Scientifically Proven Benefits of Fenugreek and Its Side Effects (Including Fenugreek Tea Recipe)

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Scientifically Proven Benefits of Fenugreek and Its Side Effects (Including Fenugreek Tea Recipe)
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Fenugreek is a tasty herb used in cooking throughout Asia and the Mediterranean. It has become popular as a natural remedy for many ailments. Fenugreek seeds and fenugreek leaves have many great health benefits. Fenugreek seed powder is used to boost cardiovascular health, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and alleviate period pain.

Many mothers also take fenugreek supplements to stimulate milk production when they are breastfeeding. There is also some evidence to suggest that fenugreek powder can help to manage or even prevent type 2 diabetes.

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You can also get the amazing health benefits of both the seeds and leaves of fenugreek at home. Many people soak fenugreek seeds in hot water or boil fenugreek leaves to make a tea to boost their immune system. Fenugreek oil is also extracted from the seeds and it contains many antioxidants.

In this article, I will look at scientific research that backs up the many claimed health benefits of Fenugreek. You will also find out how to make your own fenugreek tea at home to boost your general health.

What is Fenugreek?

The fenugreek plant is a herb that belongs to the family Fabaceae and grows to about 30 cm in height. The Latin name for fenugreek is Trigonella foenum-graecum and it is also called methi in Hindi.

Fenugreek seeds (or, methi seeds) and fenugreek leaves (methi leaves) have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and recent scientific research supports many of its health uses.

Research on the health benefits of fenugreek reported that it is one of the oldest medicinal plants. Fenugreek contains a number of active compounds that have antioxidant properties and help fight disease. (1)

For example, some compounds in fenugreek are known to help reduce cholesterol and lower levels of fat in blood. Other compounds in fenugreek can reduce inflammation, kill off bacterial and fungal pathogens, and even have anticancer properties.

Many people say that kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and methi seeds taste like maple syrup. This is because fenugreek contains an aromatic compound that is also found in maple syrup.

Available Forms of Fenugreek Supplements

Fenugreek is available in many forms if you want to use it as a health supplement. You can buy fenugreek pills in powder form, as capsules, or a tablet to help alleviate digestive complaints or control diabetes.

Fenugreek extract sold as capsules can also help to increase breast milk supply during lactation. You can also buy loose fenugreek dried leaves or seeds to use in cooking or brew up a delicious fenugreek tea.

Fenugreek seed oil is distilled from the seeds and is used as a topical treatment to help wounds heal quicker and prevent bacterial skin infections. (2)

Fenugreek Nutrition Facts

Apart from its many health benefits, fenugreek also contains amino acids, minerals, sterols (help to reduce cholesterol), and traces of some vitamins.

A review on the nutritional value of fenugreek found that 100 grams of fenugreek seeds contain all your daily iron requirements. Fenugreek leaves and seeds are also rich sources of manganese, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. (3)

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Fenugreek is also high in dietary fiber. In fact, researchers have found that fenugreek has one of the highest concentrations of dietary fiber of any plant. Fiber from fenugreek seeds helps to bulk up stool and reduce the risk of constipation, get rid of hemorrhoids, and prevent diverticulosis. (4)

Fenugreek Benefits

Let’s look at the scientifically-proven benefits of fenugreek.

Fenugreek Extracts Help to Reduce Inflammation

Fenugreek is an important supplement to take if you suffer from inflammatory-related conditions. Doctors from Harvard Medical School say that chronic inflammation is linked to conditions like coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and degenerative conditions. (5)

Research from 2016 found that fenugreek seed extracts are high in anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers discovered that taking fenugreek seed extracts orally helps to reduce inflammatory responses by up to 40%. The research concluded that the whole fenugreek seed is beneficial for arthritis and lowering inflammation. (6)

Fenugreek can also reduce inflammation when applied topically. Scientists found that a cream containing 5% fenugreek seed extract was just as effective at reducing skin redness and swelling as hydrocortisone or ibuprofen ointments. (7)

Find out how to reduce inflammation with other foods.

