What is Fenugreek or Testofen?
Fenugreek, is a plant native to South Asia and it’s seeds and leaves are frequently used in curry dishes. It has some great medicinal properties that we will discuss later.
It might also be the most popular and over-hyped testosterone boosting ingredient on the market today. Various methods of extraction have been patented and marketed with very clever names such as “Testofen”.
Patenting extractions is not always, but often times a clever way to make someone feel like they are getting something special or unique and therefore a higher price tag can be slapped on the cleverly marketed product.
Interestingly, Nugenix, who helped bring Testofen to popularity, uses plain ole Fenugreek extract instead of Testofen in their flagship product, Nugenix “Ultimate Testosterone”.
The short answer is no, fenugreek does not boost either free or total testosterone levels according to the scientific evidence at hand.
Unfortunately, it seems that most supplement companies start their ingredient formulations in the marketing room instead of with scientific data.
The study that started the firestorm of interest in fenugreek as a testosterone booster spread throughout the bodybuilding community almost overnight.
What nobody bothered to mention, was that the company which sponsored the study was actually a manufacturer of the product. Can you say “red flag”?
What is even crazier is the study didn’t even mention testosterone being boosted long term. In fact, it didn’t even test for testosterone levels. It was simply a questionnaire asking men how they felt! (1)
Since that time, another study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science showed no influence in free or total testosterone levels from fenugreek extract. (2)
In fact, it showed that DHT levels actually decreased which if you are looking to gain size and strength is not something you want to be doing.
Does Fenugreek Increase Strength?
Fenugreek “may” help increase strength but it probably doesn’t.
In 2011 a study was done on 47 males to test if the combination of fenugreek and creatine would increase strength over an 8 week resistance training program.
The men were given one of three supplement combinations:
- Placebo and dextrose
- Creatine and dextrose
- Creatine and fenugreek
If you are not familiar with dextrose it’s just a simple sugar so it should have absolutely no bearing on gaining strength.
At the end of the study, the researchers concluded the combination of “creatine with fenugreek” and “creatine with dextrose” were similarly effective at increasing strength while the placebo group did not see a significant increase.
The common denominator here of course is creatine. It increased strength equally whether it was paired with either fenugreek or sugar.
It’s been extremely well documented that creatine boosts muscle strength and weightlifting performance. (4)
So does that study really leave you believing fenugreek is going to help increase your strength? It sure didn’t convince me and neither did a trial run I gave myself taking just fenugreek as a supplement.
Does Fenugreek Increase Libido?
Once again the main study which pointed to an increase in libido was paid for by a manufacturer of fenugreek and was the paid questionnaire.
After six weeks, the score for sexual arousal rose from 16.1 to 20.6
There is quite a bit of anecdotal fenugreek may increase libido in men but if that is your goal there are better herbs suited for increasing your sex drive such as Horny Goat Weed.
Fenugreek can increase lactation in breastfeeding women. (5, 6)
In fact, my wife actually took it as a supplement after my son was born to help pump out more breast milk and she would swear by its effectiveness.
It is said to stimulate the milk ducts in as little as 24 hours and is usually recommended to take around 3,500 mg per day for maximum lactation.
However, if you are reading this article that was probably not the benefit you were looking for!
If you stumbled across this blog by accident though and you really did want to find out about lactation or if you are expecting a new addition to the family soon, I suggest you check out Kelly Mom’s Article on it.
Fenugreek Increases Estrogen
Well that could be a problem!
Two different studies, one In Vivo (petri dish) on human cells and one on rats showed that fenugreek may increase estrogen levels. (7,8)
I stress in my posts that you have to look at the human case studies when looking at outcomes because what happens to rats or primates and what happens in petri dishes often have different outcomes in actual human trials.
However, I do feel this is worth mentioning because we already know that high doses of fenugreek can increase lactation so even though these studies are far from conclusive, they do give pause for concern.
Fenugreek Side Effects
Most people do not experience significant side effects with supplementation, however it has been known to cause:
- Maple Syrup Odor in Urine
- Upset Stomach
- Sensitive Nipples
While it may cause an upset stomach in some individuals it has actually been successfully used to treat digestive issues in others. Overall, you aren’t likely to experience any major side effects but you may want to start with a smaller dose to see how your body reacts to it first.
As for the sensitive nipples issue, you might think this would primarily affect women since it can increase lactation but it’s actually a pretty big complaint in bodybuilding forums among men.
Does Fenugreek Work For Men?
Fenugreek is a rich source of phytonutrients and saponins so it is definitely healthy for you overall. With that said if your goal is to increase testosterone, the science behind the claims just doesn’t add up.
Find out what vitamins, minerals and herbs will work. Check out my article on thebest natural testosterone boosters!
- Steels, E., A. Rao, and L. Vitetta, Physiological aspects of male libido enhanced by standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum extract and mineral formulation. Phytother Res, 2011. 25(9): p. 1294-300. – Link
- Bushey, B., et al., Fenugreek Extract Supplementation Has No effect on the Hormonal Profile of Resitance-Trained Males. International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings, 2009. 2(1): p. 13. – Link
- Taylor L, Poole C, Pena E, et al. Effects of Combined Creatine Plus Fenugreek Extract vs. Creatine Plus Carbohydrate Supplementation on Resistance Training Adaptations. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2011;10(2):254-260. – Link
- Rawson, E. S., & Volek, J. S. (2003). Effects of Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Weightlifting Performance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,17(4), 822. – Link
- Sim TF, Sherriff J, Hattingh HL, Parsons R, Tee LB. The use of herbal medicines during breastfeeding: a population-based survey in Western Australia. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013;13:317. – Link
- Turkyilmaz, C., et al., The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. J Altern Complement Med, 2011. 17(2): p. 139-42. – Link
- Sreeja, S., & Anju, V. S. (2010, June). In vitro estrogenic activities of fenugreek Trigonella foenum graecum seeds. – Link
- Hannan, J., Rokeya, B., Faruque, O., Nahar, N., Mosihuzzaman, M., Khan, A. A., & Ali, L. (2003). Effect of soluble dietary fibre fraction of Trigonella foenum graecum on glycemic, insulinemic, lipidemic and platelet aggregation status of Type 2 diabetic model rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 88(1), 73-77. – Link