Fenugreek has been used for thousands of years by people all over the world, but especially in Asia, Southern Europe, and the Mediterranean. From embalming in Egypt to numerous uses in alternative medicine and nutrition, this plant has many benefits for men and women alike.
Over the years it has been called various different names. Here are just a few:
- Greek hay
- Bird’s foot
- Greek clover
- Hu lu ba
Recent studies have shown promising and sometimes surprising results for a wide range of health ailments using part or all of the plant, from root to flower. The seeds of the plant are used most often but you can find leaves being used in various cooking methods, especially in India and Pakistan.
Fenugreek is a nutraceutical, which is a term coined in 1989 by founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, Stephen D. Felice. It is defined as “food, or parts of a food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.”
Keep reading to find out all about fenugreek benefits and why you may want to consider using it as part of your health and fitness routine.
Fenugreek is the common name for Trigonella foenum-graecum meaning “3-angled” (Trigonella) and “Greek hay” (foenum-graecum). It is an annual plant native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean and cultivated in Europe, Asia, Africa, and India.
It has been used as far back as 4,000 BC largely for medicinal purposes for a wide range of ailments. The ancient Egyptians used fenugreek for incense and embalming as mentioned above. The plant is said to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antiviral properties and has been used in ayurvedic traditions in some countries.
You may be using a product that contains fenugreek without even realizing it. The seeds, flowers, leaves, and roots are commonly used in food and personal care products. The seeds are also ground into supplements and made into extract for medicinal and holistic use. As far as taste, some say fenugreek tastes sweet and nutty while others get a bitter flavor.
Products that contain part or all of the fenugreek plant:
- Spices, Garam marsala being the most popular and well known
- Personal care products (hair and skin care)
- Artificial maple syrup
- Imitation vanilla
- Bakery products
- Nondairy frozen products
Benefits of fenugreek seeds soaked in water
In order to reap the most benefit from fenugreek seeds, it is best to soak them in water to break down the fiber which allows your body to absorb more of its nutrients.
Here is an easy way to soak your methi seeds:
- Divide a tablespoon of seeds between two 8 ounce glasses of water.
- Soak overnight and drink when you first wake up.
- Chew the seeds and swallow them after drinking.
- Boiling the water may help cut down on the bitter taste of the seeds and will further soften the seeds.
- Adding a touch of sweetness to the mix might help make the drink and seeds more palatable if you can’t deal with the bitterness.
This same method can be used to get additional benefits from the leaves. They can be cooked in food or even made into tea.
There are a number of benefits linked to using fenugreek and various studies completed to prove or disprove these theories. While not completely conclusive and knowing that studies can be done in rigid and non typical scenarios, it’s worth showing what this plant has to offer some people and situations.
Some health issues cause concern for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. It can hinder their progress or even stop them from continuing to train, depending on the issue and its severity.
Why not use a supplement that does both, by not only taking care of your health but also providing additional benefits to enhance your workout?
Here are the health problems we’ve identified that might be helped or cured by using fenugreek:
- Diabetes and blood sugar levels
- Appetite control and weight loss
- Digestive problems
- Hair and skin
- Skin ulcers and wound healing
- Bronchitis and sinus problems
- Benefits for men
- Benefits for women
Let’s take a look at them and see how fenugreek could help make life with health issues a little bit easier to handle, and hopefully get you back in training mode if you’ve been derailed.
Diabetes and blood sugar levels
There have been quite a few studies conducted on both type 1 and type 2 diabetics to see how supplementing with fenugreek may help with regulating spikes in blood glucose levels. It is a popular supplement to consider due to its naturally occurring fiber in fenugreek.
The fiber binds to the cholesterol and glucose in the body which prevents it from being absorbed, allowing it to be purged by the body through the kidneys and out in waste.
The additional fiber also helps to control insulin levels when processing foods with sugar. The slower digestion rates will help to keep fat deposition down and create a leaner and more muscular physique.
Some promising results have been found to help not only diabetics but also people who struggle to control their blood sugar or have been warned they are prediabetic by their doctor.