Fenugreek Seeds Have Antioxidant Properties

One of the most important health benefits of fenugreek is the high levels of antioxidants in the seeds and leaves.

Doctors say that we need antioxidants in our diets to help combat the negative impact of free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to premature aging, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Fenugreek is one of the herbs that used to reduce the effect of free radicals. (8)

For example, germinated fenugreek seeds have been shown to have even higher levels of antioxidants than dried fenugreek seeds. (9) Other studies have proved that fenugreek seed extract can help to prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. (10)

To help reduce your chance of developing chronic disease, please read my article on the best antioxidants for great health.

Fenugreek Capsules Can Help Control Diabetes

Controlling the symptoms of diabetes is one of the most popular reasons for taking fenugreek extract supplements.

A 2017 review of 18 studies into the health benefits fenugreek found that many types of fenugreek supplements are useful for controlling diabetes. For example, one study showed that 500 mg of fenugreek powder helped to control blood sugar levels. Or, adding 15 g of fenugreek seeds soaked in water also prevented glucose levels from spiking after eating. Other studies into fenugreek and diabetes found that fenugreek extracts helped to reduce insulin resistance.  (11)

Another study found that “fenugreek supplementation modestly improves glucose tolerance without affecting insulin tolerance, body weight, or body composition”. (19)

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There is also scientific evidence to suggest that fenugreek can help to prevent diabetes. One 3-year randomized, controlled trial found that taking 5 g fenugreek powder twice a day before meals helped to prevent the progression of type 2 diabetes. All of the participants were showing the classic symptoms that they were at risk of diabetes. The research showed that fenugreek improved fasting glucose sugar, glucose levels after eating, and LDL cholesterol. (12)

To greatly reduce your risk of diabetes, please read my article about foods that control type 2 diabetes. Other herbs with antidiabetic properties are cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and cumin.

Fenugreek May Help Prevent Cancer

Fenugreek contains active compounds that may help treat cancer. Fenugreek contains chemical compounds called saponins that have been shown to inhibit cell division in cancerous cells.

Research published in 2016 found that extracts from fenugreek seeds helped to inhibit tumor growths in breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Researchers also found that supplementing your diet with fenugreek powder capsules can help to prevent various cancers. (13)

Other studies have pointed to the fact that the compound diosgenin in fenugreek extract has anticancer activity. One study showed that fenugreek extracts helped to reduce breast cancer tumors. (14)

Of course, more research has to be carried out on the effect of natural supplements on cancer.

Fenugreek May Boost Cognitive Power

One of the many benefits of fenugreek seeds is that they can help prevent degenerative mental conditions.

For example, a 2017 study found that powder from fenugreek seeds can benefit a person’s mental faculties. Researchers found that fenugreek supplements have a neuroprotective effect. Regular supplementation with fenugreek resulted in less memory loss and could help reduce the effect of Alzheimer’s disease. (15)

In 2016, scientists discovered that fenugreek can help to reduce the degenerative effect that Alzheimer’s disease causes. Fenugreek extracts increased neuro pathways and reduced learning impairment and memory loss. (16)

Fenugreek Can Improve Heart Health

Taking fenugreek capsules regularly could help boost the health of your heart.

In a clinical trial, scientists found that the antioxidant effect of fenugreek strengthened the heart. They found that in cases of a heart attack (myocardial infarction), there was less damage to heart tissue and patients experienced a faster recovery. (17)

Please read my article to find out how to greatly reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack.

Fenugreek is a Natural Blood Thinner

Fenugreek may also prevent blood clots.

In one clinical study, a fenugreek liquid extract of 5% was given to individuals to take. Scientists discovered that the fenugreek extract prevented blood clots from forming because it has a blood-thinning effect. Researchers said that long-term use of fenugreek can help prevent various cardiovascular diseases. (18)

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Fenugreek Can Lower Cholesterol

Fenugreek seeds can reduce cholesterol levels in your blood.

The active compounds in fenugreek extracts helps to break down cholesterol in your bloodstream and improve your cardio health. Researchers have discovered a number of reasons why fenugreek is helpful in lowering cholesterol.

