Fenugreek, an herb with a nutty flavor whose seeds are used whole or ground in Asian cuisines, has never been linked to allergies—until now.
Researchers at the Institute of Science in Bombay, India, are exploring the possibility that the combination of powders from fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum) and chickpea (Cicer arietinum) may cause allergic reactions in people who are not allergic to either of the herbs alone. Chickpea also is an ingredient in many Asian dishes.
In a 1996 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, researchers found three cases of allergic reaction to the combination among thirty people—ten with and twenty without food allergies. The study participants had been asked to eat chickpea powder, then were given a skin-scratch sensitivity test for fenugreek seeds. Two people with known food allergies and one person without reacted to the skin test, yet none of the three had shown an allergic reaction to either fenugreek or chickpea powder alone.
Fenugreek and the chickpea are members of the Leguminosae, or legume, family, which also includes peanuts, soybeans, and green peas. It will take more research to see whether fenugreek seed powder causes allergic reactions when combined with other members of the legume family.
Patil, S. P., et al. “Allergy to Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum).” Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology 1997, 78:297–300.
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