Fenugreek, or Trigonella foenum-graecum L., thrives in the Mediterranean, northern Africa, and the Indian peninsula, serving as a popular herb, spice, or traditional medicine. This plant features unique trifoliate leaves and white to yellow flowers. The seeds, nestled in slender pods, steal the spotlight. Often processed into powders or extracts, these golden yellow seeds boast a rich composition of polysaccharides, essential oils, saponins, and flavonoids, positioning fenugreek as a top choice for numerous health benefits.
Fenugreek excels in aiding blood sugar control, cholesterol management, and weight regulation. It also possesses cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Additionally, it significantly benefits women’s health, particularly in managing menopause symptoms and menstrual cramps.
In the world of pharmaceuticals, fenugreek seeds are quite a big deal. They contain compounds like diosgenin and yamogenin, which are super useful for making stuff like oral contraceptives and steroid hormones. There’s also this compound called trigonelline, which acts like a plant-based estrogen, latching onto estrogen receptors in the body.
When it comes to real-life benefits, fenugreek has shown some promising results. Researchers have found that fenugreek boosts sexual function in women, possibly by increasing a type of estrogen in the blood. For those dealing with painful periods, fenugreek extract has helped ease the pain and reduce symptoms like fatigue and headaches.
In postmenopausal women, taking fenugreek seed powder has been helpful in reducing hot flashes and night sweats, though it’s not quite as effective as hormone replacement therapy. A study in 2020 showed that perimenopausal women taking fenugreek extract experienced fewer hot flashes and night sweats, better sleep, and less depression1. Their hormone levels also changed in a way that suggests fenugreek might help balance hormones during menopause. So, it seems like fenugreek could be a pretty handy natural remedy for women going through these changes.
How much Fenugreek to Consume
When it comes to fenugreek seed powder, adults usually take about 5 to 10 grams a day, and they’ve done this for up to 3 years without much issue. If you’re looking at fenugreek seed extract instead, the common dose is around 0.6 to 1.2 grams per day2. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what dose might be best for a specific condition.
Word of caution
Fenugreek is generally considered safe when you eat it in normal food amounts. But when it comes to taking it in larger doses, like in supplements, there’s a bit of uncertainty about its safety. It’s not recommended for kids as a supplement. Some people might experience side effects like diarrhea, nausea, or other stomach issues, and in rare cases, it could cause dizziness and headaches. If you take a lot of it, there’s a chance it could lower your blood sugar too much, which isn’t good. Fenugreek may also cause allergic reactions in some individuals. There have also been instances where it has been linked to liver problems, either alone or when mixed with other herbs.
For pregnant women, it’s a no-go to use fenugreek in amounts more than what you’d normally eat. Some evidence indicates that fenugreek might increase the risk of birth defects, as observed in both animals and humans. Regarding breastfeeding, the safety of using fenugreek in amounts larger than those typically found in food remains unclear, placing it in a bit of a gray area..3
- Wu, T., Yue, R., He, M., & Xu, C. (2020). Effect of Fenugreek on vasomotor symptoms in menopausal women: A protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 99(23), e20526. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000020526 ↩︎
- WebMD. (n.d.). Fenugreek. Retrieved November 1, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-733/fenugreek ↩︎
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Fenugreek,” accessed on November 1, 2023 at https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/fenugreek ↩︎