For example, the high dietary fiber content of fenugreek can significantly reduce serum cholesterol. Also, saponins (plant chemicals) in fenugreek help to lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) but not affect “good” cholesterol (HDL). Taking 25 g fenugreek whole seed powder per day helped to reduce cholesterol, lower blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. (4)

Please see my article on the 10 most effective ways to reduce cholesterol naturally.

Fenugreek May Help You Lose Weight

You can also use fenugreek seeds to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

The way that fenugreek can help you shed extra pounds of belly fat is that it helps to lower triglycerides (blood fat). In experimental trials, fenugreek supplementation helped to prevent fat accumulation in subjects that were fed a high-fat diet. (20)

Of course, fenugreek isn’t a miracle cure to lose a lot of weight quickly. If you want to find out how to lose weight safely and keep it off for good, please read my article on simple tweaks to lose weight.

Fenugreek Can Protect Your Kidneys

The antioxidative effect of fenugreek also helps to protect the health of your kidneys and prevent kidney stones.

In clinical trials, fenugreek extracts prevented accumulation of deposits in the kidneys that can form into stones. Also, fenugreek helped to counteract the impact of toxins in the kidneys that can lead to kidney dysfunction. (21)

Other studies show that fenugreek can have a curative effect on kidney health. It was found that fenugreek supplements can help protect the kidney from damage caused by aluminum poisoning. (22)

Fenugreek Can Improve Digestion

Adding fenugreek seeds or leaves to your food or taking fenugreek powder supplements can aid your digestion.

The high fiber content of fenugreek seeds can help stool to bulk up and prevent the complications of constipation. Research has shown that starches in fenugreek boost digestion and help your digestive system to absorb more nutrients. (23)

Fenugreek Can Protect Against Gastric Ulcers

Taking fenugreek supplements can also protect against digestive problems caused by gastric ulcers.

Studies into the effect of fenugreek seeds on the gastrointestinal tract have shown that they protect the lining of the intestines. For example, one study showed that fenugreek seed powder works to protect gastric mucosa. This can help to reduce the instances of ulcers and even help them heal quicker. (24)

In fact, fenugreek supplements were more effective than omeprazole – a popular pharmaceutical drug for preventing ulcers and treating heartburn. (24)

Fenugreek Supplements Can Help to Build Muscle Mass

Fenugreek powder benefits you if you do resistance training to build muscle mass.

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In a random, double-blind trial, one group of athletes were given 500 mg of fenugreek extracts and the other group, a placebo. After training for 4 days a week for 8 weeks, the group taking the fenugreek supplement showed better results when it came to upper and lower body strength. (25)

Fenugreek Benefits for Women

There are some benefits of fenugreek that specifically affect women.

Fenugreek Can Alleviate Painful Periods

You can take fenugreek powder supplements to help reduce pain and cramping during your period.

Painful periods, or dysmenorrhea, can greatly affect your quality of life. Research has found that fenugreek contains analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. In a double-blind, randomized trial, fenugreek seed supplements reduced the intensity of period pain. The research found that fenugreek helped to reduce symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, and lightheadedness during menstruation. (26)

In the study, women took 2-3, 900 mg fenugreek seed powder capsules per day for the first 3 days of their period. There were no adverse side effects reported of using fenugreek to help relieve menstrual cramping. (26)

The are also other natural ways to relieve menstrual cramping based on research.

Fenugreek Capsules May Increase Breast Milk Production When Breastfeeding

One of the most common reasons for women taking fenugreek supplements is to increase milk flow during breastfeeding.

Fenugreek is a known galactagogue – a substance that stimulates milk production. A report from 2015 found that around 75% of women who were breastfeeding reported an increase in milk production. The most effective dose of fenugreek to increase breast milk quantity was 600 mg per day. (27)

The study concluded that fenugreek supplementation is an effective natural remedy to enhance breast milk production.

Another study found that making a herbal tea from fenugreek leaves also helped to increase breast milk production. (28)

Fenugreek Benefits of Men

Fenugreek also has beneficial effects on male sexual health.

