Fenugreek to Boost Low Testosterone?

Alison Miksch/Photolibrary/Getty Images

An herb available in dietary supplement form, fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is sometimes used to increase levels of testosterone (a male hormone that plays a key role in many bodily functions). While research on the use of fenugreek for increased testosterone levels is very limited, it's purported that compounds called furostanolic saponins can help stimulate testosterone production.

Since testosterone levels naturally decline as you get older, many men use natural remedies and other approaches to maintain their sex drive and achieve a variety of health benefits.

Proponents suggest that increasing testosterone levels through use of fenugreek supplements can offer a number of beneficial effects, including:

The Science Behind Fenugreek for Increased Testosterone

So far, scientific support for the claim that fenugreek can increase testosterone levels is fairly lacking. The available research on the use of fenugreek for increased testosterone levels includes a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2011, which found that a supplement containing fenugreek extract and several minerals may help men maintain normal testosterone levels.

For the study, 60 healthy men (ages 25 to 52) took either a placebo or a supplement containing fenugreek and a mineral formulation every day for six weeks.

By the end of the study, participants given the combination of fenugreek and minerals had experienced an improvement in several aspects of libido (such as sexual arousal and orgasm). There was no significant influence on testosterone levels. Concluding that the combination of fenugreek and minerals "may assist to maintain normal healthy testosterone levels," the study's authors also note that the supplement failed to have an effect on factors like mood and sleep.

Additionally, a small study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2010 found that treatment with fenugreek helped increase testosterone levels in a group of adult males. The study included 49 men assigned to a resistance-training program, each of whom was given either a placebo or a supplement containing fenugreek every day for eight weeks. In addition to experiencing an increase in testosterone levels, those given fenugreek showed a greater decrease in body fat and a greater improvement in performance on certain resistance-training exercises (including leg presses and bench presses) than those assigned to the placebo.

A 2010 study in the Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism examined whether fenugreek affected strength, body composition, and hormone levels in men who participated in resistance training. The men received either 500mg fenugreek capsules or a placebo daily for eight weeks. They also participated in a resistance training program four days a week for the course of the study.

Over the eight week period, those taking the fenugreek capsules had increased total testosterone and bioavailable testosterone levels, but not DHT. There was also a decrease in body fat, but no significant change in body mass or in lean mass. 

Larger studies are needed to examine the herb's effectiveness.


Fenugreek may trigger a number of side effects, such as diarrhea, dizziness, and gas.

In addition, use of fenugreek may lead to reduction of blood sugar levels. Therefore, taking fenugreek in combination with diabetes medication may have harmful effects. Fenugreek may also reduce potassium, so people taking medications that reduce potassium levels and those with underlying heart disease should avoid fenugreek supplements.

It's also important to note that, in some cases, decreases in testosterone levels may signal an underlying health problem (such as a thyroid disorder or depression). Therefore, if you experience such symptoms as erectile dysfunction, hair loss, and/or fatigue, it's important to consult your physician rather than self-treating with fenugreek (or any other type of dietary supplement).

Fenugreek supplements should be avoided by people with allergies to chickpeas, peanuts, or coriander, due to possible cross-reactivity.

Fenugreek may decrease iron absorption, so caution should be used by people with iron deficiency anemia.

Urine and sweat may take on a maple syrup-like smell when supplementing with fenugreek, due to a compound called sotolon which can pass through the body relatively unchanged.  

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of supplements marketed for bodybuilding, sexual enhancement, and weight loss.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Alternatives to Fenugreek for Increased Testosterone

Several types of lifestyle practices may help protect against decreases in testosterone levels. These practices include:

Using Fenugreek to Increase Testosterone

While some preliminary research shows that fenugreek may offer certain benefits (including improved control of diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, and relief of heartburn), there's currently little evidence to back up the claim that fenugreek can increase your testosterone levels.

It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using fenugreek for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.


Aswar U1, Bodhankar SL, Mohan V, Thakurdesai PA. "Effect of furostanol glycosides from Trigonella foenum-graecum on the reproductive system of male albino rats." Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1482-8.

Poole C1, Bushey B, Foster C, Campbell B, Willoughby D, Kreider R, Taylor L, Wilborn C. "The effects of a commercially available botanical supplement on strength, body composition, power output, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males." J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Oct 27;7:34.

Steels E1, Rao A, Vitetta L. "Physiological Aspects of Male Libido Enhanced by Standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum Extract and Mineral Formulation." Phytother Res. 2011 Feb 10.

Wilborn, C., Taylor, L., Poole, C., Foster, C., Willoughby, D., and Kreider, R. Effects of a purported aromatase and 5alpha-reductase inhibitor on hormone profiles in college-age men. Int J Sport Nutr.Exerc.Metab 2010;20(6):457-465. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading