Some people love the idea of ancient remedies. They see natural herbs handed down through generations of learned healers as a gift from the Earth wrapped in the accumulated knowledge of man. Other people are far more comfortable relying on modern medicine and the scientific method. The sweet spot to this Venn diagram is the supplement that has passed the test of time and the test of peer-reviewed academic rigor. One herb that falls into this category: Fenugreek.
Fenugreek likely originated in the Middle East but managed to travel the globe. Over the last few thousand years, it has appeared as a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a flavoring in Indian cuisine, and even pops up in Roman literature from the first century.
As a medicine, fenugreek seeds have been used to treat high blood sugar (diabetes), menstrual cramps, metabolism disorders, decreased libido, and low milk production in lactating women. While some studies have shown that fenugreek possesses profound health-promoting properties, many of the anecdotal benefits of fenugreek have yet to be proven in the environment of a controlled study.
For those interested in adding lean muscle and losing body fat, researchers have discovered some amazing attributes of this ancient herb. In one study, published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, researchers placed 60 healthy males on a four-day-a-week workout regimen. Half of them were given 600 mg of fenugreek a day, while the others were given a placebo. By the end of the eight-week experiment, the fenugreek group lost more body fat than the placebo group but without a reduction in muscular strength or endurance. The study described fenugreek as demonstrating “significant anabolic and androgenic activity.”
Fenugreek has long been used to put the wind in the sails of flagging libido in men and science has ultimately corroborated this strategy. In one study, men over 40 who were given 600 mg of fenugreek for 12 weeks woke up in the morning with an erection twice as often as the men in the placebo group. The men taking fenugreek also reported having sex twice as often as their counterparts.
Interestingly, fenugreek seems to be just as effective in boosting female libido. (Many libido-promoting supplements are only effective on male physiology.) Women aged 20 to 49 experienced an increased in sexual desire and arousal after taking 600 mg of fenugreek for eight weeks. Scientists noticed that the women who took fenugreek also experienced elevated levels of free testosterone, which might make fenugreek the ultimate bedroom/weight room supplement.