One study on type 1 diabetics shows a 54 percent reduction in urine secretion glucose testing after supplementing with seed powder over a 10-day period. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides also decreased significantly, with HDL cholesterol staying the same.
Another 2015 study on type 2 diabetic men showed successful lowering of blood glucose levels in all test subjects. They were divided into two groups and fed either raw or cooked seeds over a three month period. Some were even able to reduce or eliminate hypoglycemic drugs.
Fenugreek benefits are not just for diabetics when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels. There is even a study showing that men who do not have diabetes were able to reduce their blood glucose levels by as much as 13 percent when checked four hours later.
Appetite control and weight loss
Due to its naturally high fiber content, fenugreek may be a source of appetite suppression for people, which can help aid in weight loss.
While its noted that fenugreek benefits more with a low fat diet than a high fat diet, one study done on overweight men showed a reduction in overall fat consumption while taking fenugreek seed extract. This allowed them to lose weight easier and faster than before they started taking seed extract.
This 2009 study was done on eighteen obese men and women. The volunteers involved in the study took the highest dose of eight grams of isolated fenugreek fiber with the first meal of the day. They noticed significantly increased feelings of satisfaction and fullness, reducing hunger and overall food consumption.
This can be an important factor in getting leaner, particularly when following a low-fat diet. Eating less fat provides reduced satiety after a meal so appetite generally goes up. By using fenugreek, those appetite urges will be lessened, making it easier to follow a low-fat diet.
Do you suffer from any of these digestive issues?
- Acid reflux
The mucilage in the seeds can soothe and coat the stomach lining and intestines, helping to relieve heartburn and acid reflux. It will also improve digestion which eliminates bloating and helps hydrate stool reducing constipation. This would be a great reason to try some fenugreek tea!
A study in 2013 done on piglets supports the fact that methi seeds can help regulate the gut flora to keep the system moving as it should.
Hair and skin
Fenugreek benefits hair by eliminating dandruff and preventing hair loss.Take soaked seeds and make a paste, then cover the scalp and rinse off after 30 minutes to help combat dandruff with the added benefit of reducing hair loss.
Using the water from soaked methi seeds can also help skin clear and keep it pimple free. The free radicals in the seeds can also reduce skin spots and create an overall more even complexion.
Skin Ulcers and wound healing
Fenugreek oil benefits the skin by acting as an emollient, absorbing into the skin to soften and moisturize. Whether you have open sores, boils, cuts, scraps, or skin ulcers, using this seed oil might help you heal quicker and reduce or eliminate risk of infection.
A group of rats were tested for wound healing and found that the phytoconstituents in fenugreek seed oil, along with sesame and grapeseed oils, showed the best tissue regeneration compared to the control.
This study done on camels with jaw fractures proved that feeding them fenugreek allowed for faster healing than the control group.
In China, fenugreek has been used in various forms to help combat cervical and breast cancer due to its naturally occurring anticancer components. A study done in 2011 on breast cancer shows that the spice was able to kill MCF-7 human breast cancer cells using plant extract.
An article in the American Association for Cancer Research Journal backs up this claim, citing the chemical compound diosgenin as the likely constituent that helped eradicate cancer cells and called for further testing and research to confirm the claims.
This 2009 study used seed extract on a panel of prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancers and showed successful cancer cell death even when researchers simulated growth stimulatory pathways in their way to block the extract from reaching the cancer cells.
These studies and further research will hopefully be able to conclusively confirm that fenugreek seed extract can be used to help find the cure for cancer.
Asthma is prevalent in much of the world with 18.9 million sufferers in the U.S. and over 300 million worldwide. Researchers tested three groups of mild asthma sufferers to see how their asthma improved by either taking fenugreek syrup, honey syrup, or a placebo. Of the fenugreek group, 10 percent noted improvement in their FEV1 levels.
After letting your methi seeds soak overnight in water as described above, add in fresh ginger juice and some honey for flavor. Drink twice a day and it could help with your asthma symptoms. Make sure to check with your doctor before starting this regimen to be sure that any other health issues aren’t cause for concern.
