Fenugreek concerns

topic posted Sun, December 18, 2005 - 1:14 AM by  Lisa
Because of my dwindling milk supply and the suggestion of some tribe members I am interested in trying Fenugreek to stimulate my milk supply. Since many of the pharmecuticals on the market today are derivatives of herbal remedies, I have a healthy respect for the use of herbal medicines. That being said, here is what I found when researching fenugreek.
All comments on this are welcome. FYI...I HAD gestational diabetes, but seeem to be ok now. "Many herbals contain ingredients that have effects similar to certain medications that pass through the breastmilk and potentially could be dangerous to a nursing mother and her infant. The compounds coumarin and nicotinic acid found in fenugreek, for example, can have very potent effects on heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other bodily functions. If a mother consumes fenugreek regularly in large amounts, her baby can experience these symptoms as well. "

"Breastfeeding mothers are often interested in increasing their milk supply, particularly when mother and baby have been separated because of illness and the baby has been unable to nurse at the breast. The herbal literature suggests that some herbs increase milk production. Number one on this list is fenugreek (Trigorvella foenum-graecuml), an herb that can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and has been tried in the management of diabetes, albeit unsuccessfully. Diabetics must monitor their blood sugar and measure the dosage of medication to manage their illness very carefully, making it very difficult to control the disease with natural substances.

Fenugreek probably has little effect on milk supply until a mother takes large amounts of (about three capsules, three times per day, but this varies from pill-to-pill) and her milk and urine begin to smell like maple syrup, though no clinical trials have been conducted to prove or disprove this relationship. When a mother takes large quantities of fenugreek, the baby begins to smell like maple syrup too, and some babies have been misdiagnosed as having "maple syrup urine disease," a serious metabolic disorder. Another danger associated with fenugreek is that the herb is related to peanuts, the food most likely to cause an allergy. The possibility of an allergic reaction in a baby is quite high, and many cases of colic, stomach upset, and diarrhea have been reported among babies whose mothers take fenugreek."
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  • Re: Fenugreek concerns

    Sun, December 18, 2005 - 10:51 AM

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    Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). Fenugreek seed has been used to increase milk production since biblical times. The herb contains phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. A key compound, diosgenin, has been shown experimentally to increase milk flow.(0)


    What is it?

    Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum L., is an erect annual herb native to southern Europe and Asia. Undoubtedly one of the oldest cultivated medicinal plants, fenugreek is widely grown today in the Mediterranean countries, Argentina, France, India, North Africa, and the United States as a food, condiment, medicinal, dye, and forage plant (11.1-128). The plant reaches a height of 0.3 to 0.8 meters and has trifoliate leaves. White flowers appear in early summer and develop into long, slender, yellow-brown pods containing the brown seeds of fenugreek commerce. (1)

    Fenugreek and Breastfeeding
    Fenugreek seeds contain hormone precursors that increase milk supply. Scientists do not know for sure how this happens. Some believe it is possible because breasts are modified sweat glands, and fenugreek stimulates sweat production. It has been found that fenugreek can increase a nursing mother's milk supply within 24 to 72 hours after first taking the herb. Once an adequate level of milk production is reached, most women can discontinue the fenugreek and maintain the milk supply with adequate breast stimulation. Many women today take fenugreek in a pill form (ground seeds placed in capsules). The pills can be found at most vitamin and nutrition stores and at many supermarkets and natural foods stores. Fenugreek can also be taken in tea form, although tea is believed to be less potent than the pills and the tea comes with a bitter taste that can be hard to stomach. Fenugreek is not right for everyone. The herb has caused aggravated asthma symptoms in some women and has lowered blood glucose levels in some women with diabetes.

    How Much do I Need to Take?
    Fenugreek Capsule Form (580-610 mg)

    2-4 capsules, 3 times per day --- 6-12 capsules (total) per day
    1200-2400 mg, 3 times per day (3.5-7.3 grams/day) (3)
    German Commission E recommends a daily intake of 6 grams (4)

    I recommend that you only purchase Fenugreek from a reputable Herbal store, the quality is generally superior to that found in chain discount stores.

