Fenugreek is traditionally used to promote the secretion and flow of milk. A spice commonly used in Indian curries, to my surprise, it is also found in Greek and Egyptian food. I tested a few Indian men and some had heard of fenugreek used for this purpose. Needless to say, many Indian women know this well. It is an extremely easy recipe and mothers who need help to boost lactation should try this.
How do you make this?
Soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in two and a half cups of water overnight in a stainless steel saucepan. There’s no need to be exact about measurements.
Next morning, boil the concoction until it reduces to approximately two cups, strain and drink when warm.
Does it work?
Although there is anecdotal evidence from generations of Indian women, there are few randomised studies. Peer-reviewed research for herbal and pharmaceutical products for lactation are lacking (shame!).
A positive trial comprised sixty-six postpartum mothers (22 in each of 3 groups) who had full term healthy babies. They were randomly assigned to receive an herbal tea, placebo, or nothing. Mothers in the herbal tea group received at least 3 cups daily of 200 mL of tea containing hibiscus, fennel extract, rooibos, verbena, raspberry leaves and fenugreek.
The placebo group drank similar-looking apple tea. When tested using an electric breastpump, mothers who drank the herbal tea produced more breastmilk on the third day of the experiment than mothers in the other groups. The infants in that group regained their birth weights than those in the other control groups. No single ingredient can be considered solely responsible for the tea’s effects, although the researchers attributed the action to fenugreek.( Turkyilmaz C, Onal E, Hirfanoglu IM et al. The effect of galactagogue (milk-inducing) herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. J. Altern Complement Med. 2011;17:139-42. )
One lactation website says
… we have worked with at least 1200 women who have taken the herb. Many of these mothers began by changing the frequency and duration of breastfeeding: In some cases the use of a fully automatic breast pump was necessary when it was determined that the infant did not sufficiently drain the breast. A significant number of mothers who took the herb, however, did not need other interventions. …Nearly all of the mothers who take fenugreek report an increase in milk production, generally within 24 to 72 hours after starting to take the herb. http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/fenuhugg.shtml#sthash.Knv0ZkvR.dpbs
This same website recommends fenugreek capsules, but I would say the natural fenugreek tea recommended above is safer.
Are there any side effects?
Please be aware that fenugreek may cause diarrhea, so only drink a little of the tea to start before going on to drink 2-3 cups over two to three days. Mothers with diabetes, or asthma, or any medical conditions should seek their doctors’ advice before trying the tea as there may be allergic reactions. Chances are if you habitually eat curries, you would be accustomed to taking fenugreek.
Where do you buy the ingredients?
You can buy packets of fenugreek at any Asian foodstore or the Asian spice section in large supermarkets.