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Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

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Also listed as: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • 1-Methylnicotinic acid, 3-amino-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone, 3-carboxy-1-methyl pyridinium, 3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone, 3-O-alpha-L-rhamnosyl quercetin, 4-hydroxyisoleucine (4-OH-Ile), 5,7,3'-trihydroxy-5'-methoxylisoflavone, abish (Amharic), acetyl-beta-D-hexosaminidase, alholva (Spanish), alkaloids, alpha-galactosidase, alpha-mannosidase, amber, amino acids, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, beta-galactosidase, beta-glucosidase, betaines, beta-mannanase, beta-sitosteryl glucopyranoside, biochanin A, bird's foot, bockhornsklöver (Swedish), Bockshornsamen (German), Bockshornklee (German), calcium, calycosin, Canadian fenugreek seed, Canadian-grown fenugreek, carotenoids, çemen (Turkish), chilbe, CN 19062, CN 19067, CN 19070, CN 19071, copper, coumarin, D-3-O-methyl-chiroinsitol, daidzein, dioscin, diosgenin, ethyl-alpha-D-glucopyranoside, Fabaceae, fatty acids, fenegriek (Dutch), fenigreko, fenogreco (Galician, Spanish), fenogrego, fenugree, fenugreek flour, fenugreek gums, fenugreek leaves, fenugreek saponin I, fenugreek seed, fenugreek spouts, FenuLife®, fenu-thyme, fieno greco (Italian), flavonoids, Foenugraeci semen, formononetin, furostanol glycosides, galactokinase, galactomannan, galactomannan galactosyltransferase, galactose, gamma-schizandrin, GDP-mannose-dependent (1-->4)-beta-D-mannan synthase, gitogenin 3-O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-->2)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, gitogenin 3-O-beta-D-xylopyranosyl-(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, glycosides, görögszéna (Hungarian), graine de fenugrec (French), gray hay, Greek hay, Greek hay seed, Griechische Heusamen (German), halba (Malay), hilbeh (Arabic, Hebrew), hu lu ba, hulba (Arabic), iodine, irilone, iron, isoflavonoids, kaempferol 3,7-O-alpha-L-dirhamnoside, kaempferol 3-O-alpha-L-rhamnoside, kaempferol 3-O-beta-D-glucosyl(1-->2)-(6"-O-acetyl)-beta-D-galactoside 7-O-beta-D-glucoside, kaempferol 3-O-beta-D-glucosyl(1-->2)-beta-D-galactoside 7-O-beta-D-glucoside, kasoori methi (Hindi, Urdu), kozieradka pospolita (Polish), kreeka lambalääts (Estonian), lectins, lilyn, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, magnesium, manganese, mannose, mente (Kannada), mentikura (Telugu), mentulu (Telugu), methi (Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Urdu), methika (Sanskrit), methini, methri, methro, methylnicotinic acid, methyl-protodeltonin, methyl-protodioscin, minerals, mithi guti (Assamese), N-acetyl-beta-D-hexosaminidase, naringenin, niacin, nicotinic acid, N-methyl nicotinic acid, N,N'-dicarbazyl, nucleotide pyrophosphatase, oleic acid, oligomannosyl-1,4 phosphorylase, orientin 2''-O-p-trans-coumarate, pazhitnik grecheskiy (Russian), penantazi (Burmese), phenolic acids, phosphorus, phytate, phytic acid, potassium, protodioscin, quarto, quercetin, quercetin 3,7-O-alpha-L-dirhamnoside, quercetin 3-O-beta-D-glucosyl(1-->2)-beta-D-galactoside 7-O-beta-D-glucoside, raffinose, riboflavin, rubidium, sag methi (Hindi), sapogenins, saponins, sarsasapogenin, sarsasapogenin 3-O-beta-D-xylopyranosyl-(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, sarviapila (Finnish), scopoletin, selenium, shabaliidag (Pahlavi), shambala, shanbelile (Farsi), smilagenin, sotolone, stachyose, star fenugreek, steroidal sapogenins, strontium, sucrose, syndrex, titanium, tricin, tricin 7-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, trigonella, Trigonella, Trigonella balansae, Trigonella caerulea, Trigonella foenum-gracecum, Trigonella poenumgraecum L., Trigonella semen, Trigonella stellata, trigonelline, trigoneoside Xa, trigoneoside Xb, trigoneoside XIb, trigoneoside XIIa, trigoneoside XIIb, trigoneoside XIIIa, UDP-galactose-dependent (1-->6)-alpha-D-galactosyltransferase, uluhal (Sinhala), uwatu (Swahili), vendayam (Tamil), venthayam (Malayalam), vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitexin, vitexin 2''-O-p-trans-coumarate, wheat-fenugreek, yamogenin, zinc, ZT-5.
  • Brand names: Fenugreek by Nature's Way, Fenugreek by Now, Fenugreek by Planetary Formulas, Fenugreek by Puritan's Pride, Fenugreek by Solaray, Fenugreek by Vitamin World, Fenugreek Caps by Thompson Nutritional Products, Fenugreek Capsules by Greenbush, Fenugreek Freeze Dried by Eclectic Institute, Fenugreek Liquid Extract by Eclectic Institute, Fenugreek Liquid Extract by Nature's Answer, Fenugreek Powder by Greenbush, Fenugreek Seed by Doctor's Trust, Fenugreek Seed by Natural Factors, Fenugreek Seed by Nature's Herbs, Fenugreek Seed by Swanson, Fenugreek Seed C/S Powder by Alternative Health and Herb Remedies, Fenugreek Seed Liquid Extract by Gaia Herbs, Fenugreek Tea by Alvita Tea, Fenugreek Tincture by Alternative Health and Herb Remedies, Fenugrene by Laboratoires Legra (France), Organic Fenugreek Seed by Solaray, Single Herb Fenugreek Vegicaps by Christopher's Original Formulas.
  • Combination product examples: Fibernat (fenugreek, guar gum, and wheat bran), Billberry Plus by Eagle Pharmaceuticals (Australia), Blood Sugar by Nature's Way, Blood Sugar Formula by Iherb Inc., Bustea Enhancement Tea by Greenbush, Comfrey and Fenugreek by Dial Herbs, Completia Diabetic Multivitamin by Nature's Way, Daily Detox II by DNE Pharmaceuticals Inc., Enhancement Blend Capsules by Greenbush, Femaprin by Nature's Way, Fenugreek Plus by Metagenics, Fenugreek and Thyme by Nature's Sunshine, Fenugreek and Thyme by Now, Fenugreek and Thyme by Solaray, Fenulife® Best Weight Control by Swanson, Fenulin by Gerard House Ltd (United Kingdom), FenuZymeT Bronc Care by Amazing Herbs/Theramune, Fibernat (fenugreek seed powder, guar gum, and wheat bran), FolliGroT System 1 Fenugreek Extract by FolliGro Ltd, Gadional by Cinfa (Spain), Garlic and Horseradish Complex by Suisse Naturopathics (Australia), Garlic and Horseradish Plus C Complex by Cenovis (Australia), Gland Formula Liquid by Alternative Health and Herb Remedies, Glucobetic® by Flourish, Gluco ScienceT by Source Naturals, Glucose Modulators by Solgar, Glucose Optimizer by Jarrow, Glucose Regulation by Doctor's Choice, Glycemic Factors by BioChem, Heart Formula Tincture by Alternative Health and Herb Remedies, Herbal Breast Enlargement Kit by Greenbush, Immune System Formula Tincture by Alternative Health and Herb Remedies, Lung Support Formula Tincture by Alternative Health and Herb Remedies, More Milk Plus by MotherLove, Natural Factors betaine HCL with Fenugreek, Panax Complex by Blackmores Ltd (Australia), Promilin Fenugreek Extract by Source Naturals, Sinus and Hayfever by Vitaglow (Australia), Sthenorex by Laboratoires Pharmygiene (France), Sugar Balance by Lean Results, Sugar Ease by Pinnacle, Super CKL Colon Detox by Amazing Herbs/Theramune, System Well by Nature's Way, System Well Ultimate Immunity by Nature's Way, Ultimate Respiratory Cleanse by Nature's Secret, Women's Nursing Mom Tea by Yogi Tea.

