• Clinical data 90%
  • Efficacy 80%
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  • Toxicity 30%

Trigonella foenum-graecum
Semen Trigonellae Foenugraeci


Buceras foenum-graecum (L.) All., Foenum-graecum offi cinale Moench, F. offi cinale Moench var. cultum Alef., F. sativum Med., Folliculigera graveolens Pasq., Tels foenum-graecum (L.) Kuntze, Trigonella foenum-graecum L. subsp. culta (Alef.) Gams, T. graeca St Lag. and T. jemenensis (Serp.) Sinsk. Fabaceae are also known as Leguminosae.

General appearance

Oblong-rhomboidal, 3.0–5.0 mm long, 2.0–3.0 mm wide, 1.5–2.0 mm thick, with rounded corners, rather smooth. Yellowish-brown to reddishbrown, with a deep furrow dividing each seed into two unequal lobes, and a deep hilum at the intersection of the two furrows. Texture hard, not easily broken. Testa thin, endosperm translucent and viscous; cotyledons two, pale yellow, radicle curved, plump and long.

Major chemical constituents

Semen Trigonellae Foenugraeci is rich in mucilage (25–45%) and contains a small amount of essential oil (0.01%) and a variety of secondary metabolites, including protoalkaloids, trigonelline (up to 0.37%), choline (0.05%); saponins (0.6–1.7%) derived from diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin and other compounds; sterols including β-sitosterol; and fl avonoids, among which are orientin, isoorientin and isovitexin.

Medicinal uses of Trigonella foenum-graecum

Uses supported by clinical data
As an adjunct for the management of hypercholesterolaemia, and hyperglycaemia in cases of diabetes mellitus. Prevention and treatment of mountain sickness.
Uses described in pharmacopoeias and well established documents
Internally for loss of appetite, and externally as a poultice for local inflammations. Treatment of pain, and weakness and oedema of the
Uses described in traditional medicine
As an aphrodisiac, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, galactagogue and tonic. Treatment of abdominal colic, bronchitis, diarrhoea, eczema, gout, indigestion, dropsy, fever, impotence, chronic cough, liver disorders, wounds and the common cold.


Experimental pharmacology
Antihypercholesterolaemic activity
Intragastric administration of 30.0 g/kg body weight (bw) or 50.0 g/kg bw of an ethanol extract of Semen Trigonella daily for 4 weeks to hypercholesterolaemic rats reduced plasma cholesterol levels by 18% and 25%, respectively. Treatment also lowered liver cholesterol concentrations in these animals.

Antihyperglycaemic activity

Oral administration of 250.0 mg of an aqueous or methanol extract of seeds daily to normal and diabetic rats signifi cantly reduced blood glucose levels after eating or the administration of glucose (P < 0.05). Intragastric administration of 250.0 mg of an ethanol extract of the seeds daily for 28 days reduced blood glucose levels in rats with streptozotocininduced diabetes, and increased the number of beta cells and the diameter of pancreatic islet cells.
Intragastric administration of 2.0 g/kg bw or 8.0 g/kg bw of the seeds to rats with or without alloxan-induced diabetes produced a signifi cant decrease (P < 0.05) in blood glucose. Intragastric administration of a single dose of 0.5 ml of a decoction or 200.0 mg/kg bw of an ethanol extract of the seeds to mice with or without alloxan-induced diabetes reduced serum glucose levels. Chronic administration of a high-fibre defatted extract of the seeds in the diet (content not specifi ed) to dogs with alloxan-induced diabetes for 21 days decreased hyperglycaemia and glucosuria, and reduced the high levels of plasma glucagon and somatostatin. Intragastric administration of an acetone extract of the seeds (dose not specifi ed) to fasted rats antagonized hyperglycaemia induced by cadmium or alloxan but had no effect on normal animals.

Anti-implantation activity

Extracts of the seeds (undefi ned) exhibited anti-implantation effects (approximately 30%) in rats when administered orally in a single dose of 25.0 mg/kg bw from day 1 to day 10 of pregnancy. The average number of fetal implants was signifi cantly decreased (P < 0.05).
Antioxidant activity
Administration of 2 g/kg bw of the seeds in the diet of rats with alloxaninduced diabetes lowered lipid peroxidation, increased the glutathione and β-carotene concentrations and reduced the α-tocopherol content in the blood.

Gastrointestinal effects

Administration of 10.0 mg/300 g bw, 12.5 mg/300 g bw or 100.0 mg/300 g bw of a steroid-enriched extract of the seeds per day in the diet to rats with or without streptozotocin-induced diabetes signifi cantly (P < 0.01) increased food intake and the motivation to eat. The treatment also decreased total plasma cholesterol without changing the level of triglycerides.


