Wunschendorff, a French scientist working in Algeria, first recorded the existence of unique steroidal drugs in Fenugreek seeds in 1919. Marker et a, who identified the existence of diosgenin, gitogenin and traces of tigogenin after hydrolysis of the plant material, verified this finding in multiple follow-up research.
Fenugreek seeds in the form of furostanol saponins comprise saponins. Furostanol saponins can be described as bidesmosidic saponins with two sugar chains, one linked to C3 and one linked to D-glucose3 by an ether bond at C26.
It was discovered that fenugreek seeds contain at least a dozen distinct saponins3. Diosgenin and its yamogenin, gitogenin and tigogenin isomers are the primary saponin. Smilagenin, sarsasapogenin, neogenin, yuccagenin, lilagenin, and neogitogenin are the other furostanols.
Steroidal Saponins and Sports Medicine
The anabolic effects of furostanol saponins could possibly be used in sports nutrition to cause increased muscle mass and strength, resulting in improved athletic performance. A preparation rich in furostanol saponins has been shown to have immunostimulating and leutinizing characteristics that release hormones in a clinical study. The preparation of furostanols also improved the concentrations of testosterone and spermatogenesis. It is known that testosterone plays a main role in the manufacturing of sperm cells and immune functions and is often used to boost fertility and regeneration. From a sports nutrition point of view, furostanol saponins are particularly promising since increased testosterone levels increase the deposition of protein in the muscles, leading to increased muscle mass and strength.
It is known that fenugreek seeds have hypocholesterolemic impacts. Several groups of researchers have shown in experiments conducted over the past decade that the hypocholesterolemic effects of fenugreek resided more precisely in the fat-free fraction of the saponin-rich subfraction. Diosgenin, the main furostanol saponin in fenugreek, has been shown to have different impacts on the metabolism of cholesterol, the most significant being its ability to reduce concentration of plasma cholesterol.