A woman’s body produces abundant estrogen during her childbearing years, but as menopause approaches, her estrogen levels may fluctuate and they gradually diminish. Low estrogen levels increases the risk of bone loss, high cholesterol, moodiness, reduced sexual stimulation and other conditions associated with menopause. Your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, to help regulate estrogen. Fenugreek, a cooking spice, may affect a woman’s estrogen levels, but studies confirming the herb’s benefits are limited. Your doctor is the best source of advice for treating low estrogen levels.
The seeds of the fenugreek plant, or Trigonella foenum-graecum, are traditionally used in the management of female issues, including the treatment of unwanted menopausal symptoms. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that fenugreek is also an herbal remedy for inducing childbirth and for increasing milk flow in nursing mothers. Medical research confirming these effects is lacking, however. Fenugreek seeds contain protein, mucilages, steroid saponins, flavonoids and sterols, according to the “PDR for Herbal Medicines.”
Effects on Estrogen
Fenugreek may modify estrogen, but scientists are unsure of its exact effects. A 2010 study, conducted at the Cancer Endocrinology Laboratory, Integrated Cancer Research Program, Rajiv Ghandi Center for Biotechnology in India tested the estrogenic effect of fenugreek seeds in vitro on breast cancer cells. While the researchers concluded that fenugreek alters estrogen-sensitive components, the study did not specifically show that the seeds raised low estrogen levels. Additional studies are necessary to determine fenugreek’s effect on estrogen levels.
Fenugreek is available as a spice or in capsule and bulk seed form. The “PDR” recommends preparing cold fenugreek tea by soaking 0.5 g of the seeds in a cup of cold water for about three hours before straining. You may drink several cups of cold fenugreek tea throughout the day, but do not use more than 6 g of the seeds per day.
Fenugreek may produce side effects, including diarrhea, a feeling of fullness and gas, reports the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Do not take this herb if you are pregnant or nursing, unless directed to do so by your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and discuss the best treatment plan for increasing your estrogen levels. Do not use herbal remedies as a replacement for professional medical advice.
- MayoClinic.com; Perimenopause; September 2010
- “PDR for Herbal Medicines, Second Edition”; Joerg Gruenwald, Ph.D.; 2000
- “The Indian Journal of Medical Research”; In Vitro Estrogenic Activities of Fenugreek Trigonella Foenum Graecum Seeds; S. Sreeja, et al.; June 2010