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Herbology 101 - Herbal Remedies and Herb Information

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Fennel (Foeniculum)
Photo: Fennel (Foeniculum) Parts used: leaves, seeds, bulbous base.

Fennel is a member of the parsley family, and shares its aromatic traits. It has a soft licorice flavour that makes it an excellent culinary herb.

The name "fennel" is used for several aromatic herbs having edible seeds and leaves and stems or an aromatic bulbous stem base eaten cooked or raw in salads.

Most typically, though, it describes a perennial plant of the genus Foeniculum (F. vulgare), with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but has become widely naturalised in many parts of the world. Azorean, or Sweet fennel, (Foeniculum dulce) is a smaller and stouter plant than the common fennel, and is used as a pot herb.

It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.

In addition to being used culinarily, on the Indian subcontinent, fennel seeds are also eaten raw, sometimes with some sweetener, as they are said to improve eyesight.

Fennel contains anethole, which can explain some of its medical effects: it, or its polymers, act as phytoestrogens.

Fennel's carminative and anti-spasmodic properties were known at least as far back as the Romans. It can be made into a syrup to treat babies with colic (formerly thought to be due to digestive upset), but should not be used long term (see warning). For adults, fennel seeds or tea can relax the intestines and reduce bloating caused by digestive disorders, and fennel water is the distilled water of fennel seed.

It is also a stimulant and used to soothe coughs and bronchial ailments. Fennel also increases the flow of milk in new mothers.

Other uses for the name "fennel":

Dog's fennel (Anthemis Cotula), a foul-smelling European weed; -- called also mayweed.

Fennel flower (Bot.), an herb (Nigella) of the Buttercup family, having leaves finely divided, like those of the fennel. N. Damascena is common in gardens. N. sativa furnishes the fennel seed, used as a condiment, etc., in India. These seeds are the "fitches" mentioned in Isaiah
(xxviii. 25).

Giant fennel (Ferula communis), has stems full of pith, which, it is said, were used to carry fire, first, by Prometheus.

Hog's fennel, a European plant (Peucedanum officinale) looking something like fennel.

WARNING: Long term ingestion of fennel preparations by babies is a known cause of thelarche (development of secondary breasts).

Used for:

  • Antispasmodic
  • Infections in urinary tract
  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema
  • Flatulence
  • Arthritis
  • Digestion
  • Joint pain
  • Carminative
  • Gout
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Coughing
  • Uterine tonic
  • Constipation


History In medieval times, fennel was hung by the door and put in keyholes to ward off evil spirit. It was thought to bring good luck and to help one who carried it tell the truth.

Related studies, articles, and news items

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Disclaimer: This content is provided here for informational purposes only. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or treat. Check with a qualified Health Practitioner before using any herbal treatment. Use of these reference pages signifies acceptance of this notice and our Terms and Condition.

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