Intragastric administration of a debitterized powder of the seeds to mice and rats, 2.0 g/kg bw and 5.0 g/kg bw respectively, did not produce any signs of acute toxicity or mortality. In a 90-day subchronic study, weanling rats were fed with the powder in the diet, 1.0%, 5.0% or 10.0%. Terminal autopsy showed no signs of organ damage, increase in liver enzymes, haematological changes or toxicity (36). Administration of a saponin fraction from the seeds by intramuscular injection, by intraperitoneal injection, 50.0 mg/kg bw per day, or in drinking- water, 500.0 mg/kg bw, to chicks for 21 days decreased body weight and increased liver enzymes. Pathological changes observed included fatty cytoplasmic vacuolation in the liver, necrosis of hepatocytes with lymphocytic infi ltration, epithelial degeneration of the renal tubules, catarrhal enteritis, myositis and peritonitis (37). Intragastric administration of an aqueous or 95% ethanol extract of the seeds (dose not specifi ed) stimulated uterine contractions in healthy and pregnant rats, mice and guinea-pigs (38, 39). In vitro, a 50% ethanol extract of the seeds, 2%, had spermicidal effects and immediately immobilized human sperm on contact (40, 41).

Clinical pharmacology

Numerous clinical studies have assessed the effects of the seeds on serum cholesterol and glucose levels in patients with mild to moderate hypercholesterolaemia or diabetes.
In a crossover trial, the effects of a powder of the seeds of Momordica charantia (MC) or Trigonella foenum-graecum (TF), or a combination of the two on total serum cholesterol, high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, very-low density-lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides were investigated in 20 hypercholesterolaemic non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus patients. Each subject was given 4.0 mg of MC, 50.0 mg of TF or a 50% combination of the two per day for 14 days. Mean serum total cholesterol was 271.4 mg/dl at the start of the study, and was signifi cantly (P < 0.001) decreased to 234.1 mg/dl, 230.6 mg/dl and 225.8 mg/dl after MC, TF or the combination treatment, respectively. All other lipid parameters were also signifi cantly decreased (P < 0.001).
In a placebo-controlled clinical trial, the effect of ginger and Semen Trigonella on blood lipids, blood sugar, platelet aggregation, and fi brinogen and fi brinolytic activity was investigated. The subjects included healthy volunteers and patients with coronary artery disease and/or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Healthy subjects treated with 2.5 g of the seeds twice per day for 3 months showed no changes in blood lipids and blood sugar (either fasting or after eating). However, in diabetic patients with cardiovascular disease, the treatment signifi cantly (P < 0.001) decreased total cholesterol and triglycerides, without affecting high-density- lipoprotein concentrations. In diabetic patients without cardiovascular disease, the seeds reduced blood sugar levels in both fasting and non-fasting subjects, although the treatment was not effective in patients with severe diabetes.
A prescribed diet with or without the seeds, 25.0 g/day, was given to 60 patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes for a 7-day preliminary period and then for a 24-week trial. The diet containing the seeds lowered fasting blood glucose and improved glucose tolerance. The 24-hour urinary sugar excretion was signifi cantly reduced (P < 0.001), and glycosylated haemoglobin was signifi cantly reduced (P < 0.001) by week 8 of the trial. The effect of the seeds on blood glucose and the serum lipid profi le was assessed in 10 patients with insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes patients. Isocaloric diets with or without the seeds, 100.0 g/day, were administered in a randomized manner for 10 days. The diet containing the seeds signifi cantly reduced (P < 0.001) fasting blood sugar and improved glucose tolerance tests. There was a 54% reduction in 24-hour urinary glucose excretion. Serum total cholesterol, low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, very-low-density- lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides were also reduced. The highdensity- lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations remained unchanged. In a long-term study, 60 patients with diabetes ingested 25.0 g of seeds per day for 24 weeks. No changes in body weight or levels of liver enzymes, bilirubin or creatinine were observed, but blood urea levels decreased after 12 weeks. No evidence of renal or hepatic toxicity was observed.

Adverse reactions

Allergic reactions to the seeds following ingestion or inhalation have been reported. These reactions range from rhinorrhoea, wheezing, fainting and facial angioedema. A 5-week-old infant had a 10-minute episode of unconsciousness after drinking a tea prepared from the seeds; however, upon medical examination, all tests were normal.


Semen Trigonellae Foenugraeci is contraindicated in cases of allergy to the plant material. Owing to its stimulatory effects on the uterus, the seeds should not be used during pregnancy.


No information available.

News and Journals

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