Fenugreek: An ancient kitchen staple is celebrated for promoting men’s health.
By Lisa James
One of the advantages of combining herbal folklore with scientific research is that old remedies are often validated. Such is the case with fenugreek. Known for its culinary use in curries and stews, fenugreek has long been used to grow hair, normalize digestion and help ease respiratory disorders—and as a legendary aphrodisiac.
Today, scientists have found that fenugreek can boost men’s well-being by helping to increase testosterone. This spice also helps fight diabetes, a disease infamous for taking its toll on male sexual health.
Many men are looking for help with falling hormone levels. For one thing, testosterone decreases with age and the Baby Boomer generation—the largest in US history—is growing older. What’s more, toxins called endocrine disruptors are prevalent in the environment. These substances can bind to testosterone and interfere with hormone production.
As a result, testosterone deficiency is more common than you might think. In one study, one man in four had low levels. While some of the participants reported erectile dysfunction, poor sex drive and brittle bones—classic symptoms of low testosterone—many men with subnormal levels weren’t aware they had a problem (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 11/07).
For centuries, Chinese healers have seen fenugreek as reproductive-system tonic. Researchers now know that fenugreek contains at least a dozen furostanol saponins, substances that help raise testosterone levels in addition to promoting sperm production.
In one study fenugreek extract was tested to the most rigorous research standards: A placebo was used, and neither the researchers nor the participants—60 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 52—knew who was taking which substance until the study ended. Men in the extract group reported increases in not only sex drive but also in strength, energy levels and overall well-being (Phytotherapy Research 2/10/11 online). Boosting testosterone levels increases the amount of protein incorporated into the muscles, which leads to gains in muscle mass and strength.
Low testosterone isn’t the only thing that can harm a man’s sex life. Diabetes may damage nerves and blood vessels, resulting in erectile difficulties as well as heart and kidney problems.
Diabetes control is another ancient fenugreek use supported by science. This spice has shown an ability to balance blood sugar levels and to help cells use insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar, more effectively. Fenugreek may also control excessive cholesterol, another threat to both general and sexual health.
When used to support healthy testosterone levels, fenugreek works best in combination with nutrients and herbs that complement its effects. They include Tribulus terrestris, which helps boost testosterone-related hormones; zinc, a mineral required for testosterone production; calcium fructate, a mineral complex that has increased free testosterone levels in studies; Panax ginseng, an herb long used to balance male hormones; and Rhodiola rosea, recommended by herbalists to reduce fatigue and improve stamina. In addition, polyphenols found in grapes and apples help counteract oxynitrite, a substance that attacks testosterone.
Fenugreek should find a place in your pantry if you love Indian cooking—and a place on your supplement shelf if you want to naturally boost testosterone and well-being.