Fenugreek is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat many medicinal conditions such as fevers, coughs, and even stomach upsets. It’s seeds have also been used as a spice for flavoring imitation maple syrup and other baked goods. However, you most likely are more interest in it’s increased benefits for boosting breast milk production. To find out more information about other herbs that can be used for increasing breast milk supply please see my post Galactogogues. It is recommended that before taking any herbs or medications for breast milk, that you seek the advice of a Board Certified Lactation Consultant and/or Physician. In the mean time here are the most common answers to the most common questions.
Is Fenugreek safe?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has listed fenugreek as a GRAS herbal supplement. GRAS stands for Generally Regarded as Safe. There are side effects, which should be taken into consideration. Fenugreek is none to cause changes in blood sugar levels and therefore should not be taken if you are a diabetic without speaking with your health care provider first. Fenugreek is also known to stimulate the uterus and should not be taken while pregnant. The most common side effect is a maple syrup smell to your sweat and urine, and sometimes breast milk. Less common side effects that have been reported are diarrhea and an increase in asthmatic symptoms for lactating women who already have been diagnosed with asthma. Allergic reaction to fenugreek is extremely rare. At this time there have been no known reports of side effects in breastfeeding babies whose mothers use fenugreek.
Where can I get it?
Fenugreek seed capsules are available in most health food stores such as Henry’s Market Place, Trader Joes, Mother’s Market, and GNC. Most pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have begun carrying the capsules as well. The average cost is about $7-$8 for 100 capsules. It also can be bought in a tea or liquid extract drops. The tea is thought to be less potent, and less effective then the capsules. Fenugreek can also be found for sale on the internet.
How much should be taken?
The bottle will most likely have a dosing instructions listed on the label, however this can vary from brand to brand. The recommended dose is 2-3 capsules taken 3 times a day as needed to increase your breast milk supply. It generally takes 24-72 hours before results may be seen. Some brands suggest only taking 1 capsule 1x a day. Although this may be an adequate amount for a nutritional supplement, it is to low of a dose to have any impact on your milk supply.
The best way to increase your milk supply is by supply and demand. You need to empty your breasts every 2-3 hours through breastfeeding or pumping in order to send the correct hormone response needed to produce more milk. See the post increasing milk supply for more information. Best of luck!
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