Fenugreek has been shown in studies to lower cholesterol, reduce menstrual cramps, and boost testosterone levels in men. Learn more about the potential health benefits and hazards of this plant.
Fenugreek, which can be found as a spice or supplement at most health food stores, may have several important health benefits, such as lowering blood cholesterol and helping to control type 2 diabetes.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, fenugreek is a clover-like herb native to the Mediterranean, southern Europe, and western Asia. The leaves and seeds of the plant have a sweet, slightly bitter maple syrup-like flavour, comparable to burnt sugar. Here’s more on how fenugreek can help you and how to eat it in a healthy way.
While there is little study on the health advantages of fenugreek, a few scientific investigations have discovered that the plant:
Helps lower blood sugar in people with diabetes
Fenugreek could aid persons with type 2 diabetes in controlling their blood sugar levels. Fenugreek significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels in persons with diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to a 2016 meta-analysis of 12 research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop various illnesses if their fasting blood sugar levels remain high for a lengthy period of time. These include the following, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease
- Hearing and vision loss
While nutritional supplements can cause renal and liver problems, there were no reports of liver or kidney toxicity in those who took fenugreek supplements, according to the study. The most common fenugreek side effect was intestinal pain.
May regulate cholesterol
According to the CDC, fenugreek may lower blood cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of mortality in the United States.
Fenugreek supplementation: According to a meta-analysis published in Phytotherapy Research in 2020, fenugreek supplementation:
- Significantly reduced total cholesterol levels
- Lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease.
When combined with established medical therapies like drugs and lifestyle modifications, researchers believe fenugreek could help lower risk factors associated to heart disease, such as high cholesterol. However, further research is needed to determine how effective fenugreek is at reducing this risk.
Potentially relieves menstrual cramps
Fenugreek is frequently mentioned on the internet as a treatment for menstrual cramps, and some research backs this up. In a 2014 research of 101 women published in the Journal of Reproduction & Fertility, those who took 900 mg of fenugreek seed powder on each of the first three days of menstruation experienced considerably less period discomfort than those who took a placebo.
Supplementing with fenugreek also helped with other menstrual symptoms, such as:
No side effects were reported.
Can increase breast milk supply
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), people in North Africa, Asia, and southern Europe have traditionally utilised fenugreek to enhance breastmilk flow in breastfeeding women—and some current research backs this up.
In four independent studies, fenugreek dramatically boosted the amount of breastmilk produced by nursing mothers when compared to a placebo, according to a 2017 research analysis published in Phytotherapy Research. Other herbal supplements, such as date palm, were found to be more effective than fenugreek in the same study.
While fenugreek may enhance breastfeeding production, it also has the potential to induce adverse effects. Supplementing with fenugreek during lactation can produce increased thirst, as well as “maple syrup-like” sweat and urine, according to a 2018 study published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which interviewed 65 breastfeeding women and 56 health care practitioners. Before using fenugreek while breastfeeding, consult your doctor if you have any pre-existing illnesses or are on any medications.
Could raise testosterone levels in men
Fenugreek may also improve testosterone levels in men, which, if low, can lead to irritation, poor attention, and an increased risk of bone fractures, according to a study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2020. According to Harvard Medical School, testosterone levels in males decline by roughly 1% to 2% every year as they age, and more than a third of men over 45 have testosterone levels that are lower than normal.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, funded by Cepham Inc, a herbal supplement producer, looked at how a proprietary fenugreek supplement would affect 50 males aged 35 to 65. Testosterone levels jumped by up to 46 percent in 45 of the subjects following 12 weeks of regular fenugreek administration, according to the study. It also got better:
- Mental vigilance
- Sex compulsion
Sperm count is directly associated to fertility and is a predictor of sickness and death risk, according to a 2017 review published in Human Reproduction Update.