    Fenugreek is considered safe for nursing moms when used in moderation and is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe). As with most medications and herbs, various side effects have been noted; see the potential side effects and safety information below. (8)

    Per Thomas Hale PhD, Medications and Mothers Milk 2004 ,"The transfer of fenugreek into milk is unknown, but untoward effects have not been reported." Hale classifies it in Lactation Risk Category L3 (moderately safe). (9)

    Potential Side Effects
    Sweat and urine smells like maple syrup (this is common and often a sign that you have reached the right dose)
    Loose stools in some women, which go away when fenugreek is discontinued
    Hypoglycemia in some mothers
    Can cause uterine contractions - do NOT use if you're pregnant
    Diabetic mothers should use caution with fenugreek since it can cause lowering of blood glucose levels. (5)
    Little Known Uses
    Fenugreek has an age old reputation as a breast enlarger and contains diosgenin which is used to make synthetic estrogen and has been shown to promote the growth of breast cells. You can drink fenugreek as a tea, use it in yogurt, applesauce or soups, or make a light mixture with any lotion and massage it directly into the breasts. It may also aid in increasing sexual desire in women as well as increasing breast beauty and health. Fenugreek contains choline which may aid the thinking process, and antioxidants that slow aging and help prevent disease. It is also helpful in calming PMS and symptoms of menopause. Fenugreek is also considered to be an aphrodiasiac and rejuvenator. (6)

    Active Constituents and Proposed Mechanism of Action
    The steroidal saponins account for many of the beneficial effects of fenugreek, particularly the inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis.2 The seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which may be the main reason they can lower blood sugar levels in diabetes.3 One human study found that fenugreek can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in persons with moderate atherosclerosis and non-insulin-dependent diabetes.4 Randomized and uncontrolled studies have confirmed fenugreek helps stabilize blood sugar control in patients with insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes.5 6 7 It helps lower elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood,8 including in those with diabetes,9 according to several controlled studies. Generally fenugreek does not lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. This type of cholesterol is believed to be beneficial. (7)

    Active Ingredients
    Fenugreek seeds contain alkaloids (mainly trigonelline) and protein high in lysine and L-tryptophan. Its steroidal saponins (diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin) and mucilaginous fiber are thought to account for many of the beneficial effects of fenugreek. The steroidal saponins are thought to inhibit cholesterol absorption and synthesis,2 while the fiber may help lower blood sugar levels.3 One human study found that fenugreek can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with moderate atherosclerosis and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes.4 Preliminary and double-blind trials have found that fenugreek helps improve blood sugar control in patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes.5 6 7 Double-blind trials have shown that fenugreek lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood,8 9 This has also been found in a controlled clinical trial with diabetic patients with elevated cholesterol.10 Generally, fenugreek does not lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. (10)


    ( 0)












    BOTANICAL NAME: Trigonella foenum-graecum L.

    Name in International Languages

    Spanish : Alholva Or Fenogreco Dutch : Fenegriek
    French : Fenugrec Italian : Fieno Greco
    German : Bockshorklee Portuguese : Alforva
    Swedish : Bockshornklee Russian : Pazhitnik
    Arabic : Hulba Chinese : k'u - Tou
    Japanese : Koroha Finnish : Sarviapila
    Written by : CIndy Curtis, RN,IBCLC
    • Re: Fenugreek concerns

      Sun, December 18, 2005 - 11:04 AM


      When a breastfeeding mother experiences a low milk supply, galactagogues are sometimes helpful in stimulating more milk production. Before using them a lactation consultant should assesses and make recommendations in breastfeeding management (including positioning and latch, sucking issues and frequency of nursing and/or pumping with a high quality pump). When those recommendations are not enough it may be helpful to use one or more of the following. All herbs and medications have potential side effects and should be taken knowledgeably and with guidance from your heath care provider. Some require a prescription. This sheet is not intended to provide all the necessary information. For more information check Dr. Jack Newman’s website (pediatrician in Toronto) at

      Reglan (Metoclopramide) is available at any pharmacy by prescription. The usual dosage is 10-15mg. 3 times a day. Because it crosses the blood-brain barrier a significant number of women experience mild to severe side effects such as drowsiness (usually temporary), gastric upset, depression, mood changes or extrapyramidal symptoms.

