Fenugreek Research

November 9, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Very few health conditions are brought about by genetic factors alone. Some people may be prone to elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity or type 2 diabetes. But it’s extremely uncommon that such health concerns are solely influenced by a familial predisposition. More often than not these conditions are influenced by diet and lifestyle choices that are less than optimal. A pertinent analogy for this might be that genes are like a field. If you eat well, exercise regularly, practice stress reduction and supplement wisely, you will, in effect, encourage lush green plant life to grow. However, if you don’t take proper care of yourself, the field will become dry and lifeless. When ash or a spark comes drifting your way, which type of a field would you rather be?

On many occasions I’ve emphasized that supplements are not a replacement for healthy lifestyle choices. But the fact of the matter is that many people fall short of their dietary and exercise goals. Another reality is that some people have stronger genetic hurdles to overcome. In both of these instances, supplements can often play a more prominent role in managing wellness naturally.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) was first mentioned in “an Egyptian papyrus” dating back to 1500 B.C. This culinary herb has traditionally been used to support milk production in pregnant women, healthy digestion and even to reduce inflammatory conditions relating to the skin. However, in recent years scientists have focused on fenugreek’s ability to counter several maladies that are extremely common in the 21st century. (1)

Two recent studies on fenugreek indicate that it may play a valuable role in the arena of hunger management. The first trial was published in the November 2009 issue of Phytotherapy Research. It involved 18 “healthy obese subjects”. Each of the participants ate three breakfasts that were supplemented with varying levels of fenugreek fiber – 0 grams (used as a comparison), 4 grams or 8 grams. Dietary records were kept that detailed the food consumed in meals and snacks following the experimental breakfasts. Several significant findings were noted:

  • The meals containing 8 grams of fenugreek fiber supported feelings of fullness and satiety.
  • This reduced level of hunger decreased subsequent food consumption on the days when the 8 gram dosage was administered.
  • The caloric intake in the groups receiving 4 and 8 grams of fenugreek also dropped during lunch time meals. (2)

A study from the October 2009 edition of the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology explains that fenugreek seeds have been shown to reduce “feeding behavior in animals, but strong clinical data (in humans) are lacking”. In order to remedy this information gap, a group of 12 healthy male volunteers were enrolled in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study. On three separate occasions, the men were given either a placebo, 588 mg of a fenugreek seed extract or 1,176 mg of the extract. There was a “washout period” of 14 days between each test in order to rule out any competing influence. The results of this experiment indicate that the higher dosage of fenugreek significantly reduced fat and total caloric intake while having no ill effect on nutrient levels. (3)

If a reduction in appetite was all that fenugreek could accomplish, I probably wouldn’t devote an entire column to it. But it also appears to provide some valuable benefits with regard to blood sugar disorders and cardiovascular health. Here are some of the key findings that I discovered while sifting through the most recent scientific data:

  • A new Iranian study examined the effects of 10 grams of “powdered fenugreek seeds” in a group of 24 type 2 diabetics. The fenugreek powder was either “soaked in hot water” or mixed into yogurt and fed to the diabetics over the course of 8 weeks. The subjects who were in the “hot water” group demonstrated statistically significant reductions in fasting blood sugar, VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. But those receiving the fenugreek-enhanced yogurt showed no such benefits. This research suggests that certain water soluble fractions of fenugreek may be responsible for its therapeutic activity. (4)
  • Several animal studies provide a basis for the lipid-modifying effects of fenugreek exhibited in the previous study. An Indian trial from the October 2009 issue of the journal Obesity, discovered that fenugreek could assist the body in processing LDL cholesterol and decrease fat accumulation in mice. These results may help explain why other recent animal studies demonstrate fenugreek’s ability to reduce plaque formation in the arteries of rabbits and even reduce the likelihood of cholesterol-based gallstones in mice receiving a high cholesterol diet. (5,6,7)
Fenugreek Fiber (Galactomannan) and Blood Sugar Control
Source: J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2008 November; 43(3): 167–174. (link)

Perhaps the biggest question about fenugreek that’s currently being examined is how and why it works as well as it does. As I write this, there are food scientists fast at work trying to find a way to incorporate fenugreek into our modern food supply. An October 2009 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food tested the use of a proprietary fenugreek flour which was added to a commercial bread mix. The experimental bread contained 5% fenugreek flour. Testing on 8 “diet-controlled diabetic subjects” found that the fenugreek bread helped to manage blood sugar and insulin more successfully than a 100% whole wheat bread. Another important finding was that the taste of the fenugreek bread was “indistinguishable from the whole wheat bread control”. (8)

