1(1):25-30.
  4. Malaysian Herbal Monograph. Semen Trigonellae Foeni-Graeci. 79-84.
  5. Ribes G. Effects of fenugreek seeds on endocrine pancreatic secretions in dogs. Annual Nutr Metab. 1984;28:37-43.
  6. Tayyaba Zia S, Nazrul Hasnain SK. Evaluation of the oral hypoglycaemic effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (methi) in normal mice. J Ethnopharmacology. 2001;75(2-3):191-195.
  7. Jamal ahmed Abdel-Barry, Issa Abed Abdel-assan, Mohammad HH Al-Hakiem. Hypoglycaemic and antihyperglycaemic effects of Trigonella foenum-graecum leaf in normal and alloxan induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacology. 1997;58:149-155.
  8. Al-Habori M, Raman A. Antidiabetic and hypocholesterolaemic effects of Fenugreek. Phytotherapy Research. 1998;12:233-242.
  9. Madar Z, Shomer L. Polysaccharide composition of a gel fraction derived from Fenugreek and its effect on starch digestion and bile acid absorption in rats. Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry. 1990;38:1535-1539.
  10. Bilal Bin-Hafeez, et al. Immunomodulatory effects of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) extract in mice. International Immunopharmacology. 2003;3(1):257-265.
  11. Kaminski NE, Roberts JF, Guthrie FE. A rapid spectrophotometric method for assessing macrophage phagocytic activity. Immunology Letters. 1985;10:329-331.
  12. Stark A, Mazar Z. The effect of an ethanol extract derived from fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) on bile acid absorption and cholesterol levels in rats. Br J Nutr. 1993;69(1):277-87.

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