Fenugreek Can Increase Testosterone Levels

One of the benefits that men get when taking fenugreek supplements is an increase in testosterone and sperm health.

One study found that fenugreek seed extracts helped improve testosterone levels. At the end of 12 weeks, men taking the fenugreek supplements had increased free testosterone levels. Researchers also discovered that the number of sperm also increased and sperm motility was improved. (29)

Fenugreek Can Improve Male Sexual Health

The positive impact that fenugreek has on testosterone levels also helps to improve male sexual health in general.

In one small study, 30 men were given 600 mg of fenugreek capsules to take for a 6-week period. At the end of the trial, most men reported improvement in their sexual drive, arousal, and orgasm. (30)

Fenugreek Dosage

How much fenugreek should you take to enjoy its amazing health benefits?

It seems that 600 mg of fenugreek per day is effective to increase breast milk production in lactating women, boost male libido, and increase the effectiveness of resistance training.

To help reduce period pain, studies have shown that taking 900 mg of fenugreek per day for the first 3 days of menstruation is an effective natural remedy.

Research has shown that taking 500 mg of fenugreek per day can help to control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Fenugreek Tea Recipe

It is very easy to make your own fenugreek tea at home to enjoy its many health benefits. Fenugreek seed tea is so easy to make. All you need is hot water and some good quality fenugreek (methi) seeds.

This is how to make your own fenugreek tea:

  1. Gently crush a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a mortar and pestle (or use your spice grinder).
  2. Put the crushed seeds in a small teapot or cup.
  3. Pour boiling water over the seeds and cover for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain the fenugreek water into another cup.
  5. Add a teaspoon of honey to taste.
  6. Drink and enjoy!

The great thing about making your own fenugreek seed tea at home is that you can then add the used seeds to your favorite curry or salad.

To make fenugreek tea with kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves), just substitute the seed for a teaspoon of dried fenugreek leaves.

Is Fenugreek Safe? Fenugreek Side Effects

Although fenugreek is generally safe for most people, you may experience some side effects. Here are some of the most common side effects of taking fenugreek as a supplement.

Allergic reactions. Doctors on WebMD say that some people experience allergic reactions like a runny nose, facial swelling, coughing and wheezing. Also, if you are allergic to peanuts, chickpeas, or soybeans, you may be allergic to fenugreek. (31)

Digestive upset. When starting to take fenugreek for medicinal purposes, you may experience some mild diarrhea, gas, bloating, or stomach upset.

Sweet urine odor. The compound in fenugreek that gives it a distinct flavor may cause your pee to smell like maple syrup.

Blood-thinning. If you are already taking blood thinning medication, you should consult with your doctor before taking fenugreek supplements.

Blood sugar control. You should also speak to your doctor if you take medication to control diabetes. Fenugreek can also lower blood glucose and may result in hypoglycemia. (32)

Doctors say that taking fenugreek is likely safe during pregnancy. However, because fenugreek can cause uterine contractions, pregnant women are advised not to take fenugreek supplements in early pregnancy. (4)

It is also good to remember that when using fenugreek in cooking, side effects are extremely rare.

Where to Buy Fenugreek

Fenugreek seeds are usually widely available in supermarkets, specialty food stores, and health stores. You can also buy fenugreek seeds online as capsules containing fenugreek seed powder.

It is usually more difficult to buy fenugreek leaves unless you have a specialist Asian food store nearby. However, it is easy to buy dried fenugreek leaves online.

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2 Responses to Scientifically Proven Benefits of Fenugreek and Its Side Effects (Including Fenugreek Tea Recipe)

  1. Tatthanappilly R S says:

    The medicinal properties of fenugreek is very interesting. The seed that we get in the nearby Indian store seems highly polished, and ivory-white in colour. Do you advocate that fenugreek seeds be used with it shell/skin or the deshelled ones?

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      You can eat fenugreek seeds as a whole. You can soak them in water overnight, then strain the water and consume the seeds. Or you can grind them in a food processor and add them to dishes.

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