Fenugreek may help increase breastmilk production, enhance testosterone levels, and promote blood sugar control. It has also been linked to other health benefits, but more research is needed.
Fenugreek is an herb long used in alternative medicine. It’s a common ingredient in Indian dishes and often taken as a supplement.
This herb may have numerous health benefits.
This article explains everything you need to know about fenugreek, including its benefits, side effects, and uses.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant that stands around 2–3 feet (60–90 centimeters) tall. It has green leaves, small white flowers, and pods that contain small, golden-brown seeds (
For thousands of years, fenugreek has been used in alternative and Chinese medicine to treat skin conditions and many other diseases (
It is also a common household spice and thickening agent and can be found in many products, such as soap and shampoo.
Fenugreek seeds and powder are also used in many Indian dishes for their nutritional profile and slightly sweet, nutty taste.
Fenugreek is an interesting herb with diverse uses and many potential health benefits.
One tablespoon, or 11 grams (g), of whole fenugreek seeds contains 35 calories and several nutrients, including (
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 3 g
- Carbs: 6 g
- Fat: 1 g
- Iron: 21% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Manganese: 6% of the DV
- Magnesium: 5% of the DV
Fenugreek seeds have a healthy nutritional profile, containing a good amount of fiber and minerals, including iron and manganese.
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby’s development. However, some people may struggle to produce sufficient amounts.
While prescription drugs are commonly used to boost breastmilk production, research suggests that fenugreek may be a safe, natural alternative.
One older, 14-day study in 78 new mothers found that drinking herbal tea with fenugreek seeds increased breast milk production, which helped babies gain more weight (
Another 2011 study split 66 mothers into three groups. One received fenugreek tea, the second received a placebo, and the third received nothing (
The volume of pumped breast milk increased from around 1.15 ounces (oz), or 34 milliliters (mL) in the control and placebo groups to 2.47 oz (73 mL) in the fenugreek group (
These studies used fenugreek herbal tea instead of supplements, but supplements are likely to have similar effects.
Though this research is encouraging, you should discuss any concerns about breastmilk production with a healthcare professional.
Research suggests that fenugreek may increase breastmilk production and the rate of weight gain in newborn babies.
One of the most common reasons men use fenugreek supplements is to boost testosterone.
Some studies have found that it has beneficial effects, including an increased libido.
In one study, taking 300 milligrams (mg) of fenugreek twice daily for 8 weeks led to significant increases in testosterone levels in men when combined with resistance training (
Participants also experienced a reduction in body fat compared to a control group, without any decrease in muscle strength (
In another older 6-week study, 30 males took a supplement with 600 mg of fenugreek extract — along with magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B6 — to assess changes in sexual function and libido. Most participants reported increased strength and improved sexual function (
However, more research is needed.
Initial research suggests that fenugreek can boost testosterone levels and sexual function in males.
Fenugreek may aid metabolic conditions, such as diabetes (
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who took 5 g of fenugreek seed powder twice daily for 2 months experienced a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels, belly fat, body mass index, and hemoglobin A1c, a marker of long-term blood sugar control (
The high fiber content found in fenugreek powder or seeds could also be beneficial for supporting blood sugar control, even in people without diabetes.
In fact, one study found that replacing 10% of the refined wheat flour in buns and flatbreads with fenugreek powder significantly reduced blood sugar levels after eating in people without diabetes (
Evidence supports fenugreek’s role in blood sugar control and the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Fenugreek has been used to treat a variety of conditions. However, many of these uses have not been studied well enough to reach strong conclusions.
Preliminary research suggests that fenugreek may aid:
- Appetite control: Some studies show a reduction in fat intake and appetite. One 14-day study found that participants spontaneously reduced total fat intake by 17% (
11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
- Cholesterol levels: Some evidence indicates that fenugreek can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (
- Heartburn: One older 2-week pilot study in people with frequent heartburn found that fenugreek reduced their symptoms. In fact, its effects matched those of antacid medications (
- Inflammation: This herb has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in rats and mice. More research is needed to confirm this in humans (
18, 19, 20).
In addition, some reviews and anecdotal reports from traditional medicine suggest that fenugreek can help with improving metabolism, easing digestive issues, and treating numerous other conditions (
Although more research is needed, initial results postulate that fenugreek has several other health benefits.
Fenugreek is an ingredient in many supplements. Since formulations differ, the recommended dose depends on the supplement. There is no single recommended dose.
Additionally, the dosage may vary depending on the benefit you seek.
Most testosterone-based research uses around 250–600 mg of fenugreek extract, while research on breast milk production has used around 1–6 g (
Research on other areas has used much higher doses.
In fact, studies on the cholesterol- and blood sugar-lowering effects of fenugreek suggest that doses between 5–25 g may be most effective (
Supplements should generally be taken before or with a meal. Since this herb aids blood sugar control, it may be best to take it with your highest carb meal of the day.
Always follow the dosage instructions on the label. If unsure, consult a healthcare professional.
Your dosage of fenugreek depends on the type of supplement, as well as your health goal.
Fenugreek appears relatively safe for most people (
However, as with most supplements, less serious side effects like diarrhea and indigestion have been reported anecdotally.
People may also experience reduced appetite, which could be harmful if you have an eating disorder or are trying to gain weight (
Moreover, some people report a strange and slightly sweet body odor when supplementing, but this is unconfirmed.
Given its effect on blood sugar, fenugreek should be used with caution if you’re taking diabetes medication or other supplements that lower blood sugar levels.
Animal studies suggest that very high doses cause numerous adverse side effects, including DNA damage, decreased fertility, neurological problems, and an increased risk of miscarriage (
Although most of these side effects haven’t been confirmed in humans and the dosages used are unusually high, some scientists are concerned about the use of fenugreek supplements (
It’s always a good idea to check with a medical professional before starting a new supplement. Most importantly, ensure that you’re taking a safe dose.
In humans, fenugreek may cause mild side effects, although it appears relatively safe at the correct dosage.
Fenugreek is a unique herb that has long been used in alternative medicine.
Based on the available evidence, fenugreek has benefits for lowering blood sugar levels, boosting testosterone, and increasing milk production in people who are breastfeeding.
Fenugreek may also reduce cholesterol levels, lower inflammation, and help with appetite control, but more research is needed in these areas.