Is fenugreek good for you?


Fenugreek on a spoon
By Jennifer Huizen  
Reviewed by Zara Risoldi Cochrane, PharmD,
MS, FASCP
Uses, Nutrition, Benefits, Adverse effects,
interactions,  overdoses, Takeaway.
Fenugreek
is an herb in the same family as soy. People use its fresh and dried seeds,
leaves, twigs, and roots as a spice, flavoring agent, and supplement. While
more research is necessary, some studies show that fenugreek may have varied
health benefits.
Fenugreek may be able to help reduce the risk
of:
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • high
    cholesterol
  • high
    blood pressure
  • heart
    conditions
  • bacterial,
    fungal, and viral infections
  • inflammation

However,
using or consuming compounds in fenugreek may cause uterine contractions during
pregnancy and worsen hormone-sensitive types of cancer.
Fenugreek
may also cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and bloating.
Fenugreek
uses

Fenugreek
is one of the oldest medicinally used plants, with roots in both traditional
Indian and Chinese systems of medicine.
Fenugreek
extracts are ingredients in many common products, including:
  • soaps
  • cosmetics
  • teas
  • garam
    masala, a spice blend
  • condiments
  • imitation
    maple syrup products

Nutrition of fenugreek
Fenugreek
contains many essential nutrients, and these help make it a strong antioxidant.
Some of these nutrients include:
  • choline
  • inositol
  • biotin
  • vitamin
    A
  • B
    vitamins
  • vitamin
    D
  • soluble
    and insoluble fiber
  • iron

What are the benefits?
Consuming
fenugreek may help with digestive problems, low testosterone, and arthritis. Currently,
there is not enough conclusive evidence to fully support the use of fenugreek
for any medical purpose.
However,
people have been using fenugreek in varying forms for hundreds or potentially
thousands of years to treat a very wide range of conditions, such as:
 
  • digestive
    problems, including constipation, loss of appetite, and gastritis
  • breast
    milk production and flow
  • diabetes
  • low
    testosterone or libido
  • painful
    menstruation
  • menopause
  • arthritis
  • high
    blood pressure
  • obesity
  • breathing
    problems
  • boils
  • low
    exercise performance
  • ulcers
  • open
    wounds
  • muscle
    pain
  • migraines
    and headaches
  • childbirth
    pains

Of
all the reported health benefits of fenugreek, only a few have been
substantially backed by scientific evidence.
Among other benefits, some research suggests
that fenugreek may:
Reduce
the risk of diabetes
Quite
a few studies in animals have shown that at least four compounds in fenugreek
have antidiabetic properties. They primarily:
  • reduce
    intestinal glucose absorption
  • delay
    gastric emptying
  • improve
    insulin sensitivity and action
  • reduce
    concentrations of lipid-binding protein

In
a 2017 study, mice fed a high-fat diet with 2 percent whole fenugreek seed
supplementation for 16 weeks had better glucose tolerance than those who did
not receive the supplementation.
However,
the fenugreek did not improve glucose tolerance in the mice who ate a low-fat
diet. Also, the authors concluded that 4 days of voluntary exercise on a
spinning wheel was ultimately more effective at improving glucose tolerance in
all the mice than fenugreek.
Overall, the researchers found fewer benefits
from fenugreek than they expected.
Improve
milk production and flow

Fenugreek
may help stimulate breast milk production and ease the flow. Practitioners of
traditional Asian medicine have long recommended fenugreek for this purpose.
In
a 2014 study, 25 women who had recently given birth drank three cups of
fenugreek tea daily for 2 weeks and saw an increase in milk volume in the first
weeks.
Improve weight loss
Fenugreek
may suppress the appetite and increase feelings of fullness, which could help
reduce overeating and lead to weight loss.
In
a 2015 study, nine overweight female Korean participants drank a fennel,
fenugreek, or placebo tea before lunch. Those who drank fenugreek tea reported
feeling less hungry and more full. However, the tea did not cause the
participants to consume less.
Because
of the fiber content, fenugreek fiber extract powders may also lead to a
feeling of fullness.
Raise testosterone and boost sperm count
Fenugreek
may help increase low testosterone and sperm levels.
In
a 2017 study, 50 male volunteers took an extract of fenugreek seeds for 12 weeks.
About 85 percent of the participants had an increased sperm count.
The
results also indicate that the extract consistently improved mental alertness,
mood, and libido.
Reduce inflammation
The
substantial levels of antioxidants in fenugreek give it great potential as an
anti-inflammatory agent.
Results
of a 2012 study in mice suggest that the high antioxidant flavonoid content in
fenugreek seeds can reduce inflammation.
Reduce
the risk of heart and blood pressure conditions
Fenugreek
may help regulate cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure, which can
reduce the risk of developing heart conditions and improve heart health.
This
may be because fenugreek seeds contain roughly 48 percent dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber is very hard to digest, and it forms a viscous gel in the
intestines that makes it harder to digest sugars and fats.
Pain relief
Fenugreek
has long been used for pain relief in traditional systems of medicine.
Researchers
think that compounds called alkaloids in the herb help block sensory receptors
that allow the brain to perceive pain.
In
a 2014 study, 51 women with painful periods took capsules of fenugreek seed
powder three times a day for the first 3 days of their periods for 2
consecutive months. They experienced shorter durations of pain and fewer
symptoms between the months.
Adverse effects, interactions, and overdoses
Woman
with abdominal pain holding stomach looking worried
Side
effects of fenugreek can include an upset stomach and dizziness.
Some
common unwanted effects of fenugreek include:
 
  • diarrhea
  • an
    upset stomach
  • the
    urine, sweat, or breast milk taking on a maple-like odor
  • dizziness
  • headaches

Some
people have had allergic reactions to fenugreek, although this is rare.
Pregnant
women should avoid using fenugreek because it contains compounds that can
stimulate contractions and may cause birth abnormalities.
Fenugreek
can also act similarly to estrogen in the body, so it may negatively impact
people with hormone-sensitive cancers.
In
general, a person with any health issue should avoid fenugreek or use it
cautiously. Talk to a doctor before trying it.
Fenugreek
does not negatively interact with many drugs, but some of the herb’s compounds
may perform similar functions as medications, so taking both may not be safe.
Understanding
the risks of overdosing on fenugreek will require more research. As with any
medicinal food or supplement, it is best to add fenugreek to the diet at a
slow, steady rate.
Takeaway
People
have used fenugreek for hundreds of years to treat conditions ranging from
unstable blood sugar to low testosterone.
While
it may have health benefits, fenugreek cannot cure any condition. A doctor
should assess all symptoms as soon as possible to prevent complications.
People,
particularly those with chronic conditions and lactating women, should speak
with a doctor before starting fenugreek supplements or significantly increasing
their dietary intake.
SOURCE: MEDICAL NEWS TODAY
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.