Background
  • Fenugreek is a plant belonging to the family Fabaceae. Both the leaves and the seeds are commonly used. Fenugreek is produced in Asia, the Middle East, South America, and southern Europe. Fenugreek seeds are often used in the making of garam masala, a South Asian spice blend.
  • Fenugreek has a long history of use in Indian and Chinese medicine for many purposes, including promoting labor, digestion, and good metabolism and health.
  • Early studies suggest that fenugreek seed powder may have blood sugar- and cholesterol-lowering effects. Fenugreek has also been studied for promoting breast milk and enhancing exercise performance, as well as indigestion, head lice, skin care, and weight loss. However, strong evidence is still needed to support these uses.
  • Caution is needed in people who take blood sugar-lowering agents, as their blood sugar levels should be monitored when taking fenugreek.
  • Low potassium levels have been reported with fenugreek use. Potassium levels should be monitored in people who have heart conditions or are those taking potassium-lowering agents.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Fenugreek is popularly used for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. It is among the top 10 plants used for diabetes in Morocco and Quebec. Studies show that fenugreek lowers blood sugar levels. Fenugreek has been studied in many preparations and combination products. Although the research shows promising results, further study is needed.

A


Studies show that fenugreek is effective for increasing milk production. Although the research shows promising results, further study is needed.

B


Limited research suggests that fenugreek may increase swimming endurance, increase muscle energy, reduce body fat levels, and increase bench and leg press strength. However, other studies report a lack of benefit. There is a lack of evidence at this time to support the use of fenugreek as an exercise performance agent. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Early study suggests that fenugreek may decrease head lice. More research on the use of fenugreek alone is needed.

C


Fenugreek has been widely studied for the treatment of high cholesterol, typically as part of combination treatments. Although the results are promising, more research is needed before further conclusions may be made.

C


Fenugreek has been found to decrease the symptoms and duration of indigestion. However, some conflicting results have been found. Further research is needed before conclusions may be made.

C


Early research suggests that a skin cream containing fenugreek seed extract may benefit the skin. Further research is needed before conclusions may be made.

C


Fenugreek is one of the more popular plants used for diabetes, and has been widely studied for this purpose. Early research suggests that fenugreek may benefit people who have type 1 diabetes. Although promising, more information is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