A substance by the name of 4-hydroxyisoleucine is believed to be at least partially responsible for the blood sugar balancing effect of fenugreek. This “atypical branched-chain amino acid” has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in the liver and muscles, and stimulate insulin secretion by the pancreas. The weight loss demonstrated in certain animal studies is postulated as being one more way in which fenugreek can cause a decline in blood sugar and plasma insulin concentrations. This evidence recently prompted a group of Canadian researchers to remark that, “4-hydroxyisoleucine, a simple, plant-derived amino acid, may represent an attractive new candidate for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, obesity and dyslipidemia, all key components of metabolic syndrome”. Other scientists report that even long term exposure (in animal models) to 4-hydroxyisoleucine does not damage the liver and appears to improve certain cardiovascular risk factors such as HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. (9,10,11)

The truth of the matter is that researchers are often left wondering exactly how natural “medicines” work. Herbal extracts are frequently comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of naturally-occurring chemicals. Most prescription medications are synthesized in a laboratory and contain only one, isolated chemical. This is partially why it’s not yet clear whether the healing properties of fenugreek are due solely to 4-hydroxyisoleucine, water soluble phytochemicals or possibly even a viscous form of fiber known as galactomannan. The overall potential of fenugreek is also not entirely clear. Preliminary research indicates that it may benefit aspects of health that extend far beyond blood sugar, cholesterol and weight. In recent years, scientific trials point to fenugreek as a possible analgesic (pain reliever), a liver protector and a memory enhancer. There is even a study underway to verify its time tested ability to safely support lactation in women who have difficulty producing adequate breast milk. Fenugreek has indeed come full circle. But now, that circle is expanding. We’re learning more about this valuable spice each day and the information is becoming available just in the nick of time. (12,13,14,15,16,17)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Diabetes, Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements

14 Comments & Updates to “Fenugreek Research”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning JP,

    i know fenugreek since my earliest days: swiss people make a chees of very low fat milk (i think almost 0% fat) and this chees is green and very very spicy because of the fenugreek.

    i don’t think that you can buy that in the usa ( http://www.geska.ch/en/ –> homepage also available in english)

    but i think i have here a few recipes for you to use fenugreek:

    you can mix it with every cheese! best smell (for me) best with a very dry low fat cheese and you can combine that for baked bananas with that cheese or whole grain pankakes filled with that.

    its very delicious in combination with sweet tastes, or you can make a fenugreek butter. very delicous, you can use the butter toghether with almonds to scallop fish.

    its really an interessting spice with an unique flavor.

    at least my favourite dish with that spice:

    filled pancakes with this swiss cheese and green onions or leek served with a few butterflakes.

    Stay healthy!

    Nina K:

  2. Nina K. Says:

    me again, saw on their homepage, that they sell their chees in the USA:

    here you can find it:


  3. anne h Says:

    I like the analogy of the field being lush or dry with a spark coming – that’s a great visual!

  4. JP Says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Nina! I’ve never tried it before but it sounds delicious! I love trying new cheeses and food combinations! 🙂

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Thanks, Anne! I guess living in California inspired that “brush fire” analogy. 😉

    Be well!


  6. neffynef Says:

    Fenugreek also aids in hairgrowth and clear skin : ) great article. I just started taking this as a dietary supplement. I also make a herbal tea rinse and facial mask with the leaves. An Ayurvedic recipe:) Good to know Im on the right track. Thanks:)~peace

  7. JP Says:

    Thank you, Neffynef! 🙂

    I hope you’ll find great success with fenugreek!

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 07/29/15:


    Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2014;84(3-4):196-205.

    Effect of Fenugreek Seeds on Serum Metabolic Factors and Adiponectin Levels in Type 2 Diabetic Patients.

    This triple-blind randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted on 88 type 2 diabetic (T2DM) patients (males and females). Subjects in the fenugreek seed (n=44) and placebo (n=44) groups consumed 10 g/d of powdered whole fenugreek seeds or 5 g/d of wheat starch for 8 weeks. Fasting blood samples, anthropometric measurements and dietary records were collected at the baseline and at the end of the trial. Fenugreek seeds significantly decreased fasting blood glucose (P=0.007) and HbA1c (P=0.0001), serum levels of insulin (P=0.03), homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (P=0.004), total cholesterol (P=0.005) and triglycerides (P=0.0001) and increased serum levels of adiponectin (P=0.001) compared with placebo. No significant changes were shown in serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in both groups. In conclusion, fenugreek seeds improved glucose metabolism, serum lipid profile and adiponectin levels in studied subjects, and may be useful in the control of diabetes risk factors in TD2M patients.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 07/29/15:


    Phytother Res. 2015 Apr 24.

