Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek: Usage, Health Benefits & Side Effects

Fenugreek is a herb that is commonly used for a variety of reasons. It’s a popular ingredient in many Eastern dishes and is also taken in supplement form.

The herb has been associated with many health benefits including enhancing testosterone levels, controlling blood sugar, and promoting breastmilk production.

This post will investigate the usage of fenugreek and review the scientific research that has been conducted on the herb.


 

What is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek, or Trigonella Foenum-Graecum, is a plant is native to western Asia, southern Europe, and the Mediterranean.

The plant is approximately two to three feet tall, has green leaves with small white flowers, and contains brown seeds.

The seeds are most commonly used for medicine or health purposes while the leaves are often used in cuisine.

Historically, fenugreek has been used in alternative medicine and with the first recorded usage of it dating back six thousand years.

The herb is used for a variety of health reasons. Fenugreek is commonly taken to promote digestive health, control diabetes, improve heart health, and enhance body composition.

In addition, the herb is used by some in an attempt to improve athletic performance.


 

How Does It Work?

For diabetics, it appears that fenugreek slows the absorption of sugars and stimulates insulin consequently lowering blood sugar levels.

Fenugreek may also increase testosterone levels. This may consequently have a positive impact on body composition, muscle strength, and athletic performance (1).

There are a number of other proposed benefits associated with fenugreek. However, research on the herb is lacking which makes it difficult to understand how exactly it works.


 

Is It Safe?

For the majority of people, fenugreek does appear to be safe. Although some side effects have been reported, they do not seem to be severe.

However, extremely high doses of fenugreek may cause serious problems such as damage to DNA and neurological issues (2).

For those who suffer from a medical condition or are taking prescription medications, fenugreek should be used with caution.

Therefore, to promote safety, speak to a physician before taking fenugreek, and ensure that the dosage guidelines are adhered to.


 

Fenugreek Health Benefits

Fenugreek

There are a number of studies that have been conducted on fenugreek. In this section, we will review the research and discuss the potential benefits associated with supplementation.

1. Enhances Digestive Health

What the Science Says

One of the more common reasons for taking fenugreek supplementally is to aid digestion and generally promote digestive health.

Fenugreek is high in fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants which may help to explain the impact it has on aiding digestion.

A study investigating the impact of fenugreek on heartburn asked participants to consume a fenugreek product prior to consuming meals.

The participants found that heartburn diminished significantly. The researchers reported that the effects of fenugreek were very similar to the effects of over-the-counter antacid medicine (3).

2. Greater Testosterone Production

What the Science Says

Fenugreek supplements tend to be popular with men as a means of increasing testosterone levels. As mentioned, this has been found to have a positive impact on health and fitness.

Research into the relationship between fenugreek and testosterone is promising.

One eight-week study split a group of thirty men into two groups. The first group was supplemented with fenugreek while the other group received nothing.

After eight-weeks, the hormone profiles of each group were analyzed. Testosterone levels in the supplemented group significantly increased while the non-supplemented group did not (4).

While fenugreek may indeed impact hormones, such as testosterone, more research is required to confirm the effects.

3. Improves Body Composition

What the Science Says

If fenugreek supplementation does indeed enhance testosterone levels, it may also impact body composition.

This is because high testosterone levels have been linked with a reduction in body fat and an increase in muscle size.

Results from the previously mentioned study also indicated that the supplemented group experienced a 2% reduction in body fat (4).

A further study suggests that fenugreek supplementation leads to substantial improvements in body fat percentage, muscle strength, and size (5).

4. Increases Breastmilk Production

What the Science Says

For a baby to develop optimally, milk is the best source of nutrition. However, for many mothers, producing enough milk is a challenge.

Research looking at natural produce indicates that fenugreek may be an effective alternative to prescription medications.

One study prescribed fenugreek herbal tea to a group of new mothers. After two weeks, the results showed that breast milk production increased which caused the babies to gain weight (6).

A second study divided mothers into three groups. Each group received either fenugreek tea, a placebo, or nothing.

Once again, the volume of breast milk was found to significantly increase in the fenugreek tea group (7).

5. Reduces Menstrual Cramps

What the Science Says

Studies evaluating the effectiveness of fenugreek on dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) indicate that the herb may be effective.

A study divided women into a supplemented and non-supplemented group. To understand the impact of fenugreek the researchers assessed pain and physiological symptoms.

Results showed that the supplemented group experienced a larger reduction in pain and severity of symptoms than the non-supplemented group (8).

The authors of the study attribute results of the study to the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of fenugreek.

6. Controls Blood Glucose Levels

What the Science Says

Fenugreek may be beneficial for those who suffer from type 1 and 2 diabetes. The herb appears to assist with blood sugar control and increases carb tolerance.

A study involved giving diabetics fifty grams of fenugreek seed powder twice a day. Not only did participants’ blood sugar level reduce, reductions in cholesterol were also seen (9).

