There are many plants not native to the western world that, if used properly, can greatly enhance our diets. For centuries, fenugreek has been used by people in other parts of the world, and regrettably, they have only been recently introduced to the West.

Plants like fenugreek are not only nutritious but can provide us with numerous health benefits. Read more to learn about how fenugreek can help improve your health.

Introduction

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22680628

Fenugreek is a leafy green legume native to Eurasia and Africa that is widely used for its nutritional and aromatic value. For centuries, it has been used in traditional medicinal remedies in Africa and Asia to ease labor, alleviate digestive problems, and treat skin conditions such as boils, eczema, and inflammation [R].

Known as methi in Hindi, fenugreek is a common condiment and ingredient in spice powders in Indian cuisine. It is used fresh in salads, as well as cooked or dried in other dishes. This has also made it a common feature in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, which is still practiced today [R].

Today, it is most often taken by diabetics and by people who struggle to maintain normal levels of fat in their blood [R].

As a dietary supplement, fenugreek is often taken in capsules containing the seed powder, but ground up seeds can also be mixed in foods and liquids [R].

Fenugreek leaves can also be soaked in hot water to make a tea.

Active Compounds in Fenugreek

Many of the health benefits of fenugreek are due to its saponins, compounds that help protect against cancers and lower cholesterol, sugar, and fat in the blood. Saponins can also reduce the risk of blood clots and kidney stones [R, R].

Trigonelline, another compound of fenugreek, has many health benefits. It has antibacterial, antiviral, fat-lowering, sugar-lowering, anti-tumor, and brain-protecting effects [R].

Fenugreek contains many compounds with antioxidant activity. These include apigenin, luteolin, caffeic acid, and coumaric acid [R].

Fenugreek oil contains a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats (approximately 84%). This helps increase cell and blood vessel formation after injury [R].

Health Benefits of Fenugreek

1) Fenugreek May Improve Brain Function

Fenugreek can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases [R, R].

It reduced the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine), reduced the production of proteins that lead to plaque formation in the nervous system, and improved learning and memory in rats [R].

Fenugreek seed powder reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, memory impairments, and plaques in rats with Alzheimer’s disease [R].

2) Fenugreek May Benefit the Heart

Heart attacks lead to tissue death and oxidative stress in the heart muscle.

In rats, fenugreek increased the activity of various antioxidants in the heart and improved the health of heart tissue [R].

In a clinical trial of 24 type II diabetes patients, powdered fenugreek seeds were either soaked in hot water or consumed with yogurt for 8 weeks. The 11 participants who consumed fenugreek in hot water had significantly reduced blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol than the participants who ate fenugreek with yogurt [R].

Another clinical trial showed similar results. Type I diabetics who consumed fenugreek in their diets had lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol [R].

Fenugreek seeds reduced cholesterol levels in rabbits by approximately 50% in both rabbits with and without high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia). Its leaves reduced total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides and increased HDL (good) cholesterol in rabbits as well [R].

3) Fenugreek May Help Prevent Obesity

In rats, fenugreek lowered weight gain [R].

Obese female rats fed fenugreek gained less weight and had lower BMI. Their blood also contained fewer fats than the blood of rats on a control treatment [R].

4) Fenugreek Reduces Blood Sugar

In a clinical trial of 24 type II diabetic patients, the patients either consumed powdered fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water or with yogurt for 8 weeks. The participants who consumed fenugreek in hot water had significantly reduced blood sugar than the participants who ate fenugreek with yogurt [R].

Humans with type I diabetes who took fenugreek for 10 days had lower blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity compared to those who did not take it [R].

In rats, fenugreek improved insulin sensitivity, which helps reduce blood sugar and the risk of developing type II diabetes [R].

In obese rats, fenugreek reduced blood sugar, fats, and certain enzymes indicative of poor liver function significantly more compared to the control [R].

Mechanisms

The hypoglycemic (sugar-lowering) effects of fenugreek are partially attributable to 4-hydroxyisoleucine, an amino acid present in fenugreek that stimulates the production of insulin by pancreatic cells [R].

Fenugreek also inhibits the activity of alpha-amylase and sucrase, enzymes that break down large sugars into glucose. They lower the overall sugar concentration in the blood [R].

5) Fenugreek Might Help Improve Skin Health

Fenugreek contains mucilage, a gooey substance that can soothe and moisturize dry skin without irritating it when applied to the surface of skin [R].

A skin cream containing fenugreek seed extract was applied to the faces of 11 people. After six weeks, skin moisture increased, and the melanin (pigment that causes dark spots) content and the number of bumps on the skin decreased [R].

Human cells in a laboratory were exposed to three types of saponins extracted from fenugreek, which decreased skin cell response to sun exposure [R].

