Active Compounds in Fenugreek
Many of the health benefits of fenugreek are due to its saponins, compounds that help protect against cancers and lower cholesterol, sugar, and fat in the blood. Saponins can also reduce the risk of blood clots and kidney stones [R, R].
Trigonelline, another compound of fenugreek, has many health benefits. It has antibacterial, antiviral, fat-lowering, sugar-lowering, anti-tumor, and brain-protecting effects [R].
Fenugreek contains many compounds with antioxidant activity. These include apigenin, luteolin, caffeic acid, and coumaric acid [R].
Fenugreek oil contains a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats (approximately 84%). This helps increase cell and blood vessel formation after injury [R].
Health Benefits of Fenugreek
1) Fenugreek May Improve Brain Function
Fenugreek can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases [R, R].
It reduced the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine), reduced the production of proteins that lead to plaque formation in the nervous system, and improved learning and memory in rats [R].
Fenugreek seed powder reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, memory impairments, and plaques in rats with Alzheimer’s disease [R].
2) Fenugreek May Benefit the Heart
Heart attacks lead to tissue death and oxidative stress in the heart muscle.
In rats, fenugreek increased the activity of various antioxidants in the heart and improved the health of heart tissue [R].
In a clinical trial of 24 type II diabetes patients, powdered fenugreek seeds were either soaked in hot water or consumed with yogurt for 8 weeks. The 11 participants who consumed fenugreek in hot water had significantly reduced blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol than the participants who ate fenugreek with yogurt [R].
Another clinical trial showed similar results. Type I diabetics who consumed fenugreek in their diets had lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol [R].
Fenugreek seeds reduced cholesterol levels in rabbits by approximately 50% in both rabbits with and without high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia). Its leaves reduced total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides and increased HDL (good) cholesterol in rabbits as well [R].
3) Fenugreek May Help Prevent Obesity
In rats, fenugreek lowered weight gain [R].
Obese female rats fed fenugreek gained less weight and had lower BMI. Their blood also contained fewer fats than the blood of rats on a control treatment [R].
4) Fenugreek Reduces Blood Sugar
In a clinical trial of 24 type II diabetic patients, the patients either consumed powdered fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water or with yogurt for 8 weeks. The participants who consumed fenugreek in hot water had significantly reduced blood sugar than the participants who ate fenugreek with yogurt [R].
Humans with type I diabetes who took fenugreek for 10 days had lower blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity compared to those who did not take it [R].
In rats, fenugreek improved insulin sensitivity, which helps reduce blood sugar and the risk of developing type II diabetes [R].
In obese rats, fenugreek reduced blood sugar, fats, and certain enzymes indicative of poor liver function significantly more compared to the control [R].
The hypoglycemic (sugar-lowering) effects of fenugreek are partially attributable to 4-hydroxyisoleucine, an amino acid present in fenugreek that stimulates the production of insulin by pancreatic cells [R].
Fenugreek also inhibits the activity of alpha-amylase and sucrase, enzymes that break down large sugars into glucose. They lower the overall sugar concentration in the blood [R].
5) Fenugreek Might Help Improve Skin Health
Fenugreek contains mucilage, a gooey substance that can soothe and moisturize dry skin without irritating it when applied to the surface of skin [R].
A skin cream containing fenugreek seed extract was applied to the faces of 11 people. After six weeks, skin moisture increased, and the melanin (pigment that causes dark spots) content and the number of bumps on the skin decreased [R].
Human cells in a laboratory were exposed to three types of saponins extracted from fenugreek, which decreased skin cell response to sun exposure [R].
After saponin exposure, the skin cells had lower levels of certain inflammatory cytokines (transmission molecules). They also produced less melanin, a pigment protein that is produced when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light [R].
Fenugreek contains a lot of carotenoids, which are antioxidant molecules that are converted to vitamin A in the body. Fenugreek oil applied to the skin of rats sped up wound healing over control rats by reducing inflammation and promoting new skin growth [R].
6) Fenugreek Stops Cancer Cell Growth
The saponins in fenugreek prevent cell division in cancer cells and also induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) [R].
Fenugreek seeds reduced the incidence of colon cancer, and fenugreek extract slowed the progression of breast cancer in rats [R].
Fenugreek also prevented the growth of human colon cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bone cancer cells (meta-analysis) [R].