    Influence of a Specialized Trigonella foenum-graecum Seed Extract (Libifem), on Testosterone, Estradiol and Sexual Function in Healthy Menstruating Women, a Randomised Placebo Controlled Study.

    The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seed extract on sex hormones and sexual function in healthy menstruating women who reported low sexual drive. This short term, single site, double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study was conducted on 80 women, aged 20 to 49 years. Participants were randomised to either an oral dose of a standardised T. foenum-graecum seed extract (libifem) at a dose of 600 mg/day or placebo over two menstrual cycles. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, progesterone, androstenedione, total and free testosterone, estradiol (E2), luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, sex hormone binding globulin and cholesterol were measured at baseline and 8 weeks. The individual aspects of sexual function were measured using the Derogatis interview for sexual functioning and female sexual function index self-administered questionnaires. Stress, fatigue and quality of the relationship with partner were also measured using the PSS (Perceived Stress Scale), MFI-20 (Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory) and DAS (Dyadic Adjustment Scale) quality of life measures, respectively. There was a significant increase in free testosterone and E2 in the active group as well as sexual desire and arousal compared with the placebo group. The results indicate that this extract of T. foenum-graecum may be a useful treatment for increasing sexual arousal and desire in women.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 07/29/15:


    J Nutr Metab. 2014;2014:964873.

    Trigonella foenum-graecum seeds lowers postprandial blood glucose in overweight and obese individuals.

    This study determined the effects of fenugreek on postprandial plasma glucose (PPG) and satiety among overweight and obese individuals. Fourteen subjects were studied in the morning after overnight fasts on four separate occasions. Glycaemic responses elicited by 50 g carbohydrate portions of white bread and jam with or without 5.5 g of fenugreek and fried rice with or without 5.5 g fenugreek were determined over 2 h. The primary endpoint was the incremental area under the plasma glucose response curve (IAUC). Adding fenugreek to both foods significantly reduced the IAUC compared to the food alone: white bread and jam, 180 ± 22 versus 271 ± 23 mmol × min/L (P = 0.001); fried rice, 176 ± 20 versus 249 ± 25 mmol × min/L (P = 0.001). Fenugreek also significantly reduced the area under the satiety curve for white bread with jam (134 ± 27 versus 232 ± 33 mm × hr, P = 0.01) and fried rice (280 ± 37 versus 379 ± 36 mm × hr, P = 0.01). It is concluded that fenugreek significantly decreased the PPG response and increased satiety among overweight and obese individuals.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 07/29/15:


    J Reprod Infertil. 2014 Jan;15(1):41-8.

    Effects of fenugreek seed on the severity and systemic symptoms of dysmenorrhea.

    BACKGROUND: Primary dysmenorrhea is a prevalent disorder and its unfavorable effects deteriorates the quality of life in many people across the world. Based on some evidence on the characteristics of fenugreek as a medical plant with anti-inflammato-ry and analgesic properties, this double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial was conducted. The main purpose of the study was to evaluate the effects of fenugreek seeds on the severity of primary dysmenorrhea among students.

    METHODS: Unmarried Students were randomly assigned to two groups who received fenugreek (n = 51) or placebo (n = 50). For the first 3 days of menstruation, 2-3 capsules containing fenugreek seed powder (900 mg) were given to the subjects three times daily for two consecutive menstrual cycles. Pain severity was evaluated using a visual analog scale and systemic symptoms were assessed using a multidimensional verbal scale.

    RESULTS: Pain severity at baseline did not differ significantly between the two groups. Pain severity was significantly reduced in both groups after the intervention; however, the fenugreek group experienced significantly larger pain reduction (p < 0.001). With respect to the duration of pain, there was no meaningful difference between the two cycles in the placebo group (p = 0.07) but in the fenugreek group, the duration of pain decreased between the two cycles (p < 0.001). Systemic symptoms of dysmenorrhea (fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, lack of energy, syncope) decreased in the fenugreek seed group (p < 0.05). No side effects were reported in the fenugreek group. CONCLUSION: These data suggest that prescription of fenugreek seed powder during menstruation can reduce the severity of dysmenorrhea. Be well! JP

  12. JP Says:

    Updated 09/14/15:


    Eur J Nutr. 2015 Sep 10.

