What is fennel?

Fennel is crunchy, slightly sweet, and delicious in popular Mediterranean cuisine. Though often associated with Italian cooking, make certain to add this to your choice of fresh veggies from the fall through early spring when it's easily available and at its very best. Fennel is still among the very widely used medicinal plants, being used for digestive and eye health.  

The perennial plant is native to the Mediterranian area but has become widely available worldwide. Fennel is made up of a white or pale green bulb where closely superimposed stalks are organized. The stalks with green leaves support blossoms that grow and create fennel seeds. The plants' bulbs, stalk, leaves, and seeds are all edible. Fennel is closely related to carrots, dill, parsley, and coriander as part of the Umbelliferae family. The advantages of fennel tea are incredibly similar to those derived from fennel seeds.

Fennel oil is used for flavor in foods and drinks, soaps, and certain laxatives. Fennel powder is used in many regions of South Asia as a poultice for snakebites (poultice is a herbal paste with healing properties spread on a warm, moist cloth to relieve inflammation and promote healing). Some women use fennel to increase breast milk circulation, boost menstruation, ease the birthing process, and increase libido. Fennel is used for various digestive problems such as heartburn, intestinal gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic in babies. It is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, backache, bedwetting, eye health, coughs, bronchitis, and cholera.

See: Curcumin and Fennel Essential Oil Improve Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

See: Ayurveda for GERD, Constipation & Digestive Health

Fennel seeds health properties

- Antioxidants: Fennel contains its own unique blend of phytonutrients that give it powerful antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel compare favorably in research studies to BHT, a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.

The most interesting phytonutrient chemical in fennel, however, might be anethole or the main part of its volatile oil. It has been shown to decrease inflammation and to help prevent the incidence of cancer. Researchers also have suggested a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. The volatile oil has also been proven to have the ability to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical harm.

- Vitamin C and Immune Support: Along with its unusual phytonutrients, the fennel bulb is an exceptional source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body's main water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in most aqueous surroundings of the body. These free radicals may cause cellular damage that leads to pain and joint deterioration in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The vitamin C in the fennel bulb is antimicrobial and required for a smooth-running immune system.

- Fiber, Folate, and Potassium for Heart and Colon Health: As an excellent source of fiber, a fennel bulb might help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And because fiber eliminates carcinogenic toxins in the colon, the fennel bulb may help prevent colon cancer. Fennel is a really good source of folate, a B vitamin that's needed for the conversion of a harmful molecule known as homocysteine into other benign molecules. Fennel is a rich source of potassium that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

See: Psyllium Fiber Reduces Abdominal Pain in Children With Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a Randomized, Double-Blind Trial.

See: Natural Therapies & Causes For Bloating

Fennel seeds health benefits

The advantages of fennel tea are both curative and culinary. Fennel is used in several diverse cuisines, from Indian to Italian, to modern fusion, and all areas of the plant are used, such as the leaves, seeds, and bulb. Fennel tea has been appreciated for its taste, although many choose to drink it for its supposed health benefits.

Many health claims are made for fennel through the ages, and drinking fennel tea is an established practice in conventional medicine across the world. People have used fennel to manage digestive issues, eye health, and treat hypertension. Fennel tea can help healthy digestion, treat gas, bloating, or cramps, and act as a diuretic. According to herbalists, the fennel seed is an effective aid to digestion. It can assist the gastrointestinal system's smooth muscles in unwinding and reducing bloating, gas, and stomach cramp.

Tinctures or teas made from fennel seeds may be used to treat stomach muscle spasms brought on by irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and other conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system. Fennel may also be utilized in combination with other herbal remedies to alter the side effects of herbal formulas used as stimulants or alternative treatments for digestive issues.

Painful menstruation: Painful periods or dysmenorrhoea are a frequent problem for many women, who frequently use over-the-counter drugs to treat the pain. Around 10-20 percent of women who suffer from severe cramping and discomfort during their period don't find relief through this approach. Many turn to complementary or alternative therapies instead, and a 2012 study indicated that fennel could be helpful in this regard. Scientists theorize that fennel may help keep the uterus from contracting, and that's what prompts the pain reported by women with dysmenorrhea.

Colic: One of the substantial advantages of fennel is its anti-spasmodic qualities. As a result of this, some people today think that fennel tea may reduce colic symptoms in babies. Colic in breastfed infants. Research indicates that providing fennel seed oil may relieve colic in babies 2-12 weeks old. Also, breastfed babies with colic are given a particular multi-ingredient product containing fennel, lemon balm, and German chamomile (ColiMil) shout for a shorter period than other babies' colic. Additionally, giving a particular tea containing fennel, chamomile, vervain, licorice, and balm-mint (Calma-Bebi, Bonomelli) can reduce colic seriousness babies.

Blood sugar regulation: Many herbalists and complementary health care practitioners recommend fennel tea as a means to regulate blood glucose. Research in Bangladesh, where mice were treated with an extract made from mentholated fennel seeds, discovered that, at some dose amounts, this extract reduced blood sugar levels at speed similar to that of standard antihyperglycemic drugs.

Dental health: Chewing on fennel seeds changes the pH balance of the mouth, decreasing the probability of dental cavities. Studies indicate that chewing on fennel seeds for only 10 minutes increases saliva production and generates slight raises from the mouth's pH value. These changes decrease bacterial action and keep from tooth decay.

Pain relief: Fennel is also considered useful for pain relief. The identical study from Bangladesh found that fennel extract decreased pain signs at a level close to that supplied by aspirin.

Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is essential for overall health, so one of the more direct advantages of fennel tea is that it provides people with a yummy, caffeine-free beverage.

