Health Benefits of Fennel
It’s that strange bulbous white plant in the market with green stems and dill-like fronds. It used to be that fennel was near impossible to find, unless you were fortunate enough to live in an area where it grows wild.
Today, we are blessed with the ever growing popularity of fennel. At long last, fennel can be found at most local grocers. And it stands to good reason. This life-giving Mediterranean plant is finally renowned for its numerous health benefits and culinary favor.
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A Bit of History
Fennel or Foeniculum vulgare is in the Umbellifereae family (the same family as carrots). Now it doesn’t look anything like a carrot, except maybe the fronds. It doesn’t smell or taste like a carrot either. But fennel does have a similar taste to anise and licorice, only slightly sweeter.
Now the history of fennel goes back to ancient times. It was easily found throughout the Mediterranean Basin. The Mediterranean basin covers portions of three continents Europe, Asia and Africa. There were many cultures that consumed fennel for its health benefits:
- Hippocrates (hint, the physician’s oath) recommended fennel to increase their milk supply for wet nurses
- In Greek it was called marathon, meaning “grow thin”. Known to suppress the appetite
- Marathon, the site of the legendary battle between the Persians and the Athenians, means “place of fennel”. After the battle, as a symbol of victory the Athenians wove fennel stalks
- A Roman writer and philosopher named Pliny, said “Fennel has a wonderful property to mundify our sight and take away the film that overcasts and dims our eyes. Pliny used the aromatic herb to treat 22 different ailments
- Fennel was grown in the Anglo-Saxons imperial gardens
- The Anglo-Saxons felt that fennel was sacred. Even the great emperor Charlemagne, declared in 812 AD (CE) that fennel was a garden essential because of its healing properties
- In the 1200’s, England commonly used fennel seed as an appetite suppressant during a fast
- In the 1300’s, King Edward I of England used fennel was a staple. About 8 ½ pounds of fennel seed was ordered per month. It was used as a condiment and appetite suppressant
- In the late 1700’s, fennel became a primary ingredient (along with wormwood and anise) in the patent medicinal elixir called absinthe
Now most people are familiar with fennel seed often found in authentic Rye Bread. But, fresh fennel is a whole different story. This versatile vegetable is renowned in the culinary world in many European countries, especially France and Italy. As a matter of fact, Greek mythology affirms that fennel is closely connected with Dionysus (Greek God of food and wine). In addition, the fennel stalk carried the coal that carried knowledge from the gods to men.
Most of the fennel plant is edible including the leaves, stalk, bulb and seeds. It is in the Umbellifereae family which includes carrots, dill, parsley and coriander.
Fennel has a very aromatic flavor which closely resembles anise and licorice, except it’s slightly sweeter. The texture of raw fennel is crunchy, comparable to celery. When cooked; fennel is smooth, nice and tender and easy to slice. Fennel is often baked, sautéed, grilled and braised such as Orange Braised Fennel with Coriander.
Fennel seeds are popular in both savory and sweet dishes. They are also used in the famous Chinese five-spice. The spice is said to cure numerous ailments like asthma, coughs, hiccups, toothaches and earaches.
Aromatic fennel is a popular essential oil. It is used to flavor sweets, some lotions and soaps. The oil is said to energize and balance plus support the digestive and respiratory system.
Common uses for fennel essential oil include:
- Toxin build-up
- Water retention
- Breath freshener
- Mouth and gums
Health Benefits of Fennel
Aside from it many culinary uses, fennel is renowned for its medicinal properties. If fennel is not in your cupboard or fridge right now, then you really need to put it on the top your grocery list.
Fennel is said to ease numerous ailments due to its many properties such as stomachic, anti-inflammatory, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, depurative, expectorant, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, anticarcinogenic and antioxidant.
Fennel is also high in Vitamin C, potassium, iron, manganese, folate and fiber. Additionally, it is rich in phytonutrients and high amounts of volatile oils.
Some of the many health benefits of fennel include:
Aids Digestion – Has a carminative effect that soothes the digestive tract and relieves digestive issues like flatulence, heartburn, colic, irritable bowel, constipation and stress related stomach aches.
Eases Water Retention – Fennel tea works as a diuretic by flushing out excess fluids from the body. As well, applying strong fennel tea under your eyes can reduce puffiness.
Removes Toxins – Being a diuretic, fennel can help remove toxins from the body and decrease the risk of urinary tract issues.
Eliminates Bad Breath – Fresh fronds (leaves) and fennel seeds will freshen and sweeten your breath. Additionally, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties soothe sore gums.
Decreases Obesity – Fennel is superb for reducing obesity. It suppresses the appetite and also produces a feeling of fullness. Fresh fennel also boosts the metabolism and breaks down fats. Moreover, its diuretic properties help decrease water retention.
Helps Respiratory Conditions -The mild expectorant properties of fennel may help relieve respiratory tract infections related to sinus congestion, coughs, colds and the flu. To relieve symptoms, drink warm fennel tea two or three times a day. Correspondingly, two tablespoons of fennel seed boiled in one cup of water (until half is evaporated) makes a fabulous gargle for sore throat.
Relieves Menstrual Problems -The emmenagogue properties in fennel support and regulate menstrual flow. In addition, fennel contains phytoestrogens that help with problems like menopause and premenstrual syndrome plus promote lactation in nursing mothers.
Reduces Cancer Risk – According to research by the University of Texas (2012), the anti-inflammatory phytonutrient (anethole) found in fennel can stop breast cancer cells from growing. Fennel bulb may also lower the risk of colon cancer by getting rid of carcinogenic toxins from the colon. Another study published in “Oncogene” (June 2008) found that anethole, can block both inflammation and carcinogenesis, which is the major onset of cancer. Normally inflammation helps protect our body from damage and disease after injury but long-term and chronic inflammation can be harmful and even life threatening.
For the most part, fennel is not known as an allergenic food. It may cause an allergic reaction if you are sensitive to mugwort, celery or carrots. Fennel might cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to these plants. However, according to the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides”, it is on the list of 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.
The statements enclosed herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. Before starting any diet, seek expert advice.
Simply Organic Fennel Seed, 1.9 Ounce
Organic Fennel Seed – 1lb
Starwest Botanicals Organic Fennel Seed Powder, 1 Pound
Traditional Medicinals Organic Fennel Tea, 16 Tea Bags
Heather’s Tummy Teas Organic Fennel Tea Bags (45 Jumbo Teabags), 8.82 Ounce
Fennel bulbs: Borough Market via photopin (license)
Fennel staked with bamboo: Bronze Fennel via photopin (license)
Fennel close-up: venkel via photopin (license)
Fennel flower buds: Fennel, Sissinghurst via photopin (license)
Sliced fennel with apple, ginger and carrots: apple fennel melon juice via photopin (license)
Fennel bulbs on wooden cutting board: fennel via photopin (license)
Fresh fennel bulbs: Fennel via photopin (license)