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Fennel; seed, spice, vegetable or medicine

  Fennel – Foeniculum valvare miller    seed, bulb, stalk and leaves

seasoning, vegetable or medicine

Fennel is a hardy biennial or perennial herb that grows to six feet. It has a white bulb, long green stalks and feathery leaves, and umbels of golden-yellow flowers. The entire plant - bulb, seeds, stalk and leaves, are all edible and are safe for infants and the elderly.

Its Origin is the Mediterranean shores - Greece and Italy and it now can be found in other parts of the world, throughout Europe, North America, India, Japan and Russia. It grows primarily in dry soils of coastal climates and on riverbanks.

There are two varieties of fennel - bitter Foeniculum vulgare var amara and sweet Foeniculum vulgare var dulce. 

Name: Foeniculum named by the Romans for its sweet grass-like aroma.

Traditional Uses: Culinary and medicinal uses date back to ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and India, as well as it having been used in Anglo-Saxon cookery.

The Greeks recognized its value for promoting strength and longevity; athletes would eat the seeds while training for the Olympic Games.

Fennel was widely used in traditional medicine of China, India, and the Middle East. 

Today, it is widely used as an herbal remedy throughout the world.

Modern Uses: Fennel or its essence is used worldwide in toothpaste, mouth freshener, desserts, antacids (due to its anti-acidic property) and in many culinary preparations.  It is also a main component of absinthe alcohol, although it does not have hallucinogenic properties.

Health Benefits of Fennel:

Due to its high concentration of anethole, estragole, phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins and volatile oils, Fennel has a long reach of health benefits.

Anemia: Found to be helpful in the treatment of Anemia, due to its iodine and histidine content. Both support hemoglobin production.

Indigestion: A common practice in the Indian Subcontinent is to chew fennel seed after meals to aid digestion and eliminate bad breath.  Some components of fennel essential oil stimulate the secretion of digestive and gastric juices as well as reduce inflammation in the stomach and intestines, assisting proper absorption of nutrients from food.

Anti-flatulent: Its carminative properties are due to it aspartic acid content. Its extract can be used for infants and elderly to reduce and expel gas, and to reduce dyspepsia.

Constipation: Used in the powdered form, its roughage helps to clear the bowel, while its stimulating effect supports peristalsis of the intestines. By stimulating secretion of gastric juices and bile production it helps proper excretion.

Fennel is often used in medicines that treat abdominal pain, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS.)

Diarrhea: Fennel has been used by indigenous cultures to eliminate diarrhea. When caused by bacterial infection, the anethol and cineole components of fennel have antibacterial properties to counter diarrhea.

Colic:  Phytoestrogens in anethole, a component of fennel essential oil help with colic. The antispasmodic quality of fennel helps to relax smooth muscles and reduce discomfort.

Diuretic and Blood Cleanser: Increasing the amount and frequency of urination helps to remove toxic substances from the body which keeps kidneys and liver healthy.

Weight Loss: eliminating water retention and bloating, boosting metabolism helping to burn fat and calories and finally regulating appetite and hormones all support weight loss.

Increasing breast milk flow for lactating mothers is another benefit.

Heart Disease: As a good source of fiber it also helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, thus stimulating elimination of damaging LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Blood Pressure: Fennel is a rich source of potassium, one function of which is as a vasodilator, relaxing the tension in blood vessels, thus reducing blood pressure. This also serves to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and thereby lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

Cancer: Fennel seed extract has been found to inhibit tumor growth due to its concentrations of alkaloids, flavonoids and phenols.  It has also been found to be chemo-protective against the effects of radiation during cancer treatment. It has also been found to prevent some breast cancer and liver cancer strains.

Brain Function: Potassium in fennel acts as an electrolyte to facilitate electrical conduction throughout the body which includes brain function. Add that with its vasodilator effect, more oxygen reaches the brain and neural activity can function optimally.

Immunity: Fennel’s relatively high vitamin C content boosts general immunity and is beneficial to repair skin tissue, helps to form collagen, and as an antioxidant protects blood vessel walls from harmful free radicals.

Menstruation: It is an Emmenagogue and thus eases and regulates menstruation by regulating hormonal action.  It is used to reduce the effects of PMS and as a pain reliever and relaxant for menopausal symptoms.

Eye Care:  Protects eyes from inflammation and reduces the possibility of macular degeneration and other diseases of premature aging of the eye. The juice of the plant and its leaves can be applied to the eyes to reduce irritation and eye fatigue.

As a rich source; of flavonoids, Fennel protects the eyes from pigment loss due to oxidative stress-induced death.

Expectorant for Respiratory Issues: Fennel can be beneficial for congestion, bronchitis, and coughs due to its expectorant nature. Breaking up phlegm to loosen toxins for elimination.

Culinary Uses:

In addition to using fennel as a spice to season a variety of dishes, e.g. soups, curries, vegetable dishes, the whole or crushed seeds also make a lovely tasting tea which, of course, has multiple health benefits.

The seeds taste a bit like anise. They blend well with other herbs, e.g. elderberry flower and fennel; or mint and chamomile and fennel. Those are two of my favorite morning and digestive blends.

Fennel bulb and stalks are also enjoyed as a food vegetable with additional health benefits.

Emotional benefits:

The Oriental medicine view of Fennel’s warm sweet aroma and as a digestive stimulant relate it to the Earth Element and the Intellect (Yi.) An important aspect of Earth Element is to be productive and creative. 

Fennel is suited to the individual who tends to overthink and over-analyze. It encourages us to express ourselves, to communicate freely without fear or inhibition. This relates to congestion and release of digestive issues.


Safe for infants and elderly. However avoid if allergic to carrots or celery as fennel has a close relationship to those allergens.  Avoid during pregnancy and breast feeding.

Avoid if undergoing treatment for breast cancer, as the estrogen – like effects can present complication.

Due to its high potassium content, those with Kidney disease should limit amount they eat.

People taking beta-blockers for high blood pressure, may need to avoid fennel.

May interfere with antibiotic Ciprifloxacin as well as anti-seizure medications.

It is rare, but some people may react adversely to drinking large amounts of fennel tea by experiencing muscle spasms or weakness.

Do not use multiple forms of fennel e.g. drinking tea and taking extract, tablets, herbal blends.

Reaction may be itchiness, a rash or photodermatitis.


Author, Eve Stahl, is a Health Consultant, Herbalist and Skin Care expert. She specializes in using nature’s plants to enhance the health of people and to protect the health of our planet. To achieve this purpose she has created Garden of Eve Skin Care products for sensitive skin and all skin types. You can visit her company at: www.gardenofeve.com Prospective Affiliates visit: www.gardenofeveskincare.com/affiliate-application

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