Nursing mothers concerned about milk supply often turn to the herb fenugreek to increase their breast milk. Some use fenugreek to make tea and drink it as galactogogue, the medical term for a substance that stimulates milk production. Fenugreek might also have other health benefits, including possibly reducing blood glucose and cholesterol levels in Type 2 diabetics.
Safety and Efficacy
Herbal teas made from fenugreek seeds appear to be safe to take to increase milk supply, pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears states. But taking fenugreek in tea might not be as effective as taking capsules containing the herb, according to lactation consultant Kathleen Higgins.
Much of the support for fenugreek's effectiveness in increasing breast milk supply is anecdotal. However, a Turkish study published in the February 2011 issue of the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" examined the effects of fenugreek tea on the breast milk volume of new mothers three days after giving birth. The group of women who drank fenugreek tea had higher milk volumes. Their babies also regained the weight that they had lost in the first days after birth and reached their birth weight faster than the babies of mothers who took a placebo.
Fenugreek tea has an unpleasant taste, according to Higgins. You might notice a maple-syrup odor to your urine and perspiration after drinking fenugreek tea. Your baby might also have a maple syrup-like smell. This smell could be confused with a metabolic disorder called maple-syrup disease, according to Drugs.com, so tell your doctor and your baby's doctor if you're taking fenugreek. Some women experience diarrhea, gas or bloating as a side effect. Because fenugreek can stimulate uterine contractions, do not take it if you're pregnant, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine warns. Allergies to fenugreek have been reported. If you develop a rash, wheezing, breathing difficulties, hives or facial swelling, seek medical attention. Fenugreek could theoretically cause internal bleeding or bleeding into the brain, according eMed TV; seek immediate medical attention if you develop black, tarry stools or signs of stroke, such as one-sided paralysis or vision or speech changes.
Fenugreek might help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels when taken in doses higher than 5 grams per day, according to the University of Washington Medical Center Lactation Services. In an Iranian study published in the January 2009 issue of the "International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research," 10 grams of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water decreased fasting blood sugar, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein 25 to 30 percent in Type 2 diabetics.
- AskDrSears.com: Herbs to Increase Milk Supply
- BabyCenter: Can the Herb Fenugreek Increase a Mom's Milk Supply?
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fenugreek
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: The Effect of Galactagogue Herbal Tea on Breast Milk Production and Short-term Catch-up of Birth Weight in the First Week of Life
- Drugs.com: Fenugreek
- University of Washington Health Medical Center Lactation Services: Fenugreek
- International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research: Effect of Fenugreek Seeds on Blood Glucose and Lipid Profiles in Type 2 Diabetic Patients
- eMed TV: Fenugreek
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.