Side Effect of Fenugreek Consumption

Side Effect of Fenugreek Consumption
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Fenugreek seeds may protect against cancer and improve muscle mass, but they can make your armpits smell like maple syrup.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Cancer prevention is all well and good, but there is a side effect of fenugreek seed consumption—it makes your armpits smell like maple syrup. “Analysis of human male armpit sweat after fenugreek ingestion.” And yes, it happens to women, too.

“In this study, the strong ‘maple-syrup’ odour which appears after fenugreek ingestion was investigated.” They had men plaster some gauze pads under their armpits before and after eating a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds. Sweat was collected over a 24-hour period, and given to a panel of eight odor assessors to get their take. They described what they smelled as cocoa, roast beef, carrots, spicy, gravy, but then, honey, rose and lilac, peach-like, raspberry. I guess it could be worse.

There was one assessor who described one of the fenugreek odor compounds as “[m]usty, sweet, onion, socks.” Another agreed, but thought it more like “[f]ruity, floral, socks.” Of course, there was the boring assessor who was like, uh, smells like fenugreek.

This is a harmless phenomenon; the only reason I bring it up is that there is actually a serious congenital disorder called maple syrup urine disease: branched-chain ketoaciduria. It’s completely unrelated, but breastfeeding infants, with moms using fenugreek to boost their milk production, may be misdiagnosed.

So, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and eating fenugreek, make sure to tell your OB, just so they don’t worry.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Dvortygirl via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Cancer prevention is all well and good, but there is a side effect of fenugreek seed consumption—it makes your armpits smell like maple syrup. “Analysis of human male armpit sweat after fenugreek ingestion.” And yes, it happens to women, too.

“In this study, the strong ‘maple-syrup’ odour which appears after fenugreek ingestion was investigated.” They had men plaster some gauze pads under their armpits before and after eating a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds. Sweat was collected over a 24-hour period, and given to a panel of eight odor assessors to get their take. They described what they smelled as cocoa, roast beef, carrots, spicy, gravy, but then, honey, rose and lilac, peach-like, raspberry. I guess it could be worse.

There was one assessor who described one of the fenugreek odor compounds as “[m]usty, sweet, onion, socks.” Another agreed, but thought it more like “[f]ruity, floral, socks.” Of course, there was the boring assessor who was like, uh, smells like fenugreek.

This is a harmless phenomenon; the only reason I bring it up is that there is actually a serious congenital disorder called maple syrup urine disease: branched-chain ketoaciduria. It’s completely unrelated, but breastfeeding infants, with moms using fenugreek to boost their milk production, may be misdiagnosed.

So, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and eating fenugreek, make sure to tell your OB, just so they don’t worry.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Dvortygirl via Wikimedia

Doctor's Note

Make sure you see the “prequel” to this video, Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds. What happens to the armpit odor of those embracing entire diets full of plants? See Body Odor & Diet. Then, check out Asparagus Pee for another funky odor video. Fenugreek is certainly something I’ve been trying to incorporate more into my family’s diet, based on all this amazing new data. It’s strong stuff, though! I’d be interested to hear any tips on how folks have been able to sneak it into their diets. I make these mean, chia seed-encrusted, dried mangoes that I sprinkle with fenugreek powder using the mix-a-yummy-with-a-yucky technique of adding less-than-delicious things to one’s diet (like putting amla in smoothies). I find home-dried mangos so yummy, I figure I could rub them with almost anything!

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek.

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67 responses to “Side Effect of Fenugreek Consumption

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    1. I have been using it for years to heal my Colitis. I buy the seeds from an Indian store, I found that the organic kind was not as potent.
      Put a tbls in 2 cups of water to soak over night, in the morning add warm water and drink it. It is very strong so you may want to add, raisins or honey. The seeds expand and you can eat them with soup, yogurt or on their own.

      1. Yes, it does help with the production of milk, but fenugreek is bad for infants and kids. There are many cases where babies have gone unconscious from it, as well as bad stools and other side effects.

      2. It does somewhat, I feel little on heavier side, breast feel fuller but not a cup size increase. After breastfeeding few years ago it breasts felt really light, I see the difference also combining with fennel seed supplement, 3 times a day with meals. Has some other affects luke better mood change.

