Fennel has many culinary and medicinal uses, both of the fresh plant and its seeds. It is used as a natural remedy for many ailments, including digestion, and scientific research has demonstrated its anti-cancer, intestinal health and eye health benefits. The scholar Ibn al-Qayyim in his Prophetic Medicine mentioned combining fennel juice with chicory for relief from jaundice.
Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb with stalks that are topped with feathery green leaves and flowers that produce fennel seeds. All parts of the fennel plant are edible. Fennel has a sweet aromatic flavor and aroma.
Fennel is a source of folate, fiber and potassium. It contains a significant amount of Vitamin C. Fennel also contains the phytochemicals anethole and other terpenoids that have been shown to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and digestive problems. These essential oils are the basis for fennel's stimulating action on the digestive system. The oil is present in relatively large amounts, from 3-6% of its total weight.
colic - About forty percent of infants who received fennel seed oil showed relief of colic symptoms, as compared to only fourteen percent in the placebo group.
cancer - The phytonutrient anethole, which occurs naturally in fennel, has been shown to reduce the gene altering and inflammation-triggering molecule called NF-kappa B. It also helps reduce tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a cancer-signaling molecule, thus enhancing cancer cell death.
Stomach Relief - Anethole and other terpenoids have been shown to inhibit spasms in the intestinal tract, acting as a gas-relieving and cramp-relieving agent. Fennel seeds are widely used to aid digestion, relieve flatulence, reduce bloating and other intestinal problems.
eye health - Extracts of fennel seed have been shown in animal studies to have a potential use in the treatment of glaucoma (a group of eye conditions that affect vision), with comparable results to that of a commonly prescribed glaucoma drug.
Tips on Using Fennel
- Alexandrovich I, Rakovitskaya O, Kolmo E, et al. The effect of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Altern Ther health Med. 2003;9:58-61.
- Chainy GB, Manna SK, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Anethole blocks both early and late cellular responses transduced by tumor necrosis factor: effect on NF-kappaB, AP-1, JNK, MAPKK and apoptosis. Oncogene 2000 Jun 8;19(25):2943-50.
- Forster HB, Niklas H, Lutz S. Antispasmodic effects of some medicinal plants. Plant Med .1980;40:303-19.
- Agarwal R, Gupta SK, Agrawal SS, Srivastava S, Saxena R (2008). "Oculohypotensive effects of foeniculum vulgare in experimental models of glaucoma". Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 52 (1): 77-83.