Botanical: Foeniculum vulgare
Family: Umbelliferae (carrot) - Apiaceae (parsley)
Other common names: Fennel Fruit, Large Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Wild Fennel, Fenchel
When you need relief from indigestion, acid indigestion, intestinal gas and upset stomach, open your herbal or kitchen cabinet, and reach for the Fennel. It is also an old-fashioned cough remedy that will loosen phlegm and ease coughs and colds. For two thousand years, many people have relied on it for its weight control benefits.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Fennel is a hardy, herbaceous biennial or perennial that grows wild in well-drained loam to a height of about seven feet in full sun. Fennel has a bulbous, celery-like stem and feathery leaves, as well as a carrot-like root. It is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean area and Asia Minor but is commonly cultivated (and sometimes found wild) in the United States and Europe. It is one of our oldest cultivated plants and was much valued by the Greeks and Romans (who gave it its Latin name, foenum, meaning "hay"). The ancient physicians, Hippocrates and Dioscorides, prescribed Fennel to increase breast milk in nursing mothers. Roman gladiators used Fennel to gain courage and to be fierce; Roman soldiers thought it would maintain overall good health; and Roman ladies ate it to prevent obesity. All parts of the plant are edible, and it has been included in salads and in sandwiches with the root cooked as a vegetable. The seeds were used as an important cooking spice and in herbal medicine, and many ancient cultures used Fennel to spice up food and as an herbal digestive to prevent gas and upset stomach. Later, Emperor Charlemagne declared in 812 A.D., that Fennel, with its excellent healing properties, was essential in every imperial garden. The Anglo Saxons used it as a power against evil, and in the Middle Ages it was eaten to stave off hunger during periods of Church fasting. Even the American Puritans took the seeds to church in handkerchiefs to eat discreetly during long services. Fennel is one of the most important herb crops in Europe, where it is used in alternative medicine, as well as a food and a flavoring that is added to juices, candies and lozenges, and it is an important flavoring for absinthe and other liquors. Some of Fennel's chemical constituents include alpha-pinene, creosol, anethole (a terpenoid), beta-carotene, essential fatty acids, amino and many other acids, choline, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, B-vitamins and vitamins C and E.
Since ancient times, Fennel has been primarily used to stimulate good digestion. Anethole and other terpenoids inhibit spasms in smooth muscles, such as those in the intestinal tract, and this is thought to contribute to Fennel's use as a carminative. Because it relaxes the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract, it has helped alleviate acid-stomach, flatulence, food poisoning, motion sickness, feelings of fullness and gas, nausea and vomiting. Fennel is an aromatic stimulant that is good for the gastrointestinal tract and relieves abdominal pain, colon disorders, gastrointestinal tract spasms and also helps to expel gas and ease infant colic.
Although it is sometimes thought to perk up poor appetite, Fennel has a very old application as an appetite suppressant, as it allays hunger for awhile, and may help in weight loss programs.
Fennel is considered a very effective expectorant that has been known to expel mucus accumulations. It is a fine remedy for respiratory ailments, including asthma and bronchitis. The herb contains creosol and alpha-pinene, two agents that help to loosen phlegm and bronchial secretions and thereby ease non-productive coughs and relieve colds. Because it promotes expectoration, Fennel is included in cough syrups and lozenges, both as a pleasant flavoring, in addition to clearing the lungs.
As an antifungal, Fennel is said to inhibit yeast growth and is effective against Candida albicans.
Fennel appears to increase the efficacy of the antibiotic, streptomycin, when used against tuberculosis, although it shows no effect on the disease-causing bacteria themselves. Fennel does, however, possess some antibacterial qualities and is used externally by traditional herbalists to reduce inflammation of the eyes (as an eyewash) and skin, especially in cases of infection.
As a diuretic, Fennel promotes urine flow. It is also thought to increase perspiration and reduce intermittent fevers. In addition, Fennel is believed to promote the functioning of the kidneys, liver and spleen, and may even reduce toxic effects of alcohol on the body.
Fennel is believed to possess mild hormonal effects that increase concentrations of estrogen in the bloodstream. European herbalists have prescribed it for centuries to promote menstruation and to enhance breast milk in nursing mothers.
Some early lab experiments have indicated that use of Fennel causes a reduction in arterial blood pressure, and heart and respiratory rates were not affected.
When used externally and rubbed on affected parts of the body as a topical anti-inflammatory, Fennel's properties are another age-old remedy for alleviating stiff, painful joints, arthritis and rheumatism. It is also thought to hasten the healing of muscle strain and hernia.
Since Fennel Seed Herbal Supplement is thought to increase concentrations of estrogen in the bloodstream, it should be avoided by pregnant women and by women who have any kind of estrogen-sensitive disorder, such as breast or uterine cancer, fibrocystic breasts, fibroids or ovarian cysts. Fennel should not be taken in excessive (many times the recommended dosage) amounts, and diabetics should use it in moderation, because of its natural sugar content. It is not recommended for people with liver damage. Fennel does not allow the body to absorb the antibiotic, Cipro, and both should not be taken at the same time as antibiotics. Anyone allergic to celery, carrots, dill or anise should avoid Fennel, and the herb may produce photosensitivity in sunlight.