Fenugreek: Proven Health Benefits and How to Use It

Fenugreek contains powerful antioxidants and can provide numerous benefits. However, this herb could also interfere with certain medications. Is it right for you?

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by
Mia Barnes
— Signos
Staff Writer
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Reviewed by

Mia Barnes
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
August 7, 2023
— Updated:
August 8, 2023

Table of Contents

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a common herb with a long history of use in Chinese, Indian, and alternative medicine for its impressive array of proven health properties. Its seeds are frequently used in cooking as an ingredient in garam masala and maple syrups. Does it deserve a spot in your diet?

This herb can help a variety of ailments, from hormonal health to easing inflammation, when used correctly. However, it isn’t for everyone, as the heb might interfere with particular health conditions and medications. What do you need to know? Here are the proven fenugreek benefits and how to use it. 

What Is Fenugreek, and What Does It Do?

Fenugreek is a clover-like plant related to peanuts, beans, and other legume family members. It grows wild throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, and western Asia and flourishes in many American climate zones.1 Some gardeners consider it invasive; it's easy to establish but can just as quickly dominate your growing space.

It grows three to six inches tall and features a long blooming season punctuated by purple, white, and yellow flowers. The plant makes a gorgeous border.

What does fenugreek do for many? It’s one of the healthiest, deep, leafy greens. These vegetables are well-known for helping your brain stave off depression, reduce dementia risk, and fight insomnia.2 Adding the raw leaves to a salad is as easy as plucking them from the bush.

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Fenugreek Nutrition Facts

Fenugreek is a powerhouse nutritional source. The precise vitamins and minerals you receive depend on whether you use the leaves, the seeds, or both.

The leaves are excellent sources of folate, which plays a crucial role in DNA synthesis. They also contain vitamin K for healthy bones and soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.3 In addition, they’re rich sources of the following nutrients:

  • Biotin: This nutrient is water-soluble, meaning your body doesn’t store it, and it strengthens your hair and nails.
  • Vitamin A: This nutrient is crucial for proper vision, immunity, reproductive health, and growth and development.
  • B vitamins: Like many leafy greens, fenugreek is high in all eight essential B vitamins, especially folate.
  • Vitamin D: This vitamin reduces inflammation and cancer cell growth and helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, minerals necessary for healthy bones.
  • Fiber: Soluble fiber dissolves in water and improves blood glucose control. Insoluble fiber draws water to your intestine, boosting bowel health.
  • Protein: Proteins consist of amino acids, the essential building blocks of muscle and bone, and help your body manufacture hormones.
  • Iron: This mineral helps your blood make hemoglobin and myoglobin, which carry oxygen from your lungs all over your body.
  • Manganese: Manganese helps form connective tissues, bones, blood-clotting factors, and sex hormones.
  • Magnesium: This mineral helps build muscle and regulates various muscle and nerve functions, including in your heart and brain.

These nutrients make fenugreek eligible for superfood status, but you must use caution. Although the leaves of this plant contain high folate levels (a nutrient good for pregnant individuals) it contains other substances that can stimulate uterine contractions, possibly resulting in miscarriage or congenital disabilities. However, this plant comes in handy after you give birth.

Fenugreek Uses Then and Nowadays

Traditional herbalists in both Chinese and Indian medicine have often used fenugreek benefits to balance female reproductive health. It stimulates milk production in new moms, and science backs up its efficacy. They also use it to hasten delayed menstruation and promote uterine contractions at the end of a pregnancy.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), fenugreek is considered bitter in taste and warm in nature.4 That means it increases the yang element. It’s been used to improve libido and milk production and treat arthritis. One of the primary fenugreek uses in TCM is as a kidney tonic. It’s believed to dispel cold and dampness and soothe the lungs, liver, and spleen.

Fenugreek Health Benefits

The health benefits of fenugreek are supported by medical science. Thus, you can trust that you’re improving your health by adding it to your diet. You may reap some impressive perks from adding this food to your life.

1. Control Blood Sugar Levels

Type 2 diabetes is one of the nation's most severe health emergencies. Nearly 100 million Americans are at risk, and most don’t know they have it.5

However, adding fenugreek powder to one of your meals may help. One 2017 study added 100 grams of this powder to the diets of people with insulin-dependent diabetes.6 Participants significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels, improved glucose tolerance, and lowered bad cholesterol levels.

Another 2015 study added 15 grams of fenugreek seed powder to meals eaten by people living with type 2 diabetes. It reduced the rise in blood sugar after eating and overall blood sugar levels of research participants.7

2. Potentiate Weight Loss

Another fenugreek benefit that interests many people (including doctors) is its potential to aid in weight loss. While plenty of supplements promise to help you eat fewer calories and less fat without feeling hungry, this natural plant may deliver.

In one 2009 study, men who took 1.2 grams of fenugreek seed powder reduced their daily caloric intake by nearly 12% and their daily fat intake by 17%.8 Scientists are unsure what caused the weight loss, but their discovery warrants further research.