One tablespoon of fenugreek seeds, according to the US Department of Agriculture database, provides:
- 35 calories
- 0.7 g fat
- 7.44 mg sodium
- 6.5 g of carbohydrates, or 2% of the recommended value (DV)
- 2.7 g fibre (10% daily value)
- 2.5 g protein (5 percent DV)
- 3.7 mg of iron, or 20% of the daily value
Despite its potential health benefits, fenugreek is a poor source of essential nutrients, especially since most recipes only call for a tablespoon or less of the plant. Iron is an exception, according to the National Library of Medicine, because it is necessary for red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body.
According to the NCCIH, fenugreek is safe in small amounts present in foods, but its safety in bigger dosages is unknown. Fenugreek should not be consumed in amounts greater than those found in food during pregnancy, and it should not be given to children as a supplement.
People who consume fenugreek alone or in combination with other herbs have had liver damage. It may also have unfavourable side effects, such as:
- A drop in blood sugar when taken in large amounts
Talk to a health care provider, such as a primary care doctor or a qualified dietitian, if you’re interested in taking fenugreek for a therapeutic purpose like those stated above. They can assist you in determining how much and for how long you should take fenugreek supplements because there is no established prescription for fenugreek formulation or dose.
Tips for consuming fenugreek
Because fenugreek isn’t widely grown in the United States, it’s most commonly found as a spice. Try these recipes with fenugreek:
- To soften the seeds, soak them overnight.
- It can be used in foods that need longer to cook to allow the flavours to fully penetrate.
- Fenugreek leaves, either frozen or dried, can be used to finish sauces, curries, and vegetable dishes.
- It’s great in substantial, comforting recipes like this vegan red lentil soup.
Fenugreek is a common flavour in many cultures’ cuisines, and it also has a number of health benefits, including blood sugar and cholesterol control. Consider using fenugreek seeds and leaves in cooking if you appreciate the distinctive combination of sweet and bitter flavours. However, before supplementing with the herb, consult with a health care provider to see how it may effect your specific health needs.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Fenugreek.
- Gong J, Fang K, Dong H, Wang D, Hu M, Lu F. Effect of fenugreek on hyperglycaemia and hyperlipidemia in diabetes and prediabetes: A meta-analysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;194:260-268. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.08.003.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent Diabetes Complications.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholesterol.
- Heshmat-Ghahdarijani K, Mashayekhiasl N, Amerizadeh A, Jervekani ZT, Sadeghi M. Effect of fenugreek consumption on serum lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytother Res. 2020;34(9):2230-2245. doi:10.1002/ptr.6690.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and Your Heart.
- Younesy S, Amiraliakbari S, Esmaeili S, Alavimajd H, Nouraei S. Effects of Fenugreek Seed on the Severity and Systemic Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea. J Reprod Infertil. 2014;15(1):41-48. PMC3955423.
- Shawahna R, Qiblawi S, Ghanayem H. Which Benefits and Harms of Using Fenugreek as a Galactogogue Need to Be Discussed during Clinical Consultations? A Delphi Study among Breastfeeding Women, Gynecologists, Pediatricians, Family Physicians, Lactation Consultants, and Pharmacists. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:2418673. doi:10.1155/2018/2418673.
- Mansoori A, Hosseini S, Zilaee M, Hormoznejad R, Fathi M. Effect of fenugreek extract supplement on testosterone levels in male: A meta-analysis of clinical trials. Phytother Res. 2020;34(7):1550-1555. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6627.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Testosterone — What It Does And Doesn’t Do.
- Maheshwari A, Verma N, Swaroop A, et al. Efficacy of FurosapTM, a novel Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract, in Enhancing Testosterone Level and Improving Sperm Profile in Male Volunteers. Int J Med Sci. 2017;14(1):58-66. doi:10.7150/ijms.17256.
- Levine H, Jørgensen N, Martino-Andrade A, et al. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Hum Reprod Update. 2017;23(6):646-659. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmx022.
- US Department of Agriculture. Spices, fenugreek seed.
- MedlinePlus. Iron.
- Serious Eats. Spice Hunting: Fenugreek (Methi).
- The Spruce Eats. What Is Fenugreek?
- AllRecipes. Vegan Red Lentil Soup.