Bronchitis and sinus problems
Considering that fenugreek is a natural expectorant, it might be good to take to help clear up your lungs and sinuses if you are not feeling well. The fenugreek will help loosen up mucus, making it easier to cough out. It will also loosen up clogged sinuses so that you can finally breathe.
Given than fenugreek has a bitter taste and is not usually tolerated well when consumed without some sort of sweetener or something to mask the taste, having clogged sinuses might actually be a blessing in disguise when drinking it down! Using the recipe above for asthma would also work well if sick; the ginger and honey will help boost your immune system as well as help clear out the offending germs.
Fenugreek Benefits for Men
A drug called Testofen was created using fenugreek seed extract, and while it was found to have positive effects on arousal and libido, tests were inconclusive on whether or not fenugreek has any effect on testosterone levels.
Dr. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM conducted a double blind clinical trial to prove that bodybuilders were able to increase their strength and weightlifting capacity when taking fenugreek compared to a placebo.
He further studied fenugreek’s response to prostate cancer cells in a petri dish and found that it may be able to combat the disease with further testing, helping to support claims above that fenugreek seed extract can be a viable option for killing certain cancer cells.
It is likely that some bodybuilders used fenugreek for its benefits back in the Golden Era. Bodybuilder and wrestling legend Ric Drasin talks about the fact that he has taken fenugreek three times a day for years to help build and cut muscle while working out. You can check out Ric’s thoughts on how supplementing has changed and evolved through the years and what he currently recommends in this video.
Fenugreek Benefits for Women
There are a number of promising ways that fenugreek can help women. If taken in capsule form daily, it can help by increasing milk production while breastfeeding if your supply is low or you are supplementing. Women should be able to see an increase in supply by the third day of taking fenugreek, and can easily stop the regimen once supply is achieved or no longer needed.
The same naturally occurring compound found in fenugreek that is considered an anticancer agent, diosgenin, can reduce menstrual cramps and also provide relief from hot flashes. It could even be considered a reason that fenugreek provides benefits for breast growth naturally in some women. Drinking steeped seed and water or tea would help ensure the best results.
In the 19th century, a product was created called Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound made by a woman of the same name. It was created with a blend of herbs including fenugreek, pleurisy root, and true unicorn root. The mixture was then blended with an 18 percent solution of alcohol to act as a solvent and preserve so the blend would be shelf stable.
The product sold very well but was stopped in the 1920’s when stricter federal regulations were created and testing was not available to confirm her claims that the product could cure anything that ails a female.
There is a chance that fenugreek can stimulate the uterus, so it could be used to induce childbirth if needed. Be sure to get approval from your doctor before you try to do this and risk harming your baby.
As long as you are not taking too much fenugreek, you should not have any problems or side effects. If you do take too much, it could cause you to have stomach pain and/or diarrhea, and could worsen asthma symptoms.
Women should not take fenugreek while pregnant as it can cause uterine contractions. It can also mimic estrogen in the body so should not be used by women with cancers sensitive to hormones without consulting a doctor.
Also, be sure to check with your doctor before starting fenugreek for lactation purposes to be sure it will not harm your baby when it is passed through your breast milk.
You will want to check to see if it is safe to consume if you are allergic to anything in the Facabeae family (beans, peas, chickpeas, peanuts, carob, licorice) to avoid any chance of an allergic reaction.
One amusing side effect is that consuming fenugreek could cause your armpits to smell like maple syrup. It makes sense that it is used to make imitation maple syrup!
Much like asparagus, taking fenugreek could cause your urine to have an odor as well. So if you are wondering what that strange smell might be after you relieve yourself, you might have found your answer.
Fenugreek has been around for generations and is a great addition to many recipes. It can help with some ailments, and even shows promising results from studies as to its benefits for a variety of different diseases and health concerns. But, some claims should be tested further to confirm fenugreeks true benefits for certain health issues.
Of course, while it seems fenugreek can be a great benefit for some, always check with your doctor before starting a supplement regimen, especially if you are already taking prescribed medication. You want to be sure there will be no adverse effects if taken with certain medications or conditions.