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Fenugreek, Lactation & Male Libido

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Written by   390
2 months ago

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) has been used for millennia. Seeds have been found in tombs from Old Egypt and in Mesopotamia, the latter dated to about 4000 BC.

The word “fenugreek”, means Greek hay, just as Latin foenum-graecum, which refers to its use as fodder, common amongst Greeks and Romans of Antiquity. Charlemagne introduced this use to his lands north of the Alps by a decree, Capitulare, in 812.

All parts of the plant are edible. Fenugreek is used for flavouring, as a spice, and for medicinal purposes - especially in India, Middle East and Near East.

Sprouted seeds make an excellent and very nutritious vegetable.

In Old Egypt, fenugreek was called itasin, according to Dioskorides' Materia Medica. So far no hieroglyph for this herb has been found. But the Egyptians used leaves as a vegetable, and the seeds as medicine and in the embalming process.

In Arabic, fenugreek is called [حلبة] helba. A beverage brewed on fenugreek seeds, whole or ground, which is still common in Egypt and some countries in its vicinity, is a good anti-diabetic, pleasant to the stomach and beneficial for digestion. Its most common use, however, is to increase milk production in nursing mothers. Making it of ground seeds is most efficient.

Interestingly, the Yemenite Jews, who were unaffected by the Babylonian exile and for that reason retained the old traditions unbroken, assign a ritual importance to fenugreek seeds.

In India, the ground seeds are an important ingredient of curry, and the leaves are used as a vegetable. Fenugreek is also a part of Ayurvedic medicine.

The medical properties of the seeds are interesting. Scientific studies have shown that they improve glucose tolerance and reduce serum glucose, thus reducing many of the symptoms of diabetes (type 1 and 2); in nursing mothers, they promote milk production and have proved to increase male libido. They also contain a substance, palmitoylethanolamide, which is anti-inflammatory.

Traditionally they are also used against digestive problems, cardiovascular disease, high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, cancer, tuberculosis, respiratory problems, kidney ailments, and beriberi. Also externally to treat various forms of eczema and other skin problems.

But if fenugreek increases the amount of milk of nursing mothers. Doesn't it somehow influence sex hormones, making it unsuitable for men?

This a good and well justified question.

The milk production is determined by the presence of a hormone, prolactin, which in some sense can be considered a female sex hormone. Increased levels of prolactin in men have been associated with sexual dysfunctions, obesity, prostate ailments, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions normally affected by female sex hormones.

Prolactin most certainly is not associated with increased male libido.

In a striking contradiction, fenugreek increases the milk production of a nursing mother and male libido. An interesting question then is, does it really increase the amount of prolactin?

Results of studies have not been entirely consistent, but it looks like it does not affect the prolactin level, and that is entirely logical if it stimulates male libido. But what then is driving up the milk production?

I have no answer to that.

Some scientists claim that it doesn't increase lactation, and there are studies confirming that. However, there are other studies showing a clear increase.

While its influence on milk production perhaps can be questioned, the effect on male libido cannot – and then the original question has turned into its opposite: is fenugreek suitable for women?

On the other hand – it is possible that a substance generally stimulates hormone production without altering its natural balance. (B3 in the form of nicotinic acid is an example of such a substance.) If that is true, a nursing mother would get more prolactin, while a man would get more of a male hormone.

As for fenugreek, it is unclear what it does and how, but I think anecdotal evidence here is quite conclusive: fenugreek has a number of sex-related effects but there is no indication of its benefits would being limited in terms of gender.

WARNINGS! Fenugreek should be avoided during pregnancy, since it is possible that it can have some abortive effect. It should also be avoided by those having hormone-related cancers. People with diabetes should consult their physician before taking fenugreek, since it can interfere with anti-diabetic drugs.

(This article is based on material previously published in TMA/Meriondho Leo and in my e-book “Spices & Herbs”, 2018.)

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Written by   390
2 months ago
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You should open a shop, and sell all those incredible ingredients you know a lot about! 😋

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2 months ago

That was a very interesting read. I actually never heard of fenugreek, let alone try it. Learning something new every day.

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2 months ago

Hopefully. I use to say that "a day I am not learning anything new is a wasted day."

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2 months ago

That is very true indeed.

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2 months ago