What to Know About Fenugreek for Hair Growth
Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
We all want luxurious, thick and healthy hair. However, for many of us, maintaining our hair can be a constant struggle. We fight dandruff, thinning hair, a dry scalp, slow hair growth, and as we get older, even hair loss due to male pattern baldness.
Despite this, the fight rages on, with everything from special shampoos, serums, hair masks and supplements there to help us, not to mention medications for stimulating hair growth.
Fenugreek is one of several dietary supplements that’s often touted as a solution for preventing hair loss and stimulating hair growth. You can find it on lots of blogs and online communities as a sort of home remedy, often with ambitious claims about its effectiveness.
Knowing what to spend your money on and what products to put in your body should always be an exercise in informed caution. With so many options on the market for your hair, doing a bit of research can save you some cash and time.
When it comes to over-the-counter supplements that promise the world, it pays to be skeptical, and fenugreek is no exception.
While fenugreek may offer some benefits for certain aspects of your health, there isn’t much in the way of evidence to suggest that it’s an effective hair growth agent, or that it treats or slows down the progression of androgenetic alopecia (the clinical name for male pattern baldness).
There’s also only a limited amount of evidence to back up other claims made about fenugreek, such as its ability to reduce inflammation or control bacterial growth.
We’ve discussed this more below and shared several other options you might want to consider in place of fenugreek if you’re starting to lose hair.
TL;DR: What You Need to Know About Fenugreek
Fenugreek is a clover-like herb that grows throughout the Mediterranean. It’s commonly used in recipes, and it’s also a popular ingredient in certain soaps, cosmetics and other personal care products.
Like many other substances used in alternative medicine, fenugreek is often promoted as a cure-all that can stimulate hair growth, assist with weight loss, relieve constipation, get rid of dandruff, lower cholesterol and even make managing diabetes easier.
While there is some low quality evidence that fenugreek may offer health benefits, most claims about its effectiveness (including for hair loss) aren’t backed up by any reputable scientific research.
The few studies of fenugreek for hair and skin tend to have quality issues, such as being carried out solely on animals or using techniques such as self-reporting, which can affect the reliability of the study’s findings.
If you’re losing your hair, you’ll almost always get superior results from an FDA-approved treatment for hair loss than by relying on a supplement like fenugreek.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region. It grows throughout western Asia and the south of Europe and has a long history as a spice and flavoring ingredient in foods and tobacco products.
The seeds of the fenugreek plant have a sweetish, maple flavor (sometimes described as “burnt sugar”). This versatile flavor makes fenugreek a common ingredient that’s included in foods and beverages from around the world.
If you’ve had curry, you’ve likely had fenugreek. In traditional Indian and Ayurvedic practices, it’s also known as methi or methi seeds.
Fenugreek seeds are rich in essential nutrients, including fiber, choline and omega-3 fatty acids such as linolenic acid. They also have a substantial vitamin content, containing vitamins such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B9 (folic acid), C and niacin (B3).
One of the more common recent uses of fenugreek is as a food preserver, though it’s also used in food as a stabilizer and emulsifying agent.
Traditionally, fenugreek has been touted as offering many health benefits, though as is often the case with traditional foods and folk medicines, the scientific research to support these benefits is limited.
Fenugreek and Your Hair
Google “fenugreek and hair” and you’ll find numerous articles assuring you that consuming even a small amount of fenugreek, especially in supplement form, can lead to thicker hair, a healthier scalp and luxurious locks.
However, we have some potentially upsetting news: there’s currently no high quality evidence to suggest that fenugreek can help you achieve the hair of your dreams.
Before we get into the specifics of fenugreek and hair, let’s go over why hair loss develops in the first place.
Your hair can fall out for a large variety of reasons, but by far the most common form of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness.
This type of hair loss occurs due to a combination of genetic factors and the damaging effects of an androgen, or male sex hormone, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is produced within your body as a byproduct of testosterone. It’s important in your early life for proper sexual development. However, as an adult, DHT can attach to receptors in your scalp and cause your hair follicles to miniaturize, or shrink.
Over time, the hair follicles that are affected by DHT -- usually those at your hairline and around the crown of your scalp -- stop producing new hairs, resulting in the signs of hair loss that many guys start to notice in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Most medications and other products for treating hair loss work in one of three ways. Some, like the oral hair loss medication finasteride, work by stopping your body from producing DHT in the first place.
This can help to restrict damage to your hair follicles, prevent hair thinning and allow for healthy hair growth.
Others, such as the topical hair loss medication minoxidil, work by improving blood flow to your hair follicles, which may provide extra nutrients for hair growth.
So, does fenugreek do any of these things? Currently, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that fenugreek hair masks or supplements containing fenugreek reduce DHT levels, protect the hair follicles from DHT locally or stimulate blood flow to the scalp for better hair health.
Put simply, there’s no scientific evidence that fenugreek has the same effects as other proven treatments for hair loss.
However, some research suggests that fenugreek may offer certain benefits for your skin that could be indirectly related to hair care.
For example, one study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules in 2017 found that a gel made of fenugreek seeds aided in wound healing in rats.
Although this finding is certainly interesting, it’s also important to keep in mind that the effects demonstrated by supplements and medications in animal studies don’t necessarily carry over when used in humans.
However, there is one study of fenugreek and hair loss in humans, which was published in the journal Kosmetische Medizin in 2006.
The study included 30 men and 30 women experiencing mild to moderate hair loss and found “favorable effects.” Those effects, however, were self-reported and retrospective.
This means that participants were asked about the condition of their hair before and after the fenugreek treatment, rather than being subjected to objective measurements typically used in higher quality research.
