cooking india

Fenugreek for Parkinson’s?

If you like Indian cooking, you’ve probably eaten fenugreek. This little plant produces both leaves and seeds, which are used in cooking. The fresh leaves are cooked, or dried and used as flavoring; the seeds are often toasted and ground and used as a cooking spice. The flavor somewhat resembles maple syrup.

Fenugreek seeds and leaves
Fenugreek leaves and seeds

Healing with fenugreek

Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine also make use of this herb. Doctors in Asia have used it to treat many conditions. These include diabetes, fever, gout, atherosclerosis, indigestion, constipation, and heartburn. There isn’t yet research to prove its effectiveness in most cases, but it looks promising.

Fenugreek and Parkinson’s disease

Scientists found the cause of PD is associated with inflammation, damage to cellular mitochondria, and oxidative injury. They also knew that in cell studies, fenugreek seeds protect against inflammation and oxidation, and support the mitochondria. Researchers, therefore, wanted to determine whether the seeds might be used along with levodopa to help treat Parkinson’s disease (PD).1

Although small, the study lasted six-months. It was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled, which is considered good quality research. The study judged the effectiveness of an extract of the seeds as an aid to levodopa treatment.

Forty-two subjects with PD took either a placebo or 300 mg capsules of a standardized extract of fenugreek, twice daily, for six months. All the subjects were using levodopa to treat their PD. At the end of six months, the Hoehn and Yahr scores of 21.7% of the patients’ in the treated group were lower, compared to 5.3% in the placebo group. There was also a slower rise in total UPDRS scores in the treated group.

The study authors concluded that the fenugreek extract was safe, and could be a useful treatment along with levodopa in managing PD.

Cooking with fenugreek

Fenugreek in flatbread
Methi Paratha, an Indian flatbread stuffed with fenugreek leaves and spices.

The extract used in the study is not available, but cooks can easily purchase the seeds. If you’d like to try cooking with them, there are many recipes online. You may find a new favorite dish!

For recipes using fenugreek, click: Recipes

1Nathan J1, Panjwani S, Mohan V, Joshi V, Thakurdesai PA. Efficacy and safety of standardized extract of Trigonella foenum-graecum L seeds as an adjuvant to L-Dopa in the management of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Phytother Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):172-8.

Comments 3

  1. Debbie
    July 3, 2017

    Dear Kathrynne:

    I have been reading your online materials with respect, relief and hope.

    I thought perhaps you might engage in fee-for-service skyp consultations on behalf of my mom who has had PD for 15 years, DBS for 5 and is having more “off” periods between med doses. She is eating too much protein during the day. She is living in an excellent assisted living and I need help navigating their menu in such a way that she and the staff can remember and implement.

    If you are not able, might you know of a PD informed nutritionist in the Orange County area of California who could help?


    Debbie Kirschbaum
    949 395-2350

    1. Kathrynne holden
      December 2, 2017

      Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for visiting my website.

      I’ve searched for a dietitian experienced in PD in your mom’s area, but have had no success. However, if you could supply some information, I will try to put together some information that might help the staff in her assisted living. There is no charge.
      PD is, as you know, very complex, and is unique to each individual. Therefore, I need details to form a concept of your mom’s needs.

      – age
      – the names of all medications used (both PD, and other medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbal or other supplements)
      – the times of day when she takes each medication
      – her meal (and snack, if any) times
      – any other diagnosed conditions (such as elevated blood pressure, food allergies, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.)
      – any particular complaints or concerns besides increased off time, such as nausea, edema, weight changes, constipation, sadness, difficulty chewing or swallowing, difficulty managing eating utensils, etc.
      – This next is particularly important — has she had blood tests for vitamin D — 25(OH)D; serum homocysteine; hypothyroidism; vitamin B12 (methylmalonic acid)? Many people with PD are deficient in vitamin D and B12, which contributes in great part to symptoms. If she has not had these tests, I recommend her doctor conduct these as soon as possible.

      It is important to see a neurologist who is a movement disorders specialist; please note whether that is the case.

      I hope to hear from you, and will help if I can.
      My very best regards to you and your mom,


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