Parts used medicinally: Seeds, leaves, roots.
What is Fennel?
The aerial parts and seeds of the fennel plant is primarily used as a warming and aromatic digestive herb for all kinds of digestive upset but it is especially helpful for those conditions impacting the lower gastrointestinal tract and causing pain, bloating or spasms. It is also commonly used by breastfeeding women to induce the flow of milk and by menstruating women to ease period pain.
It is an easy to grow herb with a licorice like taste that is widely used in both food and medicine. The medicinal use of fennel has been evidenced in Egyptian, Ancient Greek and Romans times. Middle age writer and philosopher Hildegard von Bingen wrote in the 12th century that “Eating fennel or its seeds every day diminishes bad phlegm and decaying matter, kees breath in check and ameks one's eyes see clearly”.
Fennel grows up to 6ft tall and displays feathery fronds, a thick grey-green stalk and yellow flowers in umbels (clusters). It originates from Southern Europe and the Mediterranean but is now naturalised world wide, growing from seed in waste spaces and any sunny spots.
Fennel seeds have been traditionally used to treat dysmenorrhea (painful periods). This is most likely due to the essential oil content in the seeds that are strongly anti-spasmodic. Modern studies have found clinical evidence for its efficacy in treating primary dysmenorrhea and its analgesic properties.
German Commission E has approved the use of fennel seeds internally for spasms of the gastrointestinal tract, fullness, flatulence and this was actually its first medicinal use back in ancient Egypt where it was used to treat digestive ailments.
The estrogenic effects of fennel can make it a useful topical herb to reduce unwanted hair growth in women and it also promotes the flow of milk in breastfeeding women.
The plant is also anti-inflammatory which is helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with period pain & digestive discomfort internally but also externally as a mouth and eyewash or compress for blepharitis, conjunctivitis and pharyngitis and gum disease.
Ways to Use Fennel at Home?
- Add the flowers, stalks and fennel fronds to salads & soups to add a touch of sweet aniseed-y spring taste.
- An infusion of fennel seeds for indigestion, wind and to increase the flow of milk in breastfeeding mums.
- A weak tablespoon of a fennel infusion for infants to ease colic.
- Add the seeds to cakes, buns, breads and pickles for a sweet aniseed tang.
- Crush the leaves and stems and apply topically on sore swollen breasts during breastfeeding years.
- Infuse fennel seeds in boiling water and steam your face to stimulate and cleanse the skin and smooth out wrinkles.
- Chew the seeds to help support digestion. Fennel seeds are often served at the end of an Indian meal, coated in candy, as a digestive post dinner snack.
Did You Know?
It is thought that the town in Greece called Marathon, the origin of the long-distance race, is named this because of its abundance of fennel (Maratho means ‘fennel’ in Greek) growing.
If you are pregnant/breastfeeding or on drug medication, be sure to consult with a professional before trying these remedies.
Caraway is a pungent digestive herb. The leaves, roots, seeds and oil of the caraway plant is used as a medicine and food, where the seeds are particularly popular in bread and cake baking.