Revered for their health benefits, fennel seeds with a sweet liquorice taste, and strong unique flavour, is one of the most sought-after ingredients in many popular cuisines widely used in Mediterranean regions. The herb parts, including tender growing tops, root-bulb, dried stalks, too are used in a wide variety of cuisines all over the world.
The word “fennel” developed from the Middle English “fenel” or “fenyl” came from the Old English “fenol” or “finol,” which in turn came from, the Latin “feniculum” or “foeniculum,” the diminutive of fenum or faenum, meaning “hay” which describes its sweet smell. The original Greek name for fennel was “marathron,” from “maraino,” which meant, “to grow thin.”
Origin and classification
Native to Southern Europe and grown all over Europe, Middle-Eastern, China, India, and Turkey, Fennel is scientifically known as foeniculum vulgare, belonging to the family of parsley or umbelliferae. A hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves this herbaceous plant reaches up to 2 meters (about 6 feet) in height. Technically, “fennel seeds” are not seeds at all but the dried fruit of the plant popularly known as fennel seed. The seeds are usually allowed to dry on the plant, which is gently shaken over dishes or clothes to release the seeds once they have matured fully.
|Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare), Nutritional value per 100 g.|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||14.87 g||48%|
|Dietary Fibre||39.8 g||104%|
|Vitamin A||135 IU||4.5%|
|Vitamin C||21 mg||35%|
Medicinal Uses and Benefits
A natural expectorant Fennel makes an excellent cure for cough, as it is an old-fashioned remedy known to expel mucus builds up. It is an exceptional antidote for respiratory ailments since the herb contains two agents’ known as creosol and alpha-pinene that help reduce phlegm and bronchial secretions thereby alleviating stubborn coughs, colds, respiratory chest congestion, asthma and bronchitis.
Since ancient times, Fennel seeds composed of health promoting volatile essential oil compounds have been for the most part used to stimulate good digestion. The active substances in fennel seeds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, and cineole are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties that stimulate secretion of digestive and gastric juices, reduce inflammation of stomach and intestines facilitating proper absorption of nutrients from the food.
Fennel not only improves digestion, but also reduces bad breath and body odour that originate in the intestines. Read more home remedies for bad breath
Fennel seeds contain several flavonoid anti-oxidants compounds like kaempferol and quercetin which helps eliminate harmful free radicals from the body, thus protecting from infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
Fennel seeds are beneficial for brain. According to the Indian researchers, fennel seeds have the ability to enhance cognitive performance.
According to Ancient Romans fennel was a herb of sight and the root extracts were often used to clear cloudy eyes. Using fennel in food prevents inflammation of the eyes and age related, macular degeneration. Due to the antibacterial qualities of fennel seeds, traditional herbalists used the seeds externally as an eyewash to reduce inflammation of the eyes. According to recent researches, fennel seeds have the ability to cure glaucoma.
When used externally and rubbed on affected parts of the body, as a topical anti-inflammatory, Fennel’s properties are another age-old remedy to ease up stiff, painful joints, arthritis and rheumatism.
Benefits of Fennel seeds for Women
Fennel seeds act as an excellent remedy for those suffering from PMS symptoms and menstrual pain known as dysmenorrhoea. Fennel seeds also include galactagogue property, which promotes production and secretion of milk in lactating mothers and as such milk has some properties of fennel which act as anti flatulent for the baby. If breast-fed child has problems of indigestion or colic, then boiling 2 tablespoons fennel powder with 200gm water-cooled and administered two to three times to the baby helps ease the problem.
High Blood Pressure
A natural diuretic, Fennel seeds help flush out excessive water from the body through the kidneys. By reducing fluid content Fennel causes a reduction in arterial blood pressure, without altering the heart and respiratory rates.
Since Fennel seeds have the ability to flush out excess fluid from the body they help relieve symptoms of edema, a condition that causes fluid accumulation in the body.
Fennel helps the liver and pancreas in the metabolism of fats and sugars besides dissolving fat deposits from the body. These aspects combined with its natural diuretic effect and a reputation as an appetite suppressant makes it an excellent remedy for weight loss.
Iron, chief constituent of haemoglobin and an amino acid Histidine that stimulates production of haemoglobin besides forming other components of blood, present in fennel seeds helps treatment of anaemia.
Since fennel is a good source of iron, creating more red blood cells, consumption of fennel prevents premature greying apart from strengthening and stopping hair loss.
Fennel is used in myriad skincare products. Its antiseptic and diuretic properties, makes it perfect for puffy, oily faces. It has a cleansing and toning action on the skin and helps keep wrinkles and fine lines at bay. Read more home remedies for wrinkles
- Pregnant women should not use therapeutic amounts of the herb, nor the essential oil.
- Women with estrogen dependant cancers, like breast cancer, should avoid it as well.
- Epileptics and people with kidney problems must also avoid using fennel essential oil.
- Certain components of essential oils such as Anethol, and few chemicals present in fennel, can be dangerous if ingested in excess, because the compounds, which can kill bacteria and microbes in low doses, can be harmful. It can induce trouble in breathing, increase palpitations and cause irregular heartbeat.
- The use of fennel goes far beyond the kitchen. Fennel has been used as a medicinal herb by the early Romans and Greeks with a fascinating history.
- Fennel has been mentioned in Greek mythology, when Prometheus brought fire to earth from the heavens in a hollow fennel stalk.
- In addition, the Bacchanalian wands of the god Dionysus and his followers were said to have come from the giant fennel, Ferula communis.
- The Greek name for fennel is marathos, the place of the famous battle of Marathon and the subsequent sports event Marathon, which literally means a plain with fennels.
- Hippocrates talked about the medicinal powers of fennel to treat infant colic.
- The Greeks also called fennel “to grow thin” as they believed it contributed to weight loss.
- Roman gladiators used Fennel to gain courage and to be fierce
- Roman soldiers thought it would maintain overall good health.
- The Anglo Saxons considered fennel to be a magical herb therefore hung fennel above their doors on Midsummer’s Eve to ward off evil spirits to protect them from hexes.
- In the Middle Ages it was eaten to stave off hunger during periods of Church fasting.
- The American Puritans took the seeds to church in handkerchiefs to eat discreetly during long services.