  1. Aha! Fenugreek is the base for the condiment “hilbe”, a Yemenite Jewish garnish that is spread on pita or added to soups. I can buy hilbe at the shuk at my favorite pickle-n-olive shop. The Yemenite Jewish community has known for ages that hilbe can lower blood sugar, its ability to improve muscle strength and having the potential to fight cancer are two more good reasons to add it to your diet.

    1. There are none sadly, and this is one of the only studies of its kind. Although I wouldn’t doubt that a similar affect would be seen with woman as with men.

  2. I’ve been adding powdered or freshly ground fenugreek seeds to sweet potatoes or winter squash, often with other curry spices such as turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, or cayenne. The maple-ish flavor of the fenugreek goes well with the sweetness of those vegetables, and their sweetness counters the fenugreek (or turmeric) bitterness.

  3. Fenugreek is something I discovered by becoming a vegan, and I am so glad. I love to toast it, add some oil, garlic, paprika and soy sauce, then add in steamed potatoes. It is de-lish! And now I learn it is anti-cancer. Woo hoo!

  4. This is so, so, so interesting!

    Thank you to those people who commented on this video about how you use fenugreek. I needed some ideas. THANKS!

    1. I ate neatly two tablespoon of fenukgreek seeds during first trimester of pregnancy.. Do i need to take any thing to reduce its impacts.. Please response my query ASAP

  5. Fresh fenugreek greens (not seeds) can be used along with parsley and cilantro with beans (pinto or red beans) onion and garlic to make a good tasty stew. Fresh fenugreek can be found in Persian stores (it is called shambaleleh). You can easily grow your own by planting some of the seeds! We also grind the seeds and add to bread when we bake bread where it adds a nice rich flavor.

    1. Sounds yummy! And, judging by the recent video about sprouts, I bet you those sprouted fenugreek greens have even more antioxidants. Now, I need to find me a Persian store in town. I gotta try that stew! Do you have a more exact recipe or a name for the stew so that I can search it on the net?

    1. Hope you don’t mind me chiming in. ;-) You could probably use powdered fenugreek in the recipes shared by HereHere and J Potter above. I got a bit experimental myself. Since viewing this video I rushed out to get some powdered fenugreek at an awesome co-op in town. I’ve been adding it to my coffee, homemade chai tea, and most recently to a modified sweet carrot salad inspired by a _Forks Over Knives_ recipe (p. 109).

      For my homemade chai, I usually use whatever spices I have. These days its whole cloves, powdered cinnamon, powdered allspice, crushed cardamom pods, fennel seeds, ginger (raw or powdered), and now powdered fenugreek. I don’t measure these ingredients out so, if you need exact measurements I recommend hitting up your preferred search engine for a more concise recipe. But what I do is add water to a pot, throw in some tea bags (green, oolong, jasmine, peppermint, you can use whatever you like or have), then I add the spices I have, I let that boil and steep for a few minutes. Then, I pour the tea mixture through a fine mesh sieve to separate out all the floaties. I add a bit of soy milk to the mix and a touch of sweetner. Viola, chai tea with a bit o’ fenugreek.

      For the modified sweet carrot salad inspired by a _Forks Over Knives_ recipe you will need: 5-7 shredded carrots, 2 peeled and diced apples (or leave the peel on if the apple if it is organic), 1 tbs of hibiscus tea (recipe called for apple juice, but the tea is all I had), juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp of powdered cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of powdered fenugreek, 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger, and 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s Golden Berry Blend (golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, and blueberries). Mix and chill for about 1 hour. I thought it was pretty good and was exactly what I needed to satisfy my sweets craving tonight.

      I imagine you could also add a bit of the powdered fenugreek to your smoothie or oatmeal mixture as well.

      I gotta tell you, though, this video tells no lie. Just the few days of sprinkling powdered fenugreek in my food and I can already smell the difference. Will have to see if the muscle mass follows suit. :)

  6. How much fenugreek should you consume a day? I am a body builder and would like to improve my muscle mass and strength. I have been taking about a tablespoon or so a day (ground) since watching the video. Today I realized that despite a spin ride, sweating a lot and forgetting to put on deodorant- There was NO body odor that I could detect.

  7. I don’t think it smells like maple syrup at all! It smelled like urine to me when my husband started taking it! I asked him to stop because the stench was so pungent and made me sick. Before we figured out it was the fenugreek, I thought he’d stopped washing his hands after using the bathroom!

    1. Yikes! Your post made me think, what if what I smell as maple syrup smells like urine to someone else? That is entirely possible.

