Is Fenugreek Seed Tea Safe to Drink?
Fenugreek seed tea is widely used for glycemic control, breast milk production, wound healing and other health purposes. The plant has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Unfortunately, there isn't enough evidence to confirm its safety and effectiveness.
Most health benefits associated with fenugreek tea lack solid evidence. Furthermore, this herb may cause digestive distress, worsen asthma symptoms and trigger allergic reactions.
Potential Benefits of Fenugreek Tea
Trigonella foenum-graecum, or fenugreek, is best known for its culinary use. Its seeds boast a sweet, nutty flavor that complements sauces, soups, curries, meat and poultry. What you may not know is that fenugreek contains potent antioxidants and phytonutrients, including saponins, flavonoids and alkaloids. Plus, it's a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and amino acids.
Due to its high nutritional value, this herb has long been used as a natural anticancer, antidiabetic and hepatoprotective agent. According to a review featured in the Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences in April 2018, fenugreek supports digestive health and may help flush out toxins from your body. Several studies conducted over the years support its role in blood sugar control, immune function and lactation.
Read more: 10 Everyday Ailments Soothed by Tea
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, for example, recommends fenugreek tea to breastfeeding mothers. This natural beverage may increase their hydration levels and stimulate break milk production.
A review published in the winter 2016 issue of the Ochsner Journal examined the effects of several herbs, including fenugreek, on breastfeeding. In clinical trials, fenugreek seed tea and supplements were more effective at increasing breast milk production than apple tea and torbangun leaves. However, other studies have found no differences between this herb and a placebo. As the researchers note, all studies had small sample sizes, making it difficult to draw a conclusion.
Fenugreek drink benefits may also include lower blood sugar, according to a January 2014 research paper featured in the Nutrition Journal. This herb may improve glycemic control in people with diabetes, but more research is needed. Its potential effects on blood sugar may be due to its high fiber content.
Are There Any Risks?
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Despite its nutritional value, fenugreek seed tea isn't safe for everyone. This herb exhibits estrogen-like properties and may affect women with breast cancer and other hormone-sensitive cancers, warns the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
If you're pregnant, it's better to avoid fenugreek seed tea and supplements, as they may trigger uterine contractions. Its effects on breastfeeding mothers are unknown.
This plant, whether in tea or supplement form, may also cause diarrhea and increased sweating. Furthermore, it may worsen asthma symptoms, according to the NCCIH. The Nutrition Journal review states that fenugreek may also trigger mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea, bloating and indigestion. However, these side effects subside within days. Some people may also notice changes in urine odor.
A March-April 2014 review in the American Journal of Social Issues and Humanities (AJSIH) points out that fenugreek should be used with caution by those who are allergic to chickpeas because there is a risk of cross-reactivity. Additionally, this herb may cause hypoglycemia due to its ability to lower blood sugar levels. When used in high doses, it acts as a mild central nervous system stimulant and may increase breathing rate or cause tremors.
As discussed earlier, fenugreek is rich in phytonutrients. Some of these compounds may interact with certain drugs and amplify or reduce their effects. For instance, coumarin, a compound found in fenugreek, may enhance the action of anticoagulant drugs, warns the AJSIH. The fiber in fenugreek seeds can delay the absorption of certain medicines or affect their efficacy.
Is Fenugreek Seed Tea Healthy?
This herb is prized for its hypoglycemic, lipid-lowering and antioxidant properties, according to the AJSIH review. It may also help suppress appetite and facilitate weight loss. In a small study, overweight women who drank fenugreek seed tea reported less hunger and increased fullness compared to the placebo group. These findings were published in the July 2015 edition of Clinical Nutrition Research.
Read more: 9 Herbs and Spices to Help You Lose Weight
The research is mixed, though. Most studies that examined the potential benefits of fenugreek were small or conducted on mice, so further investigation is needed. As the NCCIH notes, there isn't enough clinical proof to support the use of this herb for any health condition. Its side effects should not be ignored either.
If you still want to give it a try, make sure you prepare it correctly. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center recommends using a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds for 1 cup of water. Rinse the seeds, add them to boiling water and steep them for three minutes or longer (for a more concentrated tea). Remove the fenugreek seeds, let the tea cool down and then add stevia, raw honey, cinnamon or lemon.
All in all, fenugreek seed tea can boost your antioxidant intake, but the seeds are even more beneficial due to their high fiber content. Just 1 tablespoon provides nearly 3 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.
To stay safe, discuss with your doctor before adding fenugreek seed tea to your diet. This is particularly important for those who are pregnant or suffer from diabetes, blood clotting disorders and other conditions.
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- Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences: "Fenugreek: A Review on Its Nutraceutical Properties and Utilization in Various Food Products"
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: "6 Factors That Won’t Decrease Your Breast Milk Supply"
- Ochsner Journal: "A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breastfeeding"
- NCCIH: "Fenugreek"
- American Journal of Social Issues and Humanities: "Therapeutic Uses of Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-Graecum L.)"
- Clinical Nutrition Research: "Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) and Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-Graecum) Tea Drinking Suppresses Subjective Short-Term Appetite in Overweight Women"
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: "How Can I Use Fenugreek to Increase My Breast Milk Supply?"
- USDA: "Spices, Fenugreek Seed"
Andra Picincu has been offering digital and content marketing / copywriting services since 2009. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Her interests include health, fitness, nutrition, and everything business related.