Used as a herb and a spice in traditional Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisine, chances are you have tasted or seen fenugreek listed before as an ingredient in a variety of dishes such as curries and soups.
Known for its culinary qualities, fenugreek also has an impressive health profile that should not be ignored.
Fenugreek is used in spice blends, such as garam masala, as a flavoring agent and may also be used as an ingredient in cosmetics and soaps.
You can find fenugreek in capsule, liquid extract, seed, powder, or tea form.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a herb originating from the Mediterranean that may be used for culinary purposes to enhance the flavor of a meal but also for its medicinal properties.
This herb is also a source of antioxidants and many essential nutrients such as B vitamins, inositol, iron, fiber, amino acids, vitamin A, and vitamin D.
The seeds contain the majority of its medicinal qualities which is why most supplements are made from fenugreek seed powder or an extraction of the seed.
Though we still need more studies to confirm its benefits, fenugreek has been used for thousands of years for a variety of conditions dating back to Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
The benefits of fenugreek
Reduces menstrual cramps
Fenugreek seed powder can improve menstrual cramping and pain experienced during your period, even decreasing the need for pain medication (1).
A study found dysmenorrhea was reduced with fenugreek supplementation as well as associated PMS symptoms such as fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, and lack of energy (2).
The benefits of fenugreek on the menstrual cycle can be related to its medicinal properties such as its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, and antihistamine effects.
Helps to improve digestive conditions
Fenugreek is known as a herbal carminative, meaning it can help to stimulate digestive function and also reduce constipation, gas, and bloating.
Its anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to be gastroprotective and help reduce inflammation in the stomach as well as ulcers (3).
Fenugreek also contains mucilage which provides a soothing coating to the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines.
Enhances testosterone and sperm production
Fenugreek has been shown to increase sexual arousal, particularly in men, as well as boost testosterone production and even improve sperm counts (4).
Testosterone levels naturally decline with age, however, this sex hormone is not only important for sexual function it is also involved in maintaining cardiovascular health, muscle mass, positive mood, bone health, and energy (5).
Fenugreek may be an effective dietary supplement at maintaining healthy testosterone levels alongside dietary and lifestyle modifications.
Stimulates breast milk production during breastfeeding
Known as a galactagogue, Fenugreek can help stimulate lactation, or milk production, in mothers (6).
This herb can work quite quickly, even as soon as 24 hours for certain individuals, but it also can take a few weeks to see a significant difference.
Fenugreek should not be taken during pregnancy, always consult your health care provider first before supplementing with herbs.
Improves athletic performance
Combined with resistance training, fenugreek may help to enhance physical strength and stamina. A study found improvements in body fat and skinfold thickness in active men who supplemented with fenugreek (7).
Another study showed daily fenugreek supplementation significantly improved upper and lower body strength and composition in males following a structured resistance training program (8).
Lowers blood sugar
Fenugreek has many beneficial compounds that have been shown to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes patients (9). A study found subjects taking fenugreek extract were able to decrease their fasting plasma glucose levels as well as their anti-diabetic therapy significantly compared to placebo (10).
Animal studies also show the ability of fenugreek to lower blood sugar levels in the blood (11)(12).
Fenugreek acts by slowing the absorption of sugars in the stomach, improving insulin action, and delaying gastric emptying.
As with any herb or natural supplement always consult your health care provider before consumption, especially if you are taking medications, to avoid any side effects and potential risks.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.