After saponin exposure, the skin cells had lower levels of certain inflammatory cytokines (transmission molecules). They also produced less melanin, a pigment protein that is produced when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light [R].

Fenugreek contains a lot of carotenoids, which are antioxidant molecules that are converted to vitamin A in the body. Fenugreek oil applied to the skin of rats sped up wound healing over control rats by reducing inflammation and promoting new skin growth [R].

6) Fenugreek Stops Cancer Cell Growth

The saponins in fenugreek prevent cell division in cancer cells and also induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) [R].

Fenugreek seeds reduced the incidence of colon cancer, and fenugreek extract slowed the progression of breast cancer in rats [R].

Fenugreek also prevented the growth of human colon cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bone cancer cells (meta-analysis) [R].

Blood cells from 15 healthy adults were treated with fenugreek extract and exposed to radiation therapy for cancer. Fenugreek increased the sensitivity of T-cells ( a type of white blood cells) to the effects of radiation and spurred apoptosis (programmed cell death) [R].

Mechanisms

Diosgenin, a saponin found in fenugreek, suppresses bone and tumor cell formation by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced NF-κB activation (which produces proteins that increase cell growth and reduce apoptosis) [R].

Diosgenin also stopped IKK and p65 activity. IKK and p65 both contribute to the cellular response to inflammation. By stopping IKK and p65, diosgenin prevents NF-kB activity [R].

Another saponin, protodioscin, induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells [R, R].

7) Fenugreek Has Antioxidant Properties

In rats whose livers were damaged by alcohol, fenugreek seed extract reduced the concentration of free radicals, increased antioxidants, and reduced damage to enzymes [R].

In rats with induced arthritis, fenugreek increased antioxidants, vitamin C, and glutathione. It also reduced the concentrations of enzymes, such as catalase and glutathione peroxidase, which produce reactive oxygen species [R].

8) Fenugreek Has Anti-inflammatory Properties

Mice with allergic skin reactions were given fenugreek for 7 days. Fenugreek reduced skin inflammation and the accumulation of inflammatory cells [R].

In rats with arthritis, fenugreek reduced fluid build-up in the joints and inflammatory enzyme activity [R].

Mechanisms

Fenugreek reduces inflammation by inhibiting production of interleukins 4, 5, 13, and 1β and infiltration by white blood cells. This prevented the transformation of cells into helper T cells and reduced inflammatory responses [R].

9) Fenugreek Has Anti-Microbial Activity

Fenugreek seed extract was tested on dishes of bacterial species and inhibited the growth of E. coli and M. furfur. Sprouted fenugreek seeds may have increased antimicrobial activity, especially against H. pylori, than non-germinated seeds [R].

Defensin, a protein extracted from fenugreek leaves, inhibited the spread and reproduction of two fungal species [R].

The antimicrobial effects of fenugreek also help accelerate wound healing [R].

Both the seeds and leaves of fenugreek reduce microbial growth in similar ways [R].

10) Fenugreek Reduces Blood Clots

Anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin), are frequently prescribed to individuals at high risk for heart attacks and strokes because they help prevent the formation of blood clots that cut off blood supply to vital organs.

Fenugreek extract increased the time required for normal human blood samples to clot, so fenugreek could supplement preventive treatments for heart attacks and strokes [R].

11) Fenugreek May Help Protect the Digestive Tract

In rats under stress, fenugreek seed oil reduced the overall incidence of ulcers [R].

Fenugreek extract reduced acid reflux in another rat study [R].

12) Fenugreek May Improve Kidney Health

In one study, male rats were given ethylene glycol, which led to the formation of kidney stones and resulted in low red blood cell count and anemia. Rats given fenugreek seeds had increased red blood cell count and hemoglobin and fewer calcium salts in the kidneys. This reduced the risk of developing kidney stones [R].

Aluminum salts are often used to treat patients with kidney failure, but they can harm the body. Treating rats exposed to aluminum with fenugreek seed powder rebalanced urea, creatinine, and blood sugar levels[R].

Fenugreek also increased antioxidant concentrations, lowered reactive oxygen species, improved the overall quality of kidney tissue, and increased kidney weight back to normal [R].

13) Fenugreek Can Alleviate Dysmenorrhea (Menstrual Cramps)

In a study (DB-RCT) of 101 female students, scientists tested the severity of their pain during two consecutive menstrual cycles while taking fenugreek or a placebo [R].

Although all of the women had similar levels of pain before the study, the 51 women who received fenugreek reported much less pain at the end of the treatment than the 50 who received the placebo [R].

14) Fenugreek May Help Improve Lactation During Breastfeeding

Fenugreek is considered by traditional herbal doctors to be a galactagogue, a substance that promotes the production of breast milk (lactation) in women. Some studies report that drinking fenugreek tea increased milk production and infant weight gain compared to placebos [R].