Blood cells from 15 healthy adults were treated with fenugreek extract and exposed to radiation therapy for cancer. Fenugreek increased the sensitivity of T-cells ( a type of white blood cells) to the effects of radiation and spurred apoptosis (programmed cell death) [R].
Diosgenin, a saponin found in fenugreek, suppresses bone and tumor cell formation by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced NF-κB activation (which produces proteins that increase cell growth and reduce apoptosis) [R].
Diosgenin also stopped IKK and p65 activity. IKK and p65 both contribute to the cellular response to inflammation. By stopping IKK and p65, diosgenin prevents NF-kB activity [R].
Another saponin, protodioscin, induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells [R, R].
7) Fenugreek Has Antioxidant Properties
In rats whose livers were damaged by alcohol, fenugreek seed extract reduced the concentration of free radicals, increased antioxidants, and reduced damage to enzymes [R].
In rats with induced arthritis, fenugreek increased antioxidants, vitamin C, and glutathione. It also reduced the concentrations of enzymes, such as catalase and glutathione peroxidase, which produce reactive oxygen species [R].
8) Fenugreek Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
Mice with allergic skin reactions were given fenugreek for 7 days. Fenugreek reduced skin inflammation and the accumulation of inflammatory cells [R].
In rats with arthritis, fenugreek reduced fluid build-up in the joints and inflammatory enzyme activity [R].
Fenugreek reduces inflammation by inhibiting production of interleukins 4, 5, 13, and 1β and infiltration by white blood cells. This prevented the transformation of cells into helper T cells and reduced inflammatory responses [R].
9) Fenugreek Has Anti-Microbial Activity
Fenugreek seed extract was tested on dishes of bacterial species and inhibited the growth of E. coli and M. furfur. Sprouted fenugreek seeds may have increased antimicrobial activity, especially against H. pylori, than non-germinated seeds [R].
Defensin, a protein extracted from fenugreek leaves, inhibited the spread and reproduction of two fungal species [R].
The antimicrobial effects of fenugreek also help accelerate wound healing [R].
Both the seeds and leaves of fenugreek reduce microbial growth in similar ways [R].
10) Fenugreek Reduces Blood Clots
Anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin), are frequently prescribed to individuals at high risk for heart attacks and strokes because they help prevent the formation of blood clots that cut off blood supply to vital organs.
Fenugreek extract increased the time required for normal human blood samples to clot, so fenugreek could supplement preventive treatments for heart attacks and strokes[R].
11) Fenugreek May Help Protect the Digestive Tract
In rats under stress, fenugreek seed oil reduced the overall incidence of ulcers [R].
Fenugreek extract reduced acid reflux in another rat study [R].
12) Fenugreek May Improve Kidney Health
In one study, male rats were given ethylene glycol, which led to the formation of kidney stones and resulted in low red blood cell count and anemia. Rats given fenugreek seeds had increased red blood cell count and hemoglobin and fewer calcium salts in the kidneys. This reduced the risk of developing kidney stones [R].
Aluminum salts are often used to treat patients with kidney failure, but they can harm the body. Treating rats exposed to aluminum with fenugreek seed powder rebalanced urea, creatinine, and blood sugar levels[R].
Fenugreek also increased antioxidant concentrations, lowered reactive oxygen species, improved the overall quality of kidney tissue, and increased kidney weight back to normal [R].
13) Fenugreek Can Alleviate Dysmenorrhea (Menstrual Cramps)
In a study (DB-RCT) of 101 female students, scientists tested the severity of their pain during two consecutive menstrual cycles while taking fenugreek or a placebo [R].
Although all of the women had similar levels of pain before the study, the 51 women who received fenugreek reported much less pain at the end of the treatment than the 50 who received the placebo [R].
14) Fenugreek May Help Improve Lactation During Breastfeeding
Fenugreek is considered by traditional herbal doctors to be a galactagogue, a substance that promotes the production of breast milk (lactation) in women. Some studies report that drinking fenugreek tea increased milk production and infant weight gaincompared to placebos [R].
However, other studies (meta-analyses) did not find fenugreek to significantly increase production of breast milk [R].
15) Fenugreek Benefit For Men
Diosgenin, found in fenugreek, is an important precursor for sex hormone formation. It can balance sex hormones to help support libido in healthy males [R].
Testofen, which contains fenugreek extract, improves male sex drive. In a study (DB-RCT) of 60 healthy males, daily supplementation with two tablets of 600 mg Testofen increased sexual arousal, orgasm, and self-reported energy and strength [R]