Furthermore, fenugreek may be helpful in preventing diabetes. Results from a second study measured the impact of fenugreek on those without diabetes.

Results showed that they too experienced a 13.4% reduction in blood sugar levels (10). Keeping blood sugar levels down will significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

The positive impact on blood sugar control has been attributed to the role the herb plays in improving insulin function.

7. Promotes Heart Health

What the Science Says

As highlighted, studies have indicated that fenugreek may well positively impact cholesterol levels.

Additionally, other studies have suggested that fenugreek may also reduce triglyceride levels (11).

Reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels has been shown to significantly lessen the risk of developing cardiac diseases (12).

Therefore, consuming fenugreek may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.

There are a number of other issues that may be impacted by fenugreek supplementation. These include ulcerative colitis (13), renal function (14), and a number of skin conditions (15).

However, it’s important to note that there is a distinct lack of research on fenugreek. Additionally, many studies have been conducted on animals rather than humans.

Therefore, although fenugreek does display promise for a range of issues, more research is needed to confirm findings.


 

Side Effects

Fenugreek does appear to be safe for most, however, there may be some side effects including:

  • Decreased fertility
  • Indigestion and Diarrhea
  • Nervous system issues
  • Reduced appetite
  • Worsening of asthma

 

Usage and Dosing Considerations

Fenugreek supplements can come in tablet or powder form. Therefore, it is difficult to recommend a specific dose of fenugreek as formulations between supplements differ.

Furthermore, the amount of fenugreek to take is also dependent on the purpose of doing so. Therefore, the best recommendation is to check the dosage guidelines on the product itself.

All fenugreek supplements are best taken before or with a meal. Considering that fenugreek helps control blood sugar, it would be wise to take it with the highest-carb meal of the day.

For those who are unsure or have a medical condition, it is vital to speak to a qualified medical professional first.


 

Risks and Precautions

There are specific populations that should exercise caution when it comes to fenugreek.

Fenugreek does appear to be unsafe during pregnancy. When used in large amounts, it may cause early contractions and lead to malformations in the baby.

Considering that fenugreek is a legume, individuals with allergies should be wary. Those who are allergic to legumes like nuts, lentils, and green peas may be allergic to fenugreek.

Finally, fenugreek should not be seen as an alternative to medical care.


 

FAQs

What does fenugreek do to the body?

Based on the available research, fenugreek may positively impact the body in a number of ways.

Studies have found that fenugreek supplementation may be beneficial for controlling blood sugar, boosting testosterone levels, and promoting breastmilk production.

In addition, the herb may also reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce appetite, improve digestive health, and enhance renal function. However, more research is needed.

Does fenugreek cause body odor?

This may seem like a strange question. However, some users of fenugreek have reported an odd body odor akin to maple syrup.

This is because fenugreek contains an aroma compound known as sotolon which smells similar to maple syrup.

Can fenugreek cause weight gain?

Studies have not established a correlation between fenugreek and weight gain.

Conversely, studies have shown that the herb may reduce appetite and control blood sugar levels. Therefore, it may actually promote weight loss rather than cause weight gain.

How much fenugreek should be taken daily?

The amount of fenugreek consumed depends on the purpose of taking the herb.

For example, let’s take two individuals. The first person is looking to boost testosterone levels while the second person is using fenugreek to promote breastmilk production.

The amounts of fenugreek required to bring about these changes differ. Adhere to the dosage guidelines or speak to a qualified medical professional if unsure.

What is the best time to take fenugreek?

Most supplements will recommend that fenugreek is taken with a meal. This is partly because of the impact fenugreek has on controlling blood sugar levels.

However, once again, refer to the product guidelines on dosing.

Can too much fenugreek be harmful?

Most of the research conducted on fenugreek has shown it to be safe to consume. However, high amounts of fenugreek may well be harmful to the body.

It has been suggested that high dosages can damage DNA and cause neurological problems. However, more research is required to confirm whether or not this is the case.


 

Summary

The research that has been conducted on fenugreek is certainly encouraging.

It may have a positive impact on testosterone levels which can lead to a whole host of positive physiological changes.

For women, fenugreek supplementation may be a worthwhile consideration. Studies have found fenugreek to increase breastmilk production and reduce the impact of dysmenorrhea.

Finally, the herb may effectively reduce the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. For those who are diabetic, fenugreek may assist in blood sugar control.

With that being said, there is a significant lack of research on the topic. Therefore, additional research is required to corroborate these findings.

For the majority of people, fenugreek will be safe to consume. However, it is always worthwhile consulting a doctor prior to beginning any supplementation.

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References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27754805
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27498339/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20623611
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21116018
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2978122/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501779/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21261516
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955423/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2194788
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11370345
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19851306
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2822144/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3271691/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865269/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4739449/

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