There are a common list of herbal supplements that many claim to have testosterone boosting benefits. The purpose of this article is to examine perhaps one of the most common ingredients for its testosterone efficacy: Fenugreek.
I’ve pulled only the most reliable data from rigorous studies. That means that studies designed around brand names, or funded by the manufacturers of supplements, have been excluded. In addition, I’ve excluded several pseudo-studies that claimed to find benefits to Fenugreek, but produced no actual data.
✲ Four total studies can cite statistical data showing a correlation between Fenugreek and increased testosterone.
✲ Notably, no studies were found resulting in failure of test parameters.
✲ Several ancillary indicators suggest that Fenugreek may help testosterone production through indirect means.
✲ Fenugreek is FDA approved, and was safely tolerated in all reviewed studies.
While there are perhaps hundreds of “male enhancement” products on the market, very few studies have actually been conducted on their ingredients. To this point, in my research I have identified over 20 male enhancement products with Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), but I can only find two studies (one trial, one review of trials) that claim to find actual increases in testosterone based on blood samples.
Neither trial goes into depth regarding how, exactly, Fenugreek is boosting testosterone. While this does indicate the need for more research, it also could partly be explained by the Secondary Indicators discussed later.
Researchers recruited 60 male volunteers to participate in a double-blind, placebo controlled trial of Fenugreek. They found that 300 mg, twice per day, significantly increased testosterone in the test-group. Their research was published in the prestigious Journal of Sport and Health Science.
While the specific numbers of their data is not publicly available, I was able to contact a source in academia who could confirm that this study’s results yielded a 98% increase in free testosterone, though there was no change in blood testosterone.
Another report, published in an even more widely respected journal, Phytotherapy Research, cited the above trial and three others. Based on statistical analysis of all four published papers, the authors of this report felt confident concluding that Fenugreek has a significant boosting effect on testosterone levels.
Scientists rarely make blanket statements such as these, especially when confirming the work of other researchers in a highly competitive field. The fact that this team found enough data to make the claim is important to note.
It is also worthwhile to mention that this review, similar to my own research, could find no studies finding failure of Fenugreek treatment.
In health, like in all science, there are processes running in conjunction with one another; the effects of one process can often have impacts on another process, even though they aren’t primarily related.
Two examples follow, of studies indicating that there are further links between Fenugreek and testosterone levels.
Fenugreek and Physical Activity
Naturally occurring, positive feedback loops can both help and hurt the human body. For instance, I’ve discussed previously the relationship between poor health and the stress hormone cortisol; which poor health causes stress, causing more cortisol.
A similar feedback loop benefits the body: the more active men are, the more testosterone they produce–which helps them stay active, producing yet more testosterone. Exercise equals testosterone.
Bringing it all together, an important study found that a Fenugreek/Creatine combination taken in conjunction with resistance training increased all parameters of fitness to the same levels as the standard Creatine/Dextrose intake method.
Participants in the Fenugreek/Creatine group had significantly better bench-press increases, body-fat reduction, and overall health measure. And these data were taken from a pool of already-fit men, meaning the effects could be greater for less fit individuals.
The implication to researchers was that Fenugreek can replace Dextrose as the delivery method of Creatine. The implication for this analysis is that this may be a secondary explanation for anecdotal evidence that Fenugreek increases testosterone–by increasing the bioavailability of anabolic (muscle building) substances in the body.
Fenugreek and Diabetes
Great strides are being made in medicine toward the understanding of all the body’s functions and how they interact. Recently, scientists have pooled data from clinical trials spanning the results from over 13,000 individuals. In their results, they found compelling evidence that there is a link between Type-II Diabetes and low testosterone.
Their data are conclusive and do not leave much wiggle room. This appears to be another positive feedback loop. (Positive in that it moves the mechanisms forward, not that the mechanisms are good). Higher blood sugar leads to lower testosterone, and vice versa.
In a ground-breaking study published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, researchers followed 140 pre-diabetic participants for a three-year, randomized and controlled study. The test group took 5 g of Fenugreek, twice per day.
At the end of the study, they had not only significantly lower blood sugar across all testing criteria, but they were 4 times less likely to develop diabetes. This study alone has been cited by other journals almost 50 times. The indication here is clear–if a person’s low testosterone is caused or effected by high blood sugar, Fenugreek can have a definite effect.
Few popular supplement ingredients gain much scientific attention, especially traditional herbal remedies such as Fenugreek. The fact that so much rigorous science has been accrued to this herb is in itself remarkable.
More remarkable still is that all data indicates a positive correlation between Fenugreek and increased testosterone, bordering on the causal threshold. All that remains is for further research to identify the exact mechanism by which Fenugreek is stimulating testosterone production.
Two possible indicators are in Fenugreek’s apparent ability to increase the bioavailability of anabolic compounds such as creatine, and its ability to regulate and lower blood sugar, both of which processes are shown to foster higher testosterone.