What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a herb that is approved by Commission E (Europe’s equivalent of the FDA) for loss of appetite and inflammatory conditions of the skin. The name fenugreek means Greek hay. Studies also show it can lower blood sugar and lower cholesterol. It has been gaining attention as a natural testosterone booster and is not uncommonly used by body builders. But does it work?
Natural Testosterone Boosters
The interest in fenugreek as a natural testosterone booster is that it inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, thus raising testosterone levels. It does so by blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT. Prescription drugs like finasteride (Propecia and Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart) also block 5-alpha reductase and no one considers using those drugs to boost testosterone.
Interestingly, DHT is 3 to 10 times more potent than testosterone. DHT improves libido, but excessively high levels are associated with hair thinning (the reason why Propecia is used). So if 5 alpha reductase inhibitors raise testosterone they do so at the expense of lowering DHT which may or may not be desirable – thus it robs Peter to pay Paul.
Fenugreek and Testosterone Levels
A study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that fenugreek does not alter hormonal concentrations, however greater gains in upper and lower body strength and reduce body fat were noted in subjects who received fenugreek compared to those who received placebo (both groups participated in an 8 week resistance training program).
Other studies have shown fenugreek to raise testosterone levels minimally.
Overall, there does not appear to be strong evidence that fenugreek raises testosterone to appreciable levels to make a real difference. Though the findings of increased strength in the study linked to above is interesting and deserves some consideration. Perhaps fenugreek improves blood flow or oxygenation to muscle that leads to increased strength, or some other mechanism to improve strength.
Weight Lifting: the Ultimate Testosterone Booster
If you want to boost your testosterone naturally there are other options. Weight lifting is probably the best natural testosterone booster. Also getting enough quality sleep and keeping body fat down are other ways to naturally boost testosterone.