You may have heard peripherally about Fenugreek as a dietary supplement and particularly about its seed extract, which is commonly used to aid in weight loss and in managing blood sugar/glucose levels.
I was curious and had my typical follow-up questions, so I decided to do my own research to find out everything I could about it.
One thing I’ve learned for certain about Fenugreek extract, and any dietary supplement for that matter, is that NO one single herb, vitamin or nutrient works at optimal effectiveness forever, nor does it affect everyone the same.
Seriously, would you eat only ONE vegetable exclusively to maximize your own health?
Most dietary/weight loss supplements work best when taken in appropriate dosages and in tandem with other supplements to create synergistic, effective outcomes. The combination and balance achieved with such proper combinations of ingredients also helps minimize negative side effects.
As always, if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, the best results come from a combination of diet management as well as exercise and lifestyle/mindset changes.
Fenugreek Extract Facts
Fenugreek (also known as fenigreek, or Greek hay) is an annual herb indigenous primarily to China, Ukraine, India and southern (Mediterranean) Europe. The herb’s dry, ripe seeds contain vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, folic acid, as well as vitamins A, B6, C and E), minerals (iron, calcium, copper, selenium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and zinc). Fenugreek leaves are also remarkably rich in vitamin K.
Fenugreek has been shown to be effective for lowering blood sugar after meals. Its seeds contain a unique amino acid (4-hydroxyisoleucine) that is not found in any mammal’s tissue. This particular amino acid is known to normalize glucose metabolism, according to nutritionists.
Also, 4-hydroxyisoleucine has been shown to boost insulin production by stimulating the beta cells of the pancreas, where insulin is produced. These glucose-lowering/insulin boosting effects benefit both those who are diabetic and those who are non-diabetic.
On an interesting historical side note, fenugreek was one of the spices used by the ancient Egyptians to embalm their deceased.
Fenugreek extract (NOT the raw seed powder or seeds alone) can be easily found as an over-the-counter supplement, most frequently available in powder or capsule form. Tradition and research have shown many cosmetic and health benefits that come with the consumption of fenugreek extract.
Fenugreek Extract Benefits
Some of the health benefits derived from the consumption of fenugreek are generally accepted to include the following (to some degree):
- Cancer Prevention. Studies have shown that fibers in fenugreek can help prevent certain types of cancer. For one example, researchers at Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, noted that fenugreek has effects similar to the female sex hormone estrogen and could therefore be a possible alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Other studies have shown that the saponins and mucilage found in the herb bind themselves to toxins in food and “flush” them out to protect the mucus membrane of the colon from cancers.
- Weight Loss and Management. Fenugreek is rich in soluble fiber, which is known for promoting weight loss, by causing your digestive tract to expand. This effect can make you feel full and goes a long way to controlling your appetite better. Furthermore, the thermogenic herb complements exercise and weight loss efforts by increasing energy in the short term and potentially modulating carbohydrate metabolism. As noted earlier, it also reduces blood sugar levels after eating.
- Anti-oxidant and Anti-inflammatory Potential. A research team, led by Muraleedharan Nair (Michigan State University) and King Saud University (Saudi Arabia) noted beneficial compounds in fenugreek seeds, and showed that certain compounds, including flavonoids and fatty acids, have anti-inflammatory properties.
“Our report on the chemistry and biological activity on fenugreek seed extract and isolates is novel,” the researchers reported, also noting in their report that the seed extract and isolates found by them “demonstrated anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.”
They went on to assert that fenugreek seeds are “one of the leading functional foods with health-beneficial claims.”
Researcher S. Kaviarasan noted that “Fenugreek seed extract prevents ethanol-induced toxicity (toxic effects of consuming alcohol) and apoptosis (programmed cell death) in Chang liver cells.”
In other words, Fenugreek seed extract is also shown to alleviate liver dysfunction, particularly the type caused by alcohol consumption.
- Lower Cholesterol. Studies have shown that individuals who consistently consume two ounces of fenugreek daily (over a 24-week period) can significantly lower blood cholesterol levels, as well as notably decrease their risk of suffering a heart attack (two ounces of fenugreek powder can easily be sprinkled over food, or taken in capsule form).
- Better Digestion. Fenugreek contains mucilage, an adhesive substance that battles digestive inflammation by coating the lining of your stomach and intestines. It can be used to treat dyspepsia, indigestion, diarrhea and stomach ulcers (sprinkle a tablespoon of fenugreek powder onto your food or take a tablespoon of the powder with water or juice before eating).
- Clear Complexion. Fenugreek has been hailed for its ability to heal, clear up and soothe minor topical cuts, scratches and infections. Studies have also shown the herb to be an especially effective remedy for skin issues such as eczema, boils, abscesses, burns and even gout (fenugreek powder can be mixed with warm water to create a paste that can then be soaked and dabbed with a cloth onto any affected areas). Fenugreek seed tea is also frequently used as a fever remedy.
- Enhanced Libido. Studies have noted a significant positive effect of fenugreek on physiological aspects of a male’s libido and that it also assists in maintaining normal healthy testosterone levels. Additionally, the estrogenic effects already mentioned are effective in enhancing female libido.
Potential Pitfalls of Fenugreek Extract
As it typically goes, excess and imbalance lead to diminishing returns and even detrimental effects. Some of the negative side effects resulting from EXCESS dosages of fenugreek include:
- Irritation and Allergies. In large doses, fenugreek may cause skin irritation and allergy. Extreme allergy symptoms include chest pain, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.
- Gastrointestinal Issues. It’s been stated that fenugreek is frequently used as a remedy for indigestion, diarrhea and ulcers. In excessive amounts, it can cause heartburn, diarrhea, indigestion, bloating and severe gas. A strange maple-syrup odor is also known to accompany the perspiration and urine of those who consistently consume large amounts of the herb, such as in daily fenugreek seed tea ingestion. Large amounts of fenugreek seed have even been reported to cause internal bleeding.
- Birth Defect Potential. It may cause birth defects due to its teratogenic potential. Fenugreek would best be avoided during pregnancy.
So, in measured doses, fenugreek extract is healthy and good for you, and can help you lose weight. Just be sure to not overdo it. Remember not to use any supplement alone without consulting your physician. Also, you should maintain a balanced diet coupled with an exercise program, eliminate alcohol, and get plenty of rest.
Ideal Carb Blocker has a nicely engineered balance of fenugreek extract, balanced with other natural weight loss supplements like cinnamon bark, berberis aristata, trans-resveratrol, and r-alpha lipioc acid, which I will also be researching and reviewing in subsequent articles.