    Reduction of postprandial blood glucose in healthy subjects by buns and flatbreads incorporated with fenugreek seed powder.

    PURPOSE: This study aimed to determine whether fenugreek seed powder could reduce the glycemic response and glycemic index (GI) when added to buns and flatbreads.

    METHODS: In a randomised, controlled crossover trial, ten healthy human subjects (five men, five women) were given 50 g glucose (reference food, twice); buns (0 and 10 % fenugreek seed powder); and flatbreads (0 and 10 % fenugreek seed powder) on six different occasions. Finger prick capillary blood samples were collected at 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120 min after the start of the meal. The palatability of the test meals was scored using Likert scales.

    RESULTS: The incremental areas under the glucose curve value of buns and flatbreads with 10 % fenugreek (138 ± 17 mmol × min/L; 121 ± 16 mmol × min/L) were significantly lower than those of 0 % fenugreek bun and flatbreads (227 ± 15 mmol × min/L; 174 ± 14 mmol × min/L, P = <0.01). Adding 10 % fenugreek seed powder reduced the GI of buns from 82 ± 5 to 51 ± 7 (P < 0.01) and to the GI of flatbread from 63 ± 4 to 43 ± 5 (P < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that replacing 10 % of refined wheat flour with fenugreek seed powder significantly reduces the glycemic response and the GI of buns and flatbreads. Thus, fenugreek powder may be a useful functional ingredient to reduce postprandial glycemia. Be well! JP

  13. JP Says:

    Updated 1/26/16:


    Aging Male. 2016 Jan 20:1-9.

    Testofen, a specialised Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract reduces age-related symptoms of androgen decrease, increases testosterone levels and improves sexual function in healthy aging males in a double-blind randomised clinical study.

    This study examined the effect of Testofen, a specialised Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract on the symptoms of possible androgen deficiency, sexual function and serum androgen concentrations in healthy aging males. This was a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial involving 120 healthy men aged between 43 and 70 years of age. The active treatment was standardised Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract at a dose of 600 mg/day for 12 weeks. The primary outcome measure was the change in the Aging Male Symptom questionnaire (AMS), a measure of possible androgen deficiency symptoms; secondary outcome measures were sexual function and serum testosterone. There was a significant decrease in AMS score over time and between the active and placebo groups. Sexual function improved, including number of morning erections and frequency of sexual activity. Both total serum testosterone and free testosterone increased compared to placebo after 12 weeks of active treatment. Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract is a safe and effective treatment for reducing symptoms of possible androgen deficiency, improves sexual function and increases serum testosterone in healthy middle-aged and older men.

    Be well!


  14. JP Says:

    Updated 03/14/19:


    Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2019 Feb 6.

    A randomized controlled trial of a herbal compound for improving metabolic parameters in diabetic patients with uncontrolled dyslipidemia.

    OBJECTIVE: The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to investigate the effects of a polyherbal compound consisting of Aloe vera, black seed, fenugreek, garlic, milk thistle, and psyllium on diabetic patients with uncontrolled dyslipidemia.

    METHOD: Fifty patients with type 2 diabetes who had dyslipidemia in spite of statin therapy were randomly allocated to two groups: control group (n = 25) receiving a conventional therapy with hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic drugs and intervention group (n = 25) receiving both the conventional therapy and the herbal compound (one sachet twice daily) for 12 weeks. Each sachet contained 300 mg of Aloe vera leaf gel, 1.8 g of black seed, 300 mg of garlic, 2.5 g of fenugreek seed, 1 g of psyllium seed, and 500 mg of milk thistle seed.

    RESULTS: The levels of serum triglyceride, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, and HbA1c showed a significant in-group improvement in the intervention group. However, effects of the herbal compound on fasting blood glucose remained insignificant. The compound had no unwanted effect on the kidney function parameters (urea, creatinine) and serum liver enzymes (alanine aminotransferase and aspartate transaminase).

    CONCLUSION: The tested herbal compound, as an add-on to statin therapy, was effective in lowering the serum lipids in diabetic patients with uncontrolled dyslipidemia.

    Be well!


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