- Constipation: Early research indicates that drinking an herbal tea containing a mix of fennel, anise, elderberry, and senna daily for five days can decrease constipation. Also, drinking a tea containing fennel, orange peel, cassia cinnamon, senna, licorice, coriander, and ginger for one month can reduce constipation in adults.

Swelling of this colon (colitis): Early research indicates that taking an herbal mixture of fennel, lemon balm, dandelion, St. John's wort, and calendula can lessen pain across the large intestine in people with swelling of the colon.

Excessive hair on women (hirsutism): Early research indicates that using fennel cream for 12 months can reduce girls' hair with male pattern body hair.

Painful menstruation: Some research indicates that taking fennel extract four times per day, beginning at the start of a period, can decrease pain in women and young women with painful menstruation called dysmenorrhea. However, other research shows contradictory results.

Sunburn: Early research indicates that applying fennel into the skin before ultraviolet (UV) exposure can decrease sunburn.

Fennel tea vs. fennel extract: Benefits from fennel seeds extract aren't equivalent to the benefits derived from fennel tea. Fennel tea is processed less and is more likely to be pure. This provides for a nice tasting beverage and numerous reasons for drinking fennel tea for the many beneficial effects. 

See: Ayurvedic herbs for constipation relief

See: Constipation and Ayurveda Therapy

Fennel essential oils benefits

- Fennel Essential Oils benefits: Essential oils made from fennel seeds have a range of potentially beneficial properties.

Many health claims made for fennel and fennel tea are anecdotal, but some scientific medical studies have identified certain drug-like qualities of this plant, especially its essential oils, promoting health. Studies have found that fennel tea advantages connected to fennel's essential oils include:

- acting as an antioxidant

- antibacterial effects

- antifungal activity

- anti-inflammatory properties

- anti-diabetic

- reducing the formation of blood clots

- raising milk secretion in nursing moms

Researchers discovered that ground fennel seeds in alternative were effective against germs that cause indigestion, diarrhea, and dysentery, in addition to some hospital-acquired infections. Based on one study, the fennel was capable of collecting free radicals, which cause illness. This indicated fennel extracts may be used to assist people in warding off the effects of several chronic diseases and harmful health conditions, including cancer, hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, and inflammation. This study suggests that the compounds found in the fennel might help buffer the effects of aging.

See: Essential oils for heartburn & acid reflux relief

See: Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Introduction

Fennel precautions & side effects

Fennel is considered rather mild, even though some people can be allergic to it. Fennel seed ingestion is generally safe when it's used in proper doses. Excess consumption of fennel seeds can cause serious side effects, such as phytophotodermatitis, premature thelarche, contact dermatitis, and allergies. Some fennel seeds side effects include:

- Blisters: Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that includes skin inflammation and blisters. Fennel seed oil may cause contact dermatitis and other cross-reactions

- Allergy: Fennel seeds may cause allergies. Mostly, people with preexisting allergies are vulnerable to allergies brought on by fennel. Abdominal cramps and wheezing are the other signs of allergic reactions. Fennel is not a frequent allergen, but allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis are possible. Non-allergic reactions can sometimes be confused with allergies. Skin rashes, itchy mouth, or coughing because of inhalation may be mistaken for allergies, but these signs are often signs of intolerance or irritation. See an allergist if you suspect a fennel allergy.

- Stimulate The Uterus: Among the very talked-about fennel seeds' side effects is that they stimulate the uterus. Fennel seeds shouldn't be consumed by pregnant women as the roots may stimulate uterine contractions and cause premature delivery.

- Inhibit Drug-Metabolizing Enzymes: A part of fennel seeds is known to inhibit a drug-metabolizing enzyme. This decreases the effectiveness of drugs that are metabolized by these enzymes.  Avoiding fennel seeds while under such medication is the best choice.

- Drug interaction: If you're under medication for seizure disorders or epilepsy, fennel seeds are a large no. The sources interact with the performance of the drug and might aggravate the situation.

See: Ayurvedic therapy herbs to increase breast milk to increase lactation

See: Pregnancy and Womb Care

Summary

Fennel is an herb with high medicinal properties used for centuries. Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties have been used for centuries to treat many health ailments. The ingestion of higher doses of fennel in the supplement form can cause reactions with certain medications. The seeds are also dangerous for pregnant women. Excess use of fennel seeds may also result in allergic or skin reactions. Always consult a physician before you try these seeds.

See: Why am I so bloated & gassy

See: Yoga for digestion

References

1. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated February 27, 2020.

2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Fennel, bulb, raw. 2019.

3. Badgujar SB, Patel VV, Bandivdekar AH. Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:842674. doi:10.1155/2014/842674

4. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Can spices cause allergic reactions? 2020.

5. Allergy & ENT Specialists of Central Florida. Fennel. Updated 2015.

6. Shahat AA, Ibrahim AY, Hendawy SF, et al. Chemical Composition, Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oils from Organically Cultivated Fennel Cultivars. Molecules. 2011;16(2):1366-1377. doi:10.3390/molecules16021366

7. Swathi V, Rekha R, Abhishek J, Radha G, Pallavi SK, Praveen G. Effect of Chewing Fennel and Cardamom Seeds on Dental Plaque and Salivary pH – A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Pharm Sci Res. 2016;7(1):406-412. doi:10.13040/IJPSR.0975-8232.7

8. Di Ciaula A, Portincasa P, Maes N, Albert A. Efficacy of bio-optimized extracts of turmeric and essential fennel oil on the quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Ann Gastroenterol. 2018;31(6):685-691. doi:10.20524/aog.2018.0304

9. Berkeley Wellness. University of California. Fennel: The Flavor of Sweet Anise. 2016.

10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fruit and Vegetable Safety. Updated February 12, 2020.

See: Herbs For Diabetes That Lower Blood Sugar

See: Ayurvedic herbs for diabetes

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