The secret may lie in this plant’s unique soluble and insoluble fiber blend. Another older study found adding eight grams of fenugreek powder to breakfast increased satiety.9 However, another 2015 study investigating the effects of fenugreek tea on food intake saw no reduction in consumption, although women outside of the placebo group (i.e., those drinking fenugreek tea) reported feeling more satiated.10

3. Improve Heart Health

Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide. Taking care of your ticker makes sense, leading to another fenugreek benefit.

Insufficient iron intake puts people at risk for congestive heart failure. However, the high levels in this plant can ensure you get your recommended daily amount.

Diabetes significantly increases your heart disease risk. One study in rats induced with the disease showed that fenugreek-seed extract significantly reduced the abnormalities that can lead to chronic coronary disease in this population.11 Another 2018 study showed a mix of fenugreek seed and onion could undo some of the damage created by diabetes.12

Fenugreek also reduces systemic inflammation and lowers LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL,  the “good” kind of cholesterol.13 Both can contribute to heart disease when allowed to spiral out of control.

4. Reduce High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure also plagues countless people, substantially increasing their heart attack and stroke risk. However, adding fenugreek could lower your numbers by several millimeters of mercury.

A review of six randomized controlled trials including 373 participants revealed adding fenugreek seeds in doses of more than 15 grams per day lowered systolic blood pressure but not diastolic.14 However, another study found a statistically significant drop in diastolic blood pressure from using five grams of fenugreek powder daily.

5. Stimulates Breast Milk Production

The best-known use for fenugreek is its ability to stimulate milk production in breastfeeding mothers. While using this plant early in pregnancy is a no-go, one study examined the effect of fenugreek water in new mothers. They soaked 7.5 grams of fenugreek in water overnight. Women who drank it each morning enhanced breast milk production, leading to weight gain in their new infants.15

Best of all, you don’t need to wait long for the effects. Many mamas saw results within two to three days of taking fenugreek capsules.16 People often prefer this delivery method, as the tea can taste bitter, which stevia and monk fruit can’t entirely disguise.

6. Boost Testosterone Production

In traditional Chinese medicine, fenugreek is associated with heat or the yang nature, which is considered more “male.” Perhaps it is no surprise that fenugreek boosts testosterone production.

One 2017 study examined 50 men who took a fenugreek supplement containing 500 milligrams of fenugreek seeds enhanced with a saponin increased their free testosterone levels by up to 46%.17 Ninety percent of participants experienced these results. 

In another 2015 study, men who took a 600-milligram supplement every day for 12 weeks increased free testosterone and improved the frequency of sexual episodes and morning erections.19

7. Reduce Inflammation and Relieve Pain

Chronic, systemic inflammation lurks behind nearly every health condition, worsening symptoms and causing new ones to appear. In mild amounts, inflammation fights injury, but problems arise when your body’s systems go into overdrive.

In traditional Chinese medicine, fenugreek is used to treat arthritis, a condition marked by joint inflammation. In one study, those given a fenugreek extract successfully inhibited swelling better than the prescription medication indomethacin.20

Is Fenugreek Safe? Common Side Effects

Fenugreek is safe for most people, but there are a few folks who should stay clear. Most notable are women early in pregnancy. Fenugreek may affect the levels of certain sex hormones and stimulate uterine contractions, causing a miscarriage. Unfortunately, it can also lead to congenital disabilities.

Another side effect of fenugreek is it may interfere with hormonal birth control. While this plant’s interaction with contraception is largely unknown and may not cause issues, using a barrier method doubles your pregnancy protection and reduces your risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Fenugreek can cause digestive problems, such as bloating. Some individuals may also have a mild allergic reaction to the herb. Before adding fenugreek to your diet, consult a healthcare professional to ensure it is safe for your situation.

How to Use Fenugreek

One way to use fenugreek is to add the leaves to a salad. They have a delicious, mild, nutty flavor that’s slightly bitter with a sweet finish like maple syrup.

Fenugreek seeds are most commonly used for medicinal purposes but are extremely bitter unless de-oiled. Even then, they retain an unpleasant flavor, so many people disguise them in drinks and tea. They play a starring role in some lactation smoothies that use flavors like banana and chai to mask the strong taste.21

Many women add ground fenugreek seeds or a few drops of an elixir to their morning tea. Adding it to a sweet and slightly spicy fragrant blend like lemon ginger can disguise the flavor. Additionally, the drink contains compounds that may soothe pain and cramping in new moms as the uterus returns to its former size.

Adding it to barley tea during nighttime feedings could minimize the effect of sleep disruption on your cycles. Barley grass powder contains tryptophan and may contain GABA, two substances known for their calming, soothing effects.

Finally, some women mix ground fenugreek seeds with food to hide the taste. Stirring some into your morning oatmeal could do double duty for milk production, as oats are often used in recipes like lactation cookies to increase supply.

Fenugreek Dosage: How Much Per Day?