  8. I’ve been milling fenugreek seeds for about three days now and adding about a tablespoon to my pre-work out shakes. Not only have I started to notice the strength increase but my arm pits totally smell like maple syrup! Win!

  9. I think I would rather have armpits that smell like maple syrup, then cancer anytime……..get real. I take Fenugreek for $500 Alex!!!!

  10. I was told Fenugreek is pretty much a cure all. I have a dr appt on the 8th for anal fissures that wont heal, would you recommend using this. I have read it helps with inflammation and digestion health. Part of the reason it wont heal is hard stools from my specific diet I have to be on. This pain is horrible and I need something to help get me through!!!

  11. If fenugreek seeds expand when placed in water, does it expand when digested? Just curious, I have cardiomyopathy and I’m overprotective about everything internalized.

  12. How about you just take a 3/4 tea-spoon full of fenugreek in morning then drink on cup of water after that. This might suppress the bad odor.
    OOzy

  13. I’ve been taking a total of 1200 milligrams of fenugreek seed extract a day and my ankles and knees swelled up after 3 days of taken. does anybody know of this as being a side effect??

  14. I like soaked fenugreek seeds but stopped eating them when I read that Hormone sensitive breast cancer patients should not eat them. Is this true? Much tastier way to decrease blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Less drug side effects.

  15. my wife cants stand the smell…said it emanates from my pores. I was wondering if anybody had tried mixing with baking soda or something to deodorize the fenugreek/methi seed powder? I love cinnamon as well and add it to smoothies and such so was thinking possibly blending this together with the methi. Any suggestions/discoveries?

    1. RE: Bells Palsy.
      Some procedure may help. Self: dealing with bouts of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Found in my “high” state of pain (and much research) a chiropractic method: subtle manipulation. Google: NUCCA, put in your postal/zip code to find the closest to you. It is expensive but helped in my case.Good Luck.

  16. I made an very yummy fenugreek tea today. Added Apple Juice for a third of the tea (with the water), cinnamon, cloves, and a couple teaspoons of sugar. Tastes like apple pie!

  17. There’s a great Persian stew called gormeh sabzi that uses fenugreek leaves. I’ve loved it ever since I first tried it. The recipe also uses dried lime balls and kidney beans. I’ve never had it without lamb or beef but I bet it would be great without. They serve it with crunchy rice called tadiq…

  18. Fenugreek leaves cooked with finely chopped onions +tomato+garlic tastes yummy with bread/roti….you can grate cheese into the sandwich too.

  19. Hi All, I have been boiling 2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds and 1 teaspoon of chopped Ginger in water for about 20 minutes and using the water bit by bit daily now as suggested by a friend that it boosts immunity especially helps in respiratory issues. Could you suggest if it causes any side effects and how much of the water should i consume in a day

  20. I love to put fenugreek seeds in pumpkin curry/ stir fried(no oil) pumpkin.They add to the flavor and it ain’t the same without those awesome lil’ seeds:-)

  21. It is a common ingredient in curry powder my mom used to make. She used to add fenugreek, cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, garlic, and red chillies. We use for most of the curries. Methi, cumin and coriander seeds and red chillies were roasted slightly before grinding to get better aroma.
    The quantity for method seeds used is smaller than cumin or coriander seeds.
    Methi seeds go well with dishes that are sour. For example curries with tamarind or chutneys with tamarind, Amla. Tamato, raw mango etc.

    Fresh leaves are used in parathas, with dal.with potatoes. These dishes use more methi leaves. It can also be used in smaller quantities to other dishes such as chickpeas curry, or meat based curries.

    1. Hi Michelle. That’s an excellent question. It has to do with the coumarin levels. The level of coumarin in fenugreek is not that high compared with cassia cinnamon. I found this article on PubMed comparing the level of coumarin in different foods: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18197622. Not sure how much is too much. Will have to ask Dr Greger and get back to you.

      Although, cinnamon has coumarin, it can be safe if you consume the recommended amount. In The Safer Cinnamon, Dr Greger compared 4 types of cinnamon and found that Ceylon cinnamon had the lowest level of coumarin therefore less toxic to the liver. The follow up video: Update on Cinnamon for Blood Sugar Control.

  22. Fenugrrek seeds (soaked overnight) are a delicious addition anf flavor enhancer of Indian curries..super yummy when making pumpkin curry..Try it out!

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