However, other studies (meta-analyses) did not find fenugreek to significantly increase production of breast milk [R].

15) Fenugreek Increases Libido

Diosgenin, found in fenugreek, is an important precursor for sex hormone formation. It can balance sex hormones to help support libido in healthy males [R].

Testofen, which contains fenugreek extract, improves male sex drive. In a study (DB-RCT) of 60 healthy males, daily supplementation with two tablets of 600 mg Testofen increased sexual arousal, orgasm, and self-reported energy and strength [R].

Caveats

More human trials are needed before many of fenugreek’s health benefits are proven. Caution is warranted when using fenugreek for its purported health benefits.

Dosage

The dosage of fenugreek varies based on the form it is taken in and what the user is trying to treat.

For treating type I diabetes, the recommended dose for powdered fenugreek seeds (from which fats have been removed) is 50 g taken twice daily [R].

For treating type II diabetes, seed powder in a capsule should be taken in two doses of 2.5 g each daily. Seed powder on its own has a recommended daily dose of 25 g, divided into two equal doses [R].

Contraindications

People who are allergic to chickpeas may also have adverse reactions to fenugreek because the two plants contain similar proteins and allergens. Some patients reported spasms in the airways and wheezing [R].

Fenugreek can cause hyperthyroidism (in rats), so people with thyroid problems should avoid fenugreek [R].

Since fenugreek affects uterine contractions, it should not be taken during pregnancy, but it is safe afterward during breastfeeding.

Side Effects of Fenugreek

Side effects of fenugreek use include diarrhea, flatulence, and dizziness, but these were all temporary [R].

It has a distinctive and pungent odor, and many people have reported that their urine and sweat smelled like maple syrup [R].

Fenugreek has been associated with a decrease in triiodothyronine, a hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, abbreviated T3, which may decrease body weight [R].

Fenugreek extract reduced blood potassium levels by 14% in a small group of healthy patients, so electrolytes must be closely monitored as well [R].

Drug Interactions

Because of its blood-thinning properties, fenugreek can interact with warfarin, a commonly prescribed anticoagulant intended to reduce the risk of strokes and other conditions caused by blood clots [R].

Therefore, fenugreek can increase the time required for blood to clot, which can lead to significant blood loss, even from small cuts [R].

The sticky fiber in fenugreek that helps it moisturize dry skin also coat the lining of the digestive tract and inhibits absorption of drugs taken orally. Therefore, prescription drugs should be taken separately from fenugreek [R].

Since fenugreek works to lower blood sugar, hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar) can occur if you are also taking prescription glucose-lowering drugs [R]. Therefore, it is important to monitor your blood sugar while taking fenugreek.

People who take fenugreek along with diuretics, laxatives, or other drugs that reduce electrolytes may be at risk for low potassium levels [R].

Synergism with Other Supplements

Combining fenugreek and creatine supplementation can help enhance exercise results. In a study (DB-RCT) of 47 resistance trained men, supplementation with 5 g creatine and 900 mg fenugreek extract increased their upper body strength and improved body composition [R].

User Reviews

Many female users reported that fenugreek significantly increased their breast milk production, helping them better nurse their children. There were also several cases of fenugreek successfully lowering blood sugar in diabetics [R].

Some users reported increased hair growth and relief from mucus in the lungs, but only after taking fenugreek for several months. Using fenugreek in conjunction with a plant called Blessed Thistle worked well for many people.

However, some people who used fenugreek capsules complained that it caused them to smell. Other users also said that fenugreek had no beneficial effect on their health [R].

Buy Fenugreek Capsules and Seeds

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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6 COMMENTS

  • Lilymeerkat

    So, are we safe from lectins when consuming small amounts of fenugreek? I want to take a boswellia a highly vetted and recommended boswellia product that has 1 mg of fenugreek per capsule. Boswellia has proven to help me with Crohns inflammation.

  • Chris Collins

    I chose not to use fenugreek because it decreases blood clotting, and I have low platelets. Any comments?

  • Justin Faraday

    Great article! Thorough as always. I thought that was pretty funny that one of the side effects is smelling like maple syrup. More of a benefit than anything else. Who doesn’t love maple syrup?

    I take fenugreek to help with the absorption of the creatine I take (one of the most consistently effective cognitive enhancers I’ve tried and I take it daily).

    I didn’t notice you mention the creatine-fenugreek connection in the article. Here’s a PubMed study supporting the claim if you wanted to add it in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761853/

    Cheers!

  • Vince

    I always love the idea of including different ingredients in recipes, especially ones that aren’t so common in our modern diets.

    Doing so is important just because each ingredient has its own set of beneficial compounds. By using a variety of different ones, we have the potential to optimize our nutrition and health.

  • Mats

    Same here! I surf to this site everyday!!!

  • Rob

    I enjoy reading your articles. Please continue and Thanks

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