As such, it’s best to view the findings of this type of research as a potentially helpful hint that fenugreek might offer potential, not as a guarantee that it’s effective.
Like many foods that have been used medicinally throughout history, the scientific evidence supporting fenugreek hasn’t quite caught up with the legends.
As such, when it comes to hair loss, you’d likely be better off opting for solutions that do have solid science backing their hair growth claims.
Are There Other Potential Benefits of Fenugreek?
Although the scientific evidence to fenugreek’s supposed ability to prevent hair loss and help with hair growth isn’t very strong, fenugreek does contain healthy substances that might offer benefits for your wellbeing.
Some of the purported benefits of fenugreek are that it's antibacterial and antifungal, meaning it’s able to control the growth of bacteria and fungi. It’s also promoted as an anti-inflammatory substance, meaning it may assist with reducing inflammation and pain.
Proponents of fenugreek also claim that it’s a lactation aid, a tool to lower cholesterol, a blood sugar regulator, a hormone regulator and a digestive stimulant.
Unfortunately, the evidence proving these benefits is currently scant. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health plainly states there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the use of fenugreek for “any health condition.”
However, it does acknowledge that a small number of low quality studies have suggested that fenugreek may lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or prediabetes.
One 2017 study looked at 60 people with type 2 diabetes. The participants were randomized to either receive 10mg of fenugreek seeds steeped in hot water or no treatment. By month five, the fenugreek group showed a “significant reduction” in blood glucose levels.
While this study is interesting, it’s small in size and doesn’t provide any information about the potential blood sugar benefits of fenugreek for people without diabetes.
A few studies involving animals have also found fenugreek could help to combat cholesterol irregularities.
After eight weeks of supplementation with fenugreek, rats showed lowered LDL (often called “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides and increased HDL (“good” cholesterol). However, these findings have not been replicated in humans.
Overall, although a few studies suggest that fenugreek might offer certain health benefits, the small amount of research that’s available isn’t very high in quality.
However, we do have a reasonable amount of scientific evidence about the potential risks that are associated with fenugreek use.
Although fenugreek appears to be safe for human consumption in the amounts that are used in cooking -- meaning a plate of methi chicken isn’t likely to harm you -- consuming large amounts of fenugreek may increase your risk of certain health issues.
Potential adverse effects associated with fenugreek consumption include diarrhea, nausea and gastrointestinal issues. Although uncommon, fenugreek has also been linked to headaches and dizziness, as well as allergic reactions.
Consuming large doses of fenugreek may also increase your risk of developing very low blood sugar levels or liver toxicity.
Experts advise against using fenugreek supplements while pregnant, as it’s associated with an increased risk of birth defects. Currently, there’s only limited data about the safety of fenugreek supplements while breastfeeding.
How to Use Fenugreek
There are several ways to use fenugreek. You can either buy a fenugreek supplement and add it to your daily routine, or apply fenugreek to your hair and scalp in the form of a fenugreek and water mix.
To use a fenugreek supplement, simply follow the directions on the product’s label. Make sure that you only take the recommended dose, as taking an excessive amount of fenugreek could increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
To make a fenugreek and water hair mask, soak two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Leave the mix in a cool location to soak. The next morning, grind the seeds into the water to create a paste that you can apply to your hair roots.
Carefully apply the fenugreek mix to your scalp and the roots of your hair and leave it in for 10 to 20 minutes. Then, rinse your hair to remove the fenugreek mask before washing thoroughly with your preferred shampoo.
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Other Options for Promoting Hair Growth
Although the evidence for fenugreek offering any benefit against hair loss isn’t very strong, there are several options available for preventing hair loss and promoting regrowth if you’re starting to deal with male pattern baldness.
Currently, the most effective treatments for hair loss are the oral medication finasteride and the topical medication minoxidil.
Finasteride is a prescription medication that -- as we mentioned earlier -- works by preventing your body from converting testosterone into DHT. This reduces DHT levels and shields your hair follicles against the process of miniaturization that causes hair loss.
Used daily, finasteride can reduce your DHT levels by approximately 70 percent and either slow down, stop or reverse the effects of male pattern baldness.
We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that works by moving your hair follicles into the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle, during which your hair grows to its full length and thickness. It’s also linked to increased blood circulation, which may improve hair growth and scalp health.
Research suggests that finasteride and minoxidil both work well at improving hair growth when used independently, but they’re particularly effective when they’re used together.
For example, a study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy found that 94.1 percent of men with male pattern baldness showed improvements after using finasteride and minoxidil for 12 months.
In contrast, 80.5 percent of balding men who used finasteride on its own and 59 percent of men who only used minoxidil displayed improvements.
We offer minoxidil solution and minoxidil foam online. You can also buy finasteride and minoxidil together in our Hair Power Pack, which also includes other proven solutions for promoting fuller, thicker and healthier hair.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
The Bottom Line on Fenugreek and Hair Growth
Right now, there isn’t any high quality scientific evidence to suggest that fenugreek stops male pattern baldness, speeds up hair growth, or offers any real benefits for maintaining thicker and healthier hair.
There’s also only a small amount of evidence to support fenugreek’s other supposed benefits, such as lowering cholesterol levels or regulating hormone production.
If you’re starting to develop hair issues, such as a receding hairline or bald patch around your crown, you’ll get the best results by sticking to evidence-based treatments.
We offer a full selection of hair loss treatments online, including minoxidil, finasteride and hair care products for healthier, more lustrous hair.
You can also learn more about your options for dealing with premature hair loss and maintaining a full head of hair as you age in our guide to the best treatments for thinning hair.