      Domperidone (Motilium) is more commonly used outside the USA, but has become the drug of choice with most lactation consultants because it has fewer side effects and appears to be more effective. It is available through compounding pharmacies in the USA or outside the USA as listed below. The dosage is usually 20 mg. four times a day for 3-8 weeks (some women take up to double this dose).

      It takes 2-3 weeks to get a maximum effect, but results are often seen in several days. Some women take the medication for months, some gradually wean off it without a decrease in supply. To wean off it, slowly decrease the amount taken by dropping 5mg. a day of the reglan or 10mg a day of the domperidone for 4-5 days. If the supply remains adequate, drop another 5-10mg. for 4-5 days, etc. You will find more information at the websites below.

      Popular herbs used to increase supply are Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle capsules, 2 of each taken 3-4 times a day, or 3 of each taken 3 times a day. Fenugreek can have adverse side effects in some women.(REALY bad for woman with breathing problomes)
      Goat's Rue may also be helpful in increasing glandular tissue and thereby milk production.

      Motherlove makes liquid herbals that are popular including one safe to take during pregnancy.

      Web page specific to domperidone/motilium (also look for reglan/metoclopramide):

      Other resources include Tom Hale’s “Medications and Mothers’ Milk 2004” and “Clinical Therapy in Breastfeeding Patients” by Tom Hale Ph.D. and Pamela Berens M.D 2002

      To get Domperidone locally, your doctor can prescribe it through Medical Center Pharmacy in Brunswick, where it can be picked up or they can mail it. 729-3642
      or outside the USA try the following (a prescription is not required):
      New Zealand Pharmacycare 1-877-271-6591 10 mg 100/25.00 NZ$ - 300/60.00 NZ$ - 600/$110.00 NZ$ (includes shipping which takes about 14 days). $110 NZ equals about $50-60 US

      South Seas Pharmaceutical Ltd. PO Box 15 Port Vila Vanuatu S. W. Pacific
      Phone free US 1-877-271-6591
  • Re: Fenugreek concerns

    Sun, December 18, 2005 - 11:06 AM
    here is more good info
    • Re: Fenugreek concerns

      Sun, December 18, 2005 - 11:44 AM
      Wow, I didn't know about all those issues concerning Fenugreek. I know it has helped some people increase supply...not so much for other people. There are definitely other things you can do to increase supply like drinking more water, pumping between feedings, and some people swear on oatmeal and beer...and of course nursing, nursing, nursing!
      • Re: Fenugreek concerns

        Fri, December 30, 2005 - 12:51 PM
        I took fenugreek at the suggestion of my lactation consultant. I went to an Indian grocer and purchased food grade fenugreek. Fenugreek is used in Indian cooking all the time. I stuffed the powder into non-gelatin capsules and took them three times a day. No problems for me or my son.
        • Re: Fenugreek concerns

          Thu, January 5, 2006 - 4:51 PM
          i have taken fenugreek with strong reccomendations of my midwife and community with no problems for me or my daughter. wonderful results within days! maple syrup b.o.
  • Re: Fenugreek concerns

    Sun, January 8, 2006 - 4:26 PM
    If you have diabetes with a tendancy toward low blood sugars, then I would be carefull with anything that tends to lower it. I find that I tend to drop when nursing. If you do take lowering agents such as this you want to test like a fiend, and be certain to intake some fat and protien prior to bed.

    You can also drink red raspberry tea and there are tea blends available specifically for milk supply.

    Water as others have stated is essential also whole grains.

    Also if baby is gaining weight within parameters you may just be seeing your milk supply adjusting to what you usually put out, unless you're pumping. That's more of a case of efficiency and mental issues. When I was trying to pump during my last baby, my supply dropped to nothing during the day but continued to have tons at night until he weaned completely from the breast.

    You might contact the La Leche League for advice, they have a website and should be able to direct you to members and mentors as well as professional lactation consultants in your area.

    Good luck and don't give up,
  • Re: Fenugreek concerns

    Fri, January 13, 2006 - 5:50 PM
    Hops are one of the best herbs for milk supply. Of course, the easiest way, and possibly most enjoyable, depending on your personal values, to get hops is to sit down with a beer. Small amounts of alcohol will not hurt or intoxicate your baby. Besides, a beer would help you relax as well, and relaxation is key to a healthy milk supply.

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