Fenugreek is an herb often used to flavor Indian dishes and also contains many potential health benefits. It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat different health concerns. (1)
Fenugreek has lately gained popularity as an herbal supplement with more studies being done to investigate the health claims.
So what exactly is fenugreek and what are its benefits?
What Is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek (botanical name Trigonella foenum-graecum) is native to western Asia and the Mediterranean.
While the leaves can be used in cooking and other preparations, it's the seeds that are most often used for medicinal reasons.
The seeds are part of the Indian garam masala spice blend. They are also often used as flavoring in artificial maple syrup products and added to soaps and cosmetics.
Not just a flavoring, fenugreek also contains many important nutrients like iron, manganese, magnesium, biotin, vitamin A, vitamin D, and several B vitamins.
Here are some of the key health benefits of fenugreek.
Increases Breastmilk Supply
One of the major benefits of fenugreek is that it can be an effective galactagogue, meaning it increases breastmilk supply.
Fenugreek may be helpful for nursing mothers who can't produce a sufficient amount of breastmilk.
Research done so far shows that fenugreek may be a safe and natural alternative to drugs that are commonly prescribed to increase breastmilk supply.
A 2014 study found that an herbal tea made with fenugreek seeds enhanced breast milk production in nursing mothers. (2)
Another study showed that consumption of herbal fenugreek tea by new mothers both increased the volume of breastmilk and helped newborns regain their birth weight more quickly than the control and placebo groups. (3) However, it
is suspected that fenugreek may interfere with the conversion of T3 to T4 hormones when taking synthetic thyroid medications for hypothyroidism; so it is generally advised to avoid it until more research is done.
To naturally increase breastmilk supply, try taking fenugreek in an herbal formula like these Dairy Fairy capsules.
May Help With Weight Loss
Fenugreek may help with weight loss by acting as an appetite surpressant.
Drinking fenugreek tea or taking it as a supplement can increase feelings of fullness, which in turn may help reduce overeating.
So far, only small studies have been done on fenugreek and appetite.
May Help With Diabetes and Blood Sugar
Another one of the key benefits of fenugreek is its potential in helping to control blood sugar levels and manage diabetes.
One study showed that fenugreek seeds improved blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetics and also lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. (7)
Other studies have confirmed fenugreek's positive effects on fasting blood sugar levels, and it appears to help both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
Further quality research is needed, but fenugreek could be a safe and natural way to manage blood sugar and diabetes. (8)
Boosts Libido + Testosterone Levels
Fenugreek can be used by men to naturally boost testosterone levels. It can also enhance libido for both men and women.
A 2017 study found that 90% of (male) participants taking a fenugreek extract had higher free testosterone levels at the end of 12 weeks and also reported improved libido and mental alertness. (9)
Another study done in 2015 found that fenugreek extract also improved libido in women with a self-reported low sexual drive. (9)
May Reduce Inflammation
The antioxidant properties of fenugreek give it lots of potential as an anti-inflammatory.
It has traditionally been used with other herbs to treat skin inflammation (10) but may also help with other inflammation in the body.
So far, only animal studies have been done to explore the benefits of fenugreek for inflammation. One 2012 study did confirm its anti-inflammatory effects. (11)
Pain and Cramp Relief
Another traditional use for fenugreek is as a pain reliever.
How fenugreek works to relieve pain is still being researched, but so far animal studies have confirmed its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. (12)
Fenugreek may especially help to provide relief for women who experience painful cramps during their menstrual cycle.
In a 2014 study, women who took fenugreek seed capsules had significant pain reduction as well as a decrease of other common menstrual symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and headache. (13)
It may also help to improve blood pressure. Both of these factors can help to improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Side Effects and Precautions
For most people, fenugreek is a very safe herb to take.
However, fenugreek can cause indigestion or diarrhea in some people. Also, there is always the possibility of an allergic reaction such as hives or trouble breathing.
Pregnant women should not take fenugreek. It can stimulate contractions and should be used after giving birth for breastmilk supply.
Because of fenugreek's potential to lower blood sugar levels, caution should be used if you take medication or supplements that also lower blood sugar.
If you have a medical condition, it's a good idea to speak with your doctor or health practitioner before supplementing with fenugreek.
How to Get the Benefits of Fenugreek
There are several different ways to use fenugreek to get its health benefits.
The whole, dried seeds can be bought to use in cooking or to make fenugreek tea with.
Make your own fenugreek tea:
- You will need about 1 tsp. of fenugreek seeds for every cup of water.
- Lightly crush the fenugreek seeds so that the beneficial compounds can be released.
- Bring water to a simmer in a pan, then add the seeds and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Turn the heat off, put the lid on the pan, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain the mixture, add a sweetener if desired, and enjoy!
- Fenugreek has a very strong flavor. You may wish to combine it with green or black tea or spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
You can also buy pre-made fenugreek tea bags and drink 1-3 cups a day.
Fenugreek is also available as a liquid tincture or extract that can be added to water or tea.
To use fenugreek to increase breastmilk supply, try taking it in capsule form with other herbs that also help breastmilk.
Discover the Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek has many potential health benefits and could be worth adding as a supplement to your diet.
Especially if you are nursing and want to increase breastmilk supply, look into fenugreek tea or fenugreek capsules to naturally help with this.