Both Ayurveda and TCM have identified weight loss herbs. Fenugreek seeds come from the Trigonella foenum graecum plant, one herb mentioned in Ayurveda known for its anti-diabetic property. The first question is – is fenugreek useful in causing weight loss, and if yes, what scientific evidence supports this spice?

Let me share some of the most popular herbal combinations recommended for weight loss in Ayurveda and TCM.


A weight loss herbs combination contains the following herbs – Cyperus rotundus, Saussurea lappa, Curcuma longa, Berberis aristata, Acorus calamus, Aconitum heterophyllum, Picorrhiza kursoa, Plumbago zeylanica, Holoptelea integrifolia, and Iris ensata. The formulation is prescribed to control obesity. (Kumar and Bhandari 2015) The formulation in Ayurveda is called lekhana vati.

Another popular Ayurveda formulation with weight loss herbs is lekhana basti. It contains Terminalia bellerica, Terminalia chebula, Embilica officinalis, Cyperus rotundus, Holoptelea integrifolia, Berberis aristata, Curcuma longa, Embelia ribes, mustard oil, honey, cows urine, a formulation made from barley (Hordeum vulgare), and rock salt.

A trial of 40 obese individuals prescribed Lekhaniya vati and Lekhana basti formulations for 30 days was undertaken. The study found that better results accrue when the formulations are combined than singularly. (Payal et al., 2017)

The scale of both these trials is relatively small. It is difficult to conclude the effectiveness or otherwise of a formulation based on a single experiment. Most formulations must undergo multiple clinical trials to culminate into a post-release user trial before receiving a final regulatory nod to sell a formulation to consumers.

Results require validation in different places before a final verdict on a formulation’s effectiveness can be given. The source of herbs is not clearly defined in the two studies mentioned above. Genetic, varietal variations and environmental conditions prevailing where the herbs are collected can influence medicinal molecule density. The mode, the time of collection, and the raw material’s processing method affect a natural product-based formulation’s effectiveness.

Chinese herbs that claim to reduce weight and supplement the spleen include Rhizoma atractylodis macrocephalae (Bai Zhu), Radix astragali membranacei (Huang Qi), Fructus crategi (Shan Zha)

For the liver, the recommended Chinese herbs are – Pericarpium citri reticulatae viride (Qing Pi), Fructus immaturus citri aurantia (Zhi Shi), Radix bupleuri (Chai Hu)…

Stimulation and secretion of digestive fluids and breaking down fatty substances occur by consuming unripe orange, hawthorn berries, Rangoon creeper fruit, radish seeds, and tangerine peel.

Bowel movements help eliminate waste and ease constipation by consuming black sesame, radish, peach, biota, and rhubarb.

Fluid retained by the body causes a bloated appearance and puffiness. Herbs with a diuretic property are coix barley, red bean, inula flower, plantain seeds, rice bean, senna leaf, and white atractylodes.

Exercise helps increase perspiration and urination. Cinnamon bark, ginger, areca peel, and unripe oranges will aid these processes.

A significant decrease in body weight occurs following treatment with the following formulations:

  1. xin-ju-xiao-gao-fang (a combination of a compound of rhubarb, Coptis chinensis, Cassia semen, and Citrus aurantium),
  2. yellow pea fiber;
  3. bofu-tsusho-san (a mixture of Radix platycodi, gypsum fibrosum, talcum, Paeoniae, Scutellarie, and Glycyrrhiza);
  4. RCM -104 (compound of Camellia sinensis, flos sophorae, and semen cassia); pistachio,
  5. Satiereal (a trade medicine),
  6. Monoselect Camellia (containing green tea extract: GreenSelect and Phytosome are registered trademark products) or Nigella sativa. (Yangfei Liu et al., 2017)

A significant decrease in body fat occurs by treating with xin-ju-xiao-gao-fang, bofu-tsusho-san, RCM -104, Ling gui zhu gan decoction (compound of Poria, Macrocephalae, Radix Glycyrrhizae, Ramulus Cinnamomi, and Radix atractylodis), Pu’er tea, pistachio, or Monoselect Camelia; (Yangfei Liu et al., 2017)

Inch loss around the waist took place from the following herbal medicine: xin-ju-xiao-gao-fang, Pu’er tea, Satiereal (a trade medicine), catechin enriched green tea, Irvingia gabonensisCissus quadrangularis. (Yangfei Liu et al., 2017)

Nowhere in my research on natural solutions for obesity that I find a reference to fenugreek seeds as a weight-loss herb.  The scientific evidence supporting the weight loss herbs is also weak.

Fenugreek seeds are an important constituent of diabetes control herbal formulations. I found strong scientific evidence supporting the herb’s anti-diabetic properties.

Additional reading:

Tri-series on Natural Solutions – cancer, obesity, and diabetes

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