What Is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is perhaps the oldest known aid to breastfeeding – and even today it remains one of the best options. Fenugreek is a plant also known as ‘Greek Hay’ (or, to botanists, by the Latin name ‘Trigonella foenum-graecum’). For thousands of years it has been used in cookery, fed to animals, and even used as a hair conditioner. More importantly, it has also long been used to increase the amount of milk produced by a nursing mother. It is therefore one of the oldest ways to enable breastfeeding for those mothers having difficulty providing enough milk. Some studies have suggested that Fenugreek is capable of increasing the amount of milk produced by several hundred percent, although there is other research disputing the extent of the change involved.
How Fenugreek Helps Milk Production
We still don’t completely understand the nature of the link between fenugreek and breastfeeding. This is one of those cases where people first see that something works, and then try to understand how there could be any connection between Fenugreek and breastfeeding.
The active ingredient of Fenugreek seem to be phytoestrogens. As the name suggests, these are compounds similar to estrogen, and it is therefore hardly surprising that they have an effect on the breasts, and hence on breastfeeding.
Another explanation involves the fact that breasts evolved out of sweat glands. Fenugreek affects sweat glands, and it is possible that this effect carries over to affecting the modified sweat gland that is the human breast.
Side Effects Of Fenugreek
The effects of Fenugreek are generally positive, but like anything else it can have bad effects on some people. We know that Fenugreek contains nicotinic acid and coumarin, which are drugs with known – and not always good – medical effects. In particular, diabetics should avoid Fenugreek, since it can lower glucose levels in their blood. It is also possible that there is a link between Fenugreek and the symptoms of asthma, since some asthmatics have experienced worsened symptoms after taking Fenugreek.
When To Use Fenugreek
The clearest reason to not use Fenugreek when breastfeeding is if you are one of the groups at risk of the side-effects mentioned above. That is, if you are diabetic or asthmatic, you probably shouldn’t be taking Fenugreek.
If you do decide to take Fenugreek, you should be aware of the amount you are consuming. This is a common problem with herbal remedies, where the label doesn’t always tell you how much of the key ingredient you are getting, and where the amount consumed can vary wildly from product to product.