Health Benefits of Fenugreek

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on July 06, 2023
5 min read

Fenugreek is native to the Mediterranean region, western Asia, and Europe. It's an herb people use for medicine and cooking. It’s similar to a clover in appearance, with small yellow, white, or purplish blue flowers and golden brown seeds inside a pod. 

The fenugreek seeds are similar in smell and taste to maple syrup and make them the perfect option for adding to recipes where you want a hint of sweetness. You'll likely use the seeds first, but people also eat the leaves as a vegetable in India.

The thickening properties of the fenugreek plant make it a popular ingredient in many beauty products. Certain cosmetic companies add fenugreek extract to products such as shampoos, hair masks, and conditioners. 

There are a lot of theories and traditions around the use of the fenugreek plant. In ancient Chinese medicine, fenugreek has been used for centuries. Unfortunately, whether any of its benefits are reliable is hard to say. There aren't enough quality studies of this herb to make a solid decision on its medicinal value.

Although there is no good scientific evidence that the medical uses of fenugreek are legitimate, many cultures worldwide use it as a natural medicine. Fenugreek is sometimes taken by mouth for those with diabetes to lower blood sugar levels, menstrual cramps in women, high cholesterol, and other health conditions.

Breastfeeding mothers

People who are breastfeeding sometimes use the fenugreek seed to increase milk supply. A small study showed that breastfeeding parents who drank fenugreek tea increased their milk production, allowing their babies to gain more weight. Another study showed women who drank the tea were able to produce double the amount of milk compared to mothers who didn’t drink the tea.

Lower blood sugar levels

A few small clinical studies have found that adding fenugreek powder to hot water or bread recipes can benefit people with diabetes. Doctors recorded several vital signs of those in the study before and after adding fenugreek to their diet. Among those vital signs was blood sugar level. The people in the study showed lower blood sugar levels after taking the fenugreek powder.

In smaller studies, people with diabetes reported lower sugar levels and noted better insulin response when they took 1 gram of fenugreek daily.

Menstrual cramps

Although they were small studies, a few showed that taking fenugreek seed pills or drinking the tea made from the seeds could reduce and shorten the duration of menstrual pain, such as cramps. These women were then able to reduce the number of additional painkillers needed during their menstruation.

Hormonal balance

For postmenopausal women, fenugreek extract may help to ease some of the discomfort linked to shifting hormone levels. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found significant effects reducing hot flashes by supplementing with fenugreek for 90 days.

Fenugreek benefits for men: Increased sex drive and sexual performance

In Australia, a small study found an interesting link between fenugreek extract and testosterone levels in men. After 6 weeks of receiving fenugreek extract, the men reported enhanced libido (sex drive) and sexual performance. 

The same properties that are thought to cause this change in testosterone levels are the same properties that lower cholesterol and anti-cancer properties.

Because something like fenugreek tea has such strong ingredients, you should speak with your doctor before you take it or any other supplement. Before you make fenugreek tea, keep the following in mind:

Peanut allergies

If you’re allergic to peanuts, you may also be allergic to fenugreek, since the two plants are cross-reactive. 

Pregnancy concerns

We still don't know the effects of fenugreek tea on someone who is pregnant. If you’re pregnant, it’s best to look for an alternative. 

Blood sugar and hypoglycemia

Because fenugreek may lower blood sugar, it’s best to check with your doctor before using fenugreek tea if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia.

When you breastfeed, your milk supply sometimes goes down due to stress or fatigue. Fenugreek tea is a good drink you can use to increase breast milk levels. 

Most people are able to drink fenugreek tea. But if you’re allergic to peanuts or chickpeas, or you take blood thinners or diabetes meds, speak with your doctor before consuming fenugreek tea.

Fenugreek tea is a traditional remedy. Today, you may use it as a dietary supplement that can help relieve diabetes and menstrual cramps and provide lactation support.

But more research is necessary to prove the effects of fenugreek tea.

Nutrients per serving

One serving (1 tablespoon) of fenugreek seed contains:

  • Protein: 2.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6.5 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 2.7 grams
  • Sodium: 7.4 milligrams
  • Potassium: 85.5 milligrams

Like many seeds, there is a fair amount of protein in the fenugreek seed. While there are many other essential vitamins and minerals in fenugreek, there are side effects too. These side effects might mean that you are ingesting too much: 

Fenugreek is a legume plant and could potentially cause issues for someone with a peanut allergy. Likewise, some medications may react with fenugreek, so check with your doctor before taking it.

Fenugreek supplements are available as a tablet or capsule that you can take daily. Some supplements contain other ingredients. Be sure to confirm the other components will not be harmful to your specific diet.  

There are a number of ways to prepare fenugreek in a dish or meal. These include:

Fenugreek seeds

The seeds of the fenugreek plant are typically used as herbs or spices in a dish. You can find them in many Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African dishes.

Fenugreek tea

There are many ways to make fenugreek tea, but if you do it the wrong way, it could be harmful. Here are some helpful instructions on how to prepare fenugreek tea:

  • Gently rinse fenugreek seeds in a strainer. Use about 1 teaspoon of seeds per 1 cup of water.
  • Boil water.
  • Move the seeds to the boiling water.
  • Let the seeds sit in the boiling water for around 3 minutes. The tea will be more concentrated the longer you let the seeds sit in it.
  • Strain the seeds and prepare your tea hot or cold.

It's best to drink 1-3 cups of fenugreek tea daily while breastfeeding.

Fenugreek powder

You can add fenugreek powder to things such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Water (hot or cold)
  • Bread or other baked goods
  • Tea
  • Homemade pickles

Fenugreek leaves

Fenugreek leaves are almost impossible to find in the United States. Asian markets sometimes have frozen fenugreek leaves, but even they can be difficult to find. If you find them, adding them to soups and curries can be a great way to add another layer of flavor and nutrients to your dish.