C


Fenugreek seed extract has been found to reduce daily fat intake in overweight people. It has also been shown to improve feelings of fullness in obese people, as well as reduce dietary fat intake in healthy people. Further study is needed to confirm the benefit of fenugreek on weight loss.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abortion, abscess (pus build-up causing swelling), alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, appetite stimulant, baldness, boils, breast enhancement, breast feeding (adopted babies), bronchitis, burns, calming, cancer, canker sores, cataracts, cavities, cellulitis, chemotherapy side effects, childbirth, colic, colon cancer, constipation, cough (long-term), diarrhea, dysentery (bloody diarrhea), energy enhancement, enhancing recovery from surgery or illness, fever, food uses (flavor), furunculosis (recurring boils), gas, gallstones, gastritis (stomach inflammation), gout, heart disease (weakness), H. pylori, hepatomegaly (swelling of the liver), hernia, high blood pressure, immune function, impotence, infections, inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, insecticide, insulin potentiation (the use of insulin and chemotherapy for cancer), kidney function, kidney stone prevention, labor induction, leg swelling, leg ulcers, leukemia, liver damage (alcohol-induced), liver conditions, lymphadenitis (infection of the lymph nodes), memory, menopause, menstrual cramps, metabolic syndrome (coronary heart disease), muscle and joint distress, pain relief, parasites, postmenopausal vaginal dryness, protection against alcohol toxicity, rickets (vitamin D deficiency in children), splenomegaly (swelling of the spleen), staphylococcal infections, stomach disorders, stomach ulcers, stomach upset, swelling, thiamin deficiency, thyroid disorders (overactive thyroid), tuberculosis, ulcers, vitamin deficiencies, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Note: Products rich in fenugreek fiber may affect the absorption of medications taken by mouth. Medications should be taken separately.
  • For indigestion, four 500 milligram capsules of fenugreek fiber (Fenu-Life®) have been taken by mouth twice daily 30 minutes before meals for two weeks.
  • For type 1 diabetes, 100 grams of powdered fenugreek seeds in bread has been taken by mouth in two divided doses at lunch and dinner for 10 days.
  • For type 2 diabetes, 25 grams of seed powder, 150 grams of leaves, or 5 grams of gum isolate have been divided and taken by mouth in two equal doses for up to 24 weeks. Fenugreek has been taken by mouth in bread form in the following doses: 56 grams of bread containing 5 percent fenugreek at a single breakfast, and 100 grams of fenugreek seed powder in bread daily for 10-20 days. A dose of 2.5-100 grams of crushed or cut fenugreek seed has been used daily or once as a single dose. Doses of 1 gram of fenugreek seed extract or 5-100 grams of fenugreek powder has been taken by mouth daily in up to three divided doses as pills or capsules, or mixed with foods, including yogurt, hot water, or pongal (an Indian rice dish), for up to six months.
  • For exercise performance enhancement, two capsules or 500 milligrams of Torabolic® (fenugreek extract) has been taken by mouth daily for eight weeks. Fenugreek extract has been taken immediately after and two hours after exercise. A 500 milligram T. foenum-graecum capsule has been taken daily in the morning on non-training days or before working out on training days for eight weeks.
  • For breast milk production, one capsule containing 600 milligrams of powdered fenugreek seed has been taken by mouth three times daily for 30 days. Fenugreek has been taken by mouth as three cups of tea daily or three capsules daily. Capsules containing 1-2 grams of dried fenugreek seed powder and a tea made from crushed fenugreek seeds have been taken by mouth 1-3 times daily.
  • For high cholesterol, the following forms and doses of fenugreek have been taken by mouth: 2.5 grams of fenugreek seed powder in capsule form, twice daily for three months; 100 grams of powdered seeds, twice daily for 10-21 days; 25-50 grams of fenugreek powder extract, twice daily for 20 days; and 12.5-25 grams of powdered fenugreek seeds, daily for 3-24 weeks.
  • For weight loss, 588-1,176 milligrams of fenugreek extract has been taken by mouth daily for 2-6 weeks. A single dose of 8 grams of fenugreek fiber has been taken by mouth.
  • For skin care or infections, muscle pain, lymph node inflammation, gout, wounds, and leg ulcers, fenugreek has been applied to the skin in the form of a poultice of fenugreek seeds ground with water or a cream containing 4 percent concentrated fenugreek extract daily for six weeks.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for fenugreek in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to fenugreek, chickpeas, coriander, or peanuts, parts of fenugreek, or plants in the Fabaceae family.
  • Allergic reactions have been reported, including diarrhea, eye allergy symptoms, facial swelling, fainting, hives, lung muscle spasm, nose allergy symptoms, skin numbness, wheezing, and worsened asthma.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Fenugreek is likely safe in common food amounts. It is possibly safe when used in studied amounts for up to three months.
