Plants have lived on Earth for millions of years. To survive, they produce a variety of substances ('biomolecules') that provide protection against various external stresses and climate change. That's why herbs have been researched for so long. One such herb is fenugreek.
Fenugreek is a short-lived plant of the buttercup family. The Latin name ("triagonella") refers to the triangular flowers. The leaves and seeds are used as a spice in various dishes, but are also eaten on their own. In Africa it is added to bread to increase its nutritional value.
Fenugreek is a well-searched herb, with clinical studies showing its health benefits. Several types of active ingredients are combined in this herb. It contains saponins, alkaloids, polyphenols, flavonoids and fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-infective, antioxidant, antibacterial, blood sugar regulating and cholesterol lowering properties.
The saponin content of fenugreek is very unique, it has a unique active ingredient found in very few other plants - called diosgenin. And diosgenin is a precursor of many hormones. In addition, fenugreek contains phytoestrogens that act on the female sex hormone (oestrogen) receptor to balance sex hormone levels.
Fenugreek is also rich in B vitamins and vitamins A and C. Its high fibre content helps to moisten stools and prevent constipation, and it also has blood sugar stabilising effects. Fenugreek is also unique in its fibre content, due to its unique composition of galactomannan fibre (containing a 1:1 ratio of mannose to galactose), which is more soluble and therefore more moistening to the stool. To understant the previous statement, we need to know that fibre is a very complex carbohydrate molecule (many sugar molecules are linked together) and this is how it forms a structure that is indigestible to the stomach. It is rich in oleic acid, linoleic acid and linolenic acid and lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) in terms of fatty acid content. The majority of these fatty acids have strong anti-inflammatory effects, and lecithin is also particularly beneficial for brain function.
So-called oxidative stress is a serious problem for the human body. Free radicals, which are produced inside the body but can also come from external sources (toxins), can cause very severe cell damage. And that is a breeding ground for many diseases and infections. Free radicals take electrons from cells, which are then rendered inoperable. Fenugreek has powerful antioxidant effects due to the polyphenols, fatty acids and vitamins it contains, and there is a wealth of research on this. The highest polyphenol content is in the seed coat.
It also contains fatty acids, saponins and hydroxyisoleucine, which have strong anti-inflammatory effects. This protects against the development of autoimmune, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases. Fenugreek contains a wide variety of anti-inflammatory compounds, some of which act at the root of inflammation and inhibit an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (the enzyme responsible for the production of many inflammatory and pain-inducing hormones). There are also some that reduce the amount or perception of hormones that stimulate inflammation.
In addition, fenugreek has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral effects, which have been confirmed by numerous studies.
As a very interesting effect, fenugreek has also been shown to have blood sugar regulating effects, due to the hormone regulating effects of diosgenin, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents found in fenugreek and the fibre which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates.
Furthermore, fenugreek extract may increase testosterone levels in men with lower testosterone levels. So, if you often fell tired, have low libido and feel it's almost impossible to build muscle - it's worth going for a testosterone level test and if you have lower levels, natural hormone optimisers can help, including fenugreek extract.
In addition, studies have shown that fenugreek can help women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder mostly associated with an excess of male sex hormones and insulin resistance. So how can fenugreek help, when we have just mentioned that it increases levels of male sex hormones?
In men, low testosterone levels are caused by a reduced function of the so-called aromatase enzyme, which is responsible for the production of all sex hormones, fenugreek stimulates its function, but if it is functioning properly (or over-functioning, as in PCOS), it cannot increase its function further or, if over-functioning, it can even reduce it by causing resistance. Furthermore, PCOS also has high inflammation, so anti-inflammatory agents can improve this disease - fenugreek also has anti-inflammatory effects.
Fenugreek extract has been shown to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of menstruation and to reduce the chance of iron deficiency - the body loses a lot of iron during menstural bleeding.
Fenugreek extract is generally considered safe to take, although there is a lack of literature on specific doses at which it may be effective. Those allergic to chickpeas should take extra care, as fenugreek can also trigger allergic reactions, and the extract is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, but fenugreek as a food is not a problem.
The recommended dose of the extract is between 500-200 mg. The lower your weight the less is enough, the higher the more you need.