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Fenugreek (Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum) has played an important role in Ayurveda and traditional cooking for thousands of years. It has been used historically to:
- support women during lactation
- support liver and gallbladder health
- balance blood sugar
- regulate weight
- boost overall digestive strength
- play an important role in reproductive health
Recently, science has caught up with this incredible spice. In fact, it has gained recent popularity in the fitness industry based on studies that show it supports muscle growth and development, stimulates the burning of abdominal fat and blocks the conversion of testosterone to its toxic form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). (1,2,3)
Let’s dig into some of the amazing benefits we can glean from cooking with or supplementing with fenugreek seeds.
Libido – Male Orgasm
In one study, 60 healthy males between the ages of 25 and 52 with erectile concerns took either fenugreek or a placebo for 6 weeks. The group that took the fenugreek saw a significant improvement in libido, sexual arousal and orgasm. They also self-reported a positive effect on muscle strength, energy and well-being. While the exact mechanism for these actions is still unknown, it has been suggested that fenugreek can play a role in maintaining healthy testosterone levels. (4)
In another study that was double-blind controlled, 49 men who regularly weight-trained were given either fenugreek or a placebo for 8 weeks. They evaluated body composition, muscle strength, muscle endurance and cardiovascular fitness in both groups. The fenugreek group saw a significant improvement in both upper and lower body strength and body composition in comparison to the placebo group. The fenugreek group also saw a significant reduction in body fat. (5)
Once again, western science has been unable to explain these results other than the regulation of healthy testosterone levels and the blocking of its unhealthy conversion to DHT. While DHT has been linked to prostate health concerns and male pattern baldness, it supports muscle strength in the same way healthy testosterone levels do – suggesting that there may be another mechanism for all of these benefits.
Ayurveda may have that answer and it is now backed by some very exciting science.
Fat Burning, Bile Boosting and Cholesterol
As I have written about in numerous articles, excess stress, 5 decades of processed foods and a toxic environment have broken down our digestive capacity, causing folks to avoid wheat, dairy and other allergenic foods and resulting in record-breaking levels of obesity, mood, sleep and digestive health concerns.
In addition to lymphatic congestion as a result of our digestive breakdown, the liver and gallbladder have become sluggish and congested, resulting in widespread gallbladder-removal surgeries. Lack of good bile flow can cause a host of health concerns that seem to be corrected by the bile-boosting benefits of fenugreek – which is why it is in my most powerful bile-boosting formula, Beet Cleanse.
Numerous studies suggest that fenugreek may be one of the most powerful herbs for liver, gallbladder and digestive health. Fenugreek works by taking cholesterol out of the bile and increasing the bile acid concentration by almost four times. (6,7)
Better bile flow is what it is all about. Think of your bile like a Pac-Man that gobbles up toxic cholesterols, environmental toxins and other bad fats circulating in the blood. Bile breaks down the good fats we need for the heart, brain and skin and also buffers the stomach acids required to digest wheat and dairy.
Without adequate bile flow and liver function, the ability to break down fats and use them in the liver to manufacture hormones like muscle-building, belly fat-burning testosterone will be compromised. This suggests a strong link between better bile flow that is supported by fenugreek and the muscle strength, libido, sexual function, belly fat-burning, and more lean body composition mentioned above.
Balance Blood Sugar
Finally, and perhaps the most well-documented benefit seen by fenugreek supplementation is its effect on blood sugar. Poor blood sugar regulation is linked to weight gain, along with a plethora of serious health concerns. Remember, blood sugar imbalances start in the liver – generally not in the pancreas – and the liver is where fenugreek shines! In one study with diabetic patients, there was a 54% reduction of glucose in the first morning urine, along with significant positive changes in the ability to regulate fats in the liver. (8)
Fenugreek can be taken as a tea with meals, you can cook with it as a spice, or take it as a supplement.