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 14

  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,


  2. Jules
    June 23, 2018

    Hi, As a follow up to the prior note, I too would be interested to inquire if you are perhaps aware of any nutritionists local to NYC metro area or those willing to work virtually are available with a PD focus. Thank you.

    1. Kathrynne holden
      June 27, 2018

      Jules, I don’t know of anyone at this time, but I will inquire for you. It may take a few days, but I will reply.

    2. Kathrynne holden
      July 8, 2018

      Jules, Here is what I’ve found:

      Jenny Torino, RD
      33 Gold Street, Apt 211
      New York, NY 10038

      Ilene Cohen, MS,RD,CDE
      New York City area
      – fluent in Spanish, working knowledge of French
      – work phone: (212) 241-7469

      I’m not certain whether these are up to date, but it is worth trying, and I wish you the very best. -Kathrynne

  3. Ruth Derrick
    July 7, 2018

    My husband has Parkinson’s and has had for about 4 years. He has good days and bad days, but first of all, we need to remember he is a male and has no real determination to improve his ability to walk better. He loves bread, hamburgers, meat of any kind, has type 2 diabetes, which is well controlled, because I have been Type 1 diabetes for 63 years (with no problems). He just seems to think “there is nothing I can do to help myself, so why try attitude. It drives me crazy! What can I do to help?

  4. Kathrynne holden
    July 8, 2018

    Ruth, I’m not sure if this applies to your husband, but apathy is extremely common among people with PD, and is very difficult to overcome. If you could convince him to try a PD-related program, it can make a tremendous difference. There is speculation that the increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain and can promote dopamine formation; it may be true, as many folks find their PD symptoms are relieved temporarily and become motivated to continue to keep getting the improvement.

    Some YMCAs or local gyms have someone trained to work with people with Parkinson’s; also you could check to see if there is a Rock Steady Boxing program near you. If there is a local PD support group someone will have such information.

    It’s great that you have helped him control his diabetes, that is a tremendous feat in itself. An exercise program would be likely to further add to his diabetes control. I wish you and your husband the very best!

  5. Judith
    July 20, 2018

    Hello Kathrynne,

    My father was diagnosed with PD about 5 years ago. He is extremely underweight now, and is having consistent swallowing issues (he is seeing a swallowing specialist and doing exercises). Are there any smoothies/beverage recipes you can recommend that can help him gain weight and important nutrients? He drinks Ensure fairly regularly, but that one seems to be full of sugar and not a whole lot of health benefit. Thanks for you help, Judith

    1. Walt Chalmers
      February 26, 2019

      My comment is for Judith whose father was ‘extremely underweight’ in July of 2018. My wife was the same way and a friend of ours had lost a lot of weight due to cancer treatments. He recommended MEGACE, available by prescription. It has been a God-send. Good luck, Walt Chalmers

      1. Kathrynne holden
        February 26, 2019

        Thank you Walt, Megace is a very good appetite stimulant. Her father has swallowing issues which will also need to be addressed.

  6. Kathrynne holden
    July 22, 2018

    Hi Judith,
    I’m glad to hear your father is seeing a swallowing specialist and doing the exercises, that will be the best possible way to avoid choking or inhaling foods/liquids. And it’s great you’re noticing the ingredients listed on Ensure, you can do better than that.

    For good supplements, I would try Orgain: They have organic protein powders so you can make your own smoothies, or prepared protein or nutritional shakes, also organic.

    Another company is Kate Farms:

    If you’d like to make his smoothies/shakes, you might get the Orgain protein powder and the Orgain nutritional powder; then daily make up a smoothie with the protein powder, alternating with one made with the nutritional powder, for a variety of nutrients each day.

    I hope this is helpful; let me know if you have other questions.

  7. Maria
    March 7, 2019

    Hello, I’m thankful I found your website. I’ve been getting Dyskinesia with my 2 sinemet every 3 hours, tried lowering dose but 2 keeps me walking and keeps my left foot from turning inward. My Dr prescribe Amantadine but I don’t like the idea of taking something that was meant for the flu virus everyday. Is their something natural that would work.? Than you, Maria

  8. Kathrynne holden
    March 8, 2019

    It sounds like you’re taking regular Sinemet every 3 hours. Do you get the dyskinesia each time you take the Sinemet dose? If not, and if you are taking it too close to meals in order to maintain the gait, ask your doctor if it is possible to be overmedicated, causing dyskinesia.

    If that is not the case, then here is a point to discuss with your doctor: some people find relief by eating a small amount of protein-rich food – two or three ounces of milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter, an egg, or an ounce of a predigested protein drink. Sometimes the protein will block some of the levodopa absorption, helping to control dyskinesia. This would probably take a good deal of experimentation on your part, and certainly should receive your neurologist’s approval before trying it.

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