Fenugreek – A Herb From The Antiquity. Benefits, Side Effects, and History

Fenugreek is a plant from the bean family that has been used in alternative medicine for thousands of years. Native to India, North Africa, and the Mediterranean, today, it is common mostly as a spice. It continuously gains popularity as a herbal supplement in the Western world.

Although more studies on this herb have yet to be made, we have evidence that it has been used by ancient Egyptians as a treatment for fever and other sicknesses. In fact, fenugreek seeds have been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

What is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek is an annual plant with three leaves, either green or yellow. The leaves are often consumed as a vegetable in India. The seeds are hard and brownish and come in various shapes. They are a common ingredient in many cuisines and can be seen either whole, dried, or as a powder.

The seeds have a powerful bittersweet taste and smell that can also be a little bit spicy. Many explain the taste to be similar to that of maple syrup. You can often see it as an ingredient of curry spices.


The Ancient cultures of India, Egypt, and China well understood the nutrition contents and the benefits of this herb. However, if you prefer to rely on modern studies, here are the most significant nutritional facts that we have about this herb. All of the following figures are based on a serving of 100 grams.

  • Magnesium – 191mg
  • Calcium – 176mg
  • Iron – 33.53mg
  • Fiber (dietary) – 24.6g
  • Protein – 23g
  • Vitamin A – 60 IU
  • Fats – 6.41g

Overall, Fenugreek appears to be a significantly strong antioxidant. Now, let’s see all its benefits.

Benefits of Fenugreek

As I already mentioned, a lot of research is needed to confirm all of its potential benefits. Our list encompasses the ones with at least some scientific evidence together with others that are under study.

Having that it has been used in medicine for thousands of years, I believe it is safe to say that it is an extremely healthy herb.

  1. Improves Digestion and Cholesterol

    Research has shown that fenugreek can potentially lower your cholesterol levels. This is entirely due to its high fiber content. It will reduce the risk of various sicknesses such as atherosclerosis. It will also reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes.

    Fenugreek can also improve your digestion and help you with inflammation and constipation of the stomach. However, if you eat too much of it, the effect may be the opposite leading to diarrhea.

  2. Diabetes

    Backed up by a lot of research, including higher doses of fenugreek in your diet and daily food intake can lower your blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes. The dosage for this particular case is from 5 to 50 grams of fenugreek seed twice daily. For people with type 1 diabetes, the required dosage is 50 grams of fenugreek seed twice every day.

    This reduction of blood sugar levels is mainly due to the improvement of the insulin function. Fenugreek also reduces glucose absorption and the concentrations of lipid-binding protein.

  3. Improves Breastfeeding

    According to recent research which put 66 mothers in three groups:

    • The first group drank fenugreek tea over a few days
      • The second group drank placebo tea over a few days
      • The third group did not drink anything and played the role of a control group

    Results showed that the first group that drank fenugreek tea had a significant increase in breast milk volumes.

    In another study made with 77 women who drank fenugreek tea over the course of 14 days ended with similar results.

  4. Testosterone, Libido & Sperm Count in Men

    Among its many uses, men use fenugreek to boost their testosterone, treat erectile dysfunction, increase their libido, and improve overall sexual performance.

    According to a recent study made on 60 men between the ages of 25 and 50, fenugreek had a positive impact on their libido after a treatment of 6 weeks. The majority of the participants reported an improvement in their sexual performance.

    According to another study from 2017 made on 50 volunteers, after eight weeks of daily intake of fenugreek seed extract, there was an increase in sperm count in 85% of the participants.

  5. Inflammation

    Being such a strong antioxidant, fenugreek can have an incredible anti-inflammatory effect. As we already know, Ancient Egyptians used it to treat their injuries.

    According to another recent research, the plant does indeed possess all these antioxidant properties. It can be used to treat both internal and external inflammation.

  6. Menstruation

    Fenugreek has the potential to significantly reduce menstrual pains under certain doses. It can also relieve the symptoms beforehand.

  7. Weight Loss

    One of the most controversial benefits continues to be the effect of fenugreek on weight loss. Research results have shown that the consumption of fenugreek seeds can reduce hunger and increase the feeling of fullness.

    While there is no evidence that it actually enhances weight loss it appears to be a good addition to the diet for people who want to eat less during their weight loss journey.

Side Effects

Although further research is required, we know for certain about a few side effects that can occur in the case of excessive doses of fenugreek.

Before you find our list below, please take note that if you have any particular health issues you should definitely consult with your physicist before including fenugreek to your diet.

In the next section, we will discuss who should definitely not use this plant and even if you do not find your condition in the list, consult with a professional beforehand.

  • Upset Stomach including gas, bloating, and diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Urine may have a maple-like odor

Fenugreek does appear to be absolutely safe for the majority of healthy people. Although it appears to be fairly safe for daily intake for several months, people with certain health conditions should be cautious. There are also certain conditions under which you definitely shouldn’t consume it.

Although it is rare, people with allergies may also find out that they are allergic to fenugreek as well.

Although fenugreek is known for lowering blood sugar levels and can be used by diabetics, you should still advise with your doctor before adding it to your regular medicine.

Simultaneously, if you consume a lot of fenugreek and experience symptoms of low blood sugar, you should get it monitored.

There is one particular case when fenugreek should absolutely not be consumed – during pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy – Although fenugreek appears to stimulate the milk flow during the breastfeeding period, women should not consume it prior to childbirth during their pregnancy. Certain compounds found in fenugreek can cause severe early contractions. What is more concerning is that it can cause birth abnormalities and malformations in the baby.

The effects of excessive doses have not yet been confirmed. However, based on animal studies, it can cause the following severe side effects:

  • Neurological problems
  • Miscarriage
  • DNA Damage
  • Decreased fertility

With this said, it is always recommended that you start slow and follow the prescriptions with all supplements. Although they are often beneficial for a variety of health conditions, new supplements like fenugreek have not received the required research to be called entirely safe.

Always consult with your physician and do not increase the suggested doses without a professional opinion.

Fenugreek through the Ages

The recorded history of fenugreek begins in Egypt around 1500 B.C. Archeologists, however, have found cooked fenugreek seeds from around 4000 B.C. on the territory of Iraq. Over the millennia, it has had various purposes in different cultures as a medicament, food, etc.

Egyptians, for example, used it both for the treatment of fever and physical injuries and for embalming. It is no wonder that seeds have been found in different tombs, most notably in that of Tutankhamun, as already mentioned. We also know that it was used to reduce childbirth pains and afterward increase the milk supply for breastfeeding.

Greeks and Romans grew it as a fodder crop. In the Chinese cultures, it was one of the main herbs used for various medical purposes including abdominal pain. There are records of it being grown in the imperial gardens of the Roman Emperor Charlemagne.

This could be one of the reasons why today there are small plantations of fenugreek in France.

Final Verdict

Fenugreek is a curious plant/herb which like so many others has not yet received the proper research and has yet to be fully understood. Nevertheless, it continuously grows in popularity for its many known benefits and the even greater ones that have not yet been entirely confirmed.

Overall, it can make an amazing addition to your collection of spices and your secret ingredient if you ever decide to cook a traditional Indian or Middle Eastern dish. Other than that, you may not feel the difference but it will be beneficial for you if you simply add it to your regular diet. If, however, you choose to take it in the form of supplement, consult with your physician beforehand.