Some women turn to capsules to answer the question of how much fenugreek to take daily. Many come in 610 mg doses; you should take two capsules up to three times a day with food. If using the raw herb, 7.5 grams proved to be an effective dose for increasing milk supplies in one study.22 

Fenugreek and Drugs: Potential Interactions

Fenugreek can interfere with certain medications. Most specifically, you should use caution and consult with your doctor before use if on any of the following:23

  • Blood thinners: Including warfarin, heparin, or enoxaparin.
  • Anti-clotting drugs: Including alteplase, reteplase or streptokinase.
  • Blood sugar-lowering drugs: Including metformin, glipizide, acarbose, or rosiglitazone.
  • Thyroid hormones: Including levothyroxine and thyroxine.
  • NSAIDS: Including aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.

Learn More About Nutrition and Overall Health with Signos’ Expert Advice

Do you want to learn more about nutrition and overall health? Signos can help. Our blog offers a wealth of nutritional knowledge to help you improve your total well-being. 

If you have questions about your nutrition needs or whether you can improve your health with fenugreek benefits, consider talking with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian. In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about healthy eating through expert advice on the Signos’ blog. Take our short quiz to find out if Signos is right for you!

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References

1. Carwood, Derek. “How to Plant, Grow and Care for Fenugreek.” Better Homes and Gardens. Retrieved from: https://www.bhg.com/how-to-grow-fenugreek-7098344

2. Boyles, October. “10 Foods That Boost Mental Health.” ICANotes Behavioral Health EHR. Retrieved from: https://www.icanotes.com/2018/04/04/10-foods-that-boost-mental-health/

3. “Fenugreek Leaves (Methi) Nutrition Facts.” Nutrition and You. Retrieved from: https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fenugreek-leaves.html

4. “Fenugreek Seed in Traditional Chinese Medicine.” Chinese Nutrition. Retrieved from: http://chinesenutrition.org/view_image.asp?pid=592

5. “Prediabetes: Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.” CDC. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html

6. Mudgalkar, Nikhil and Ranade, Manjiri. “A Simple Dietary Addition of Fenugreek Seeds Leads to the Reduction of Blood Glucose Levels: A Parallel-Group, Randomized, Single-Blind Trial. NIH. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954247/

7. Gala, Chandrakala, et. al. “Role of Fenugreek in the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Prediabetes.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4591578/

8. Chevassus, Hugues, et. al. “A Fenugreek Seed Extract Selectively Reduces Spontaneous Fat Consumption in Healthy Volunteers.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19809809/

9. Mathern, Jocelyn, et. al. “Effect of Fenugreek Powder on Satiety, Blood Glucose, Insulin Response and Energy Intake in Obese Subjects.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19353539/

10. Bae, Jiyoung, et. al. “Fennel and Fenugreek Tea Drinking Suppresses Subjective Short-Term Appetite in Overweight Women.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525133/

11. Bafadam, Soleyman, et. al. “Cardioprotective Effects of Fenugreek Seed Extract in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8007891/

12. Pradeep, Seetur and Srinivasan, Krishnapura. “Alleviation of Cardiac Damage by Dietary Fenugreek is Potentiated by Onion in Experimental Diabetic Rats via Blocking Renin-Angiotensin System.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29094243/

13. Isaza, Adrian, et. al. “Effects of Fenugreek Seeds on Cardiovascular Diseases and Other Chronic Diseases.” Science Direct. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780128198155000367

14. Amini, Mohammad, et. al. “The Effect of Fenugreek Seed Consumption on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36763260/.

15. Joseph, Jasmine and Ravi, Reena. “Effect of Fenugreek on Breast Milk Production and Weight Gain Among Infants in the First Week of Life.” Science Direct. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2213398420300051.

16. “Fenugreek: Herbal Support for Low Milk Supply.” Kaiser Permanente. Retrieved from: https://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/Images/Fenugreek%20for%20Low%20Milk%20Supply_tcm75-479508.pdf

17. Bagchi, Debasis, et. al. “Efficacy of Furosap, a Novel Fenugreek Seed Extract, in Enhancing Testosterone Level and Improving Sperm Profile in Male Volunteers.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278660/

18. Abraham, Suzanne, et. al. “Testofen, a Specialized Fenugreek Seed Extract, Reduces Age-Related Symptoms of Androgen Decrease, Increases Testosterone Level and Improves Sexual Function in Healthy Aging Males in a Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Study.” NIH. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26791805/

20. Entezari, Mohammad, et. al. “Does Fenugreek Seed Improve Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus? A Parallel Group Randomized Clinical Trial.” Science Direct. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S187638201830012X.

21. Manes, Yvette. “9 Lactation Smoothies to Get Your Milk Flowing.” Romper. Retrieved from: https://www.romper.com/p/9-lactation-smoothies-to-get-your-milk-flowing-13808

22. “Fenugreek.” National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501779/

23. “Fenugreek.” Drugs.com. Retrieved from: https://www.drugs.com/npc/fenugreek.html

About the author

Mia Barnes is a health writer and researcher who specializes in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

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