  • Fenugreek may cause dizziness, estrogen-like effects, fullness, gas, inflammation or swelling of the muscles, inflammation of the stomach lining or intestines, kidney or liver problems (in high doses), low potassium levels, nausea, skin pigment changes, thyroid effects, and uterus stimulation.
  • Fenugreek may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Fenugreek may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Fenugreek may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system.
  • Fenugreek may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people who are taking medications by mouth, especially agents that treat abnormal heart rhythms, beta-blockers, birth control, cardiac glycosides, corticosteroids, hormonal agents, laxatives, or potassium-lowering agents.
  • Use cautiously in people who have or are at risk of asthma, heart conditions, low potassium levels, nervous system disorders, stomach or intestine disorders, and thyroid conditions.
  • Use cautiously in children.
  • Avoid in women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to fenugreek, chickpeas, coriander, or peanuts, parts of fenugreek, or plants in the Fabaceae family.
  • Avoid taking fenugreek saponins by mouth in large doses, or injecting into the muscle, stomach, or under the skin in large doses. Avoid inhaling large amounts of fenugreek powder.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of fenugreek during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Avoid in women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Fenugreek may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Fenugreek may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Fenugreek may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Fenugreek may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood, and may cause altered effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. People using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Fenugreek may also interact with agents taken for abnormal heart rhythms, agents taken by mouth, agents taken for the ears, agents taken for the eyes, agents taken for the heart, agents taken for the skin, agents taken for the stomach and intestines, agents that affect blood vessel width, agents that affect the immune system, agents that affect the nervous system, agents that harm the liver, agents that promote abortion, agents that promote breast milk, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, albumin, antacids, anti-asthma agents, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidepressants (including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)), antifungal agents, antigout agents, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, antiprotozoal agents, anti-ulcer agents, aspirin, beta-blockers, birth control, cardiac glycosides, cholesterol-lowering agents, corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide, dental agents, estrogens, exercise performance enhancers, fertility agents, glimepiride, growth hormones, hormonal agents, insecticides, iron, laxatives, pain relievers, potassium-lowering agents, progesterone, propranolol, proton pump inhibitors, sodium bicarbonate, sulfonylureas, testosterone, thyroid hormones, warfarin, and weight loss agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Fenugreek may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Fenugreek may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may be altered in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
  • Fenugreek may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Fenugreek may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Fenugreek may also interact with antacids, anti-asthma herbs and supplements, antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antidepressants (including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)), antifungal herbs and supplements, antigout herbs and supplements, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antioxidants, anti-parasite herbs and supplements, anti-ulcer herbs and supplements, beta-carotene, boldo, birth control, calcium, cardiac glycosides, carnitine, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, cholinesterase inhibitors, dental herbs and supplements, exercise performance enhancers, fertility herbs and supplements, guar gum, herbs and supplements taken for abnormal heart rhythms, herbs and supplements taken by mouth, herbs and supplements taken for the ears, herbs and supplements taken for the eyes, herbs and supplements taken for the heart, herbs and supplements taken for the skin, herbs and supplements taken for the stomach and intestines, herbs and supplements that affect blood vessel width, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that affect the nervous system, herbs and supplements that promote abortion, herbs and supplements that promote breast milk, herbs and supplements that protect the liver, honey, hormonal herbs and supplements, insect repellants, iron, laxatives, lutein, pain relievers, phytoestrogens, potassium-lowering herbs and supplements, sodium bicarbonate, steroidal agents, thyroid herbs and supplements, vanadate, vanadium, vitamin E, and weight loss herbs and supplements.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
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Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


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