What is fennel?
Fennel is a perennial herb in the Apiaceae family of carrots planted for its edible seeds, stems, and leaves. Fennel, which is native to southern Europe and Asia Minor, is grown all over the world in temperate climates and is regarded as an invasive species in Australia and some portions of the United States. The Florence fennel (variety azoricum) stem base resembles a bulb, and the blanched shoots are consumed as vegetables. All parts of the plant are aromatic and used to spice food. The seeds and extracted oil have an aroma and flavour that are reminiscent of anise and are used to flavour meals such as pastries, sweet pickles, liqueurs, sweets, and fish.
The cultivated plant grows to about one meter (three feet) and has stalks with leaves that are finely split into numerous linear or awl-shaped segments. The compound umbels are greyish and have tiny yellow blooms. The small dry fruits have five distinct longitudinal dorsal ridges and ranging color from greenish brown to yellowish brown. They are around 6 mm (0.25 inch) in length. Anethole and fenchone are the main ingredients of 3-4% essential oil (EO) in the seeds.1
Health benefits of fennel
Digestive health benefits
Fennel seeds are fibre-filled and possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The fennel plant produces tiny, licorice-flavoured seeds called fennel seeds. They are nutrient-rich and may relieve constipation, bloating, and gastric problems. The best flatulence fighters in nature are fennel seeds. Swallowing air and the fermentation of certain meal fibre by gut bacteria are the two leading causes of gas and bloating. If your flatulence is the consequence of food sickness or food intolerance, the antibacterial properties of fennel seeds may be able to assist in keeping gut pathogens under control. Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal infections and dysbiosis, may also be inhibited by fennel. It also contains anethole, which may ease discomfort and tension in your intestines. Intestines that are more relaxed are better at directing excrement and gas to the exit.2
Fennel is a vegetable high in antioxidant minerals, including vitamin C and plant flavonoids like quercetin, which may help reduce inflammation. It has been found that consuming a lot of foods increases the chance of developing several chronic diseases.3
More than 87 volatile chemicals, including the polyphenol antioxidants rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and apigenin, are present in the plant’s EO. Polyphenol antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties contribute significantly to your overall health. Antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids found in fennel can help protect the eyes from the oxidative stress of free radicals. This can reduce the chance of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and other eye conditions.4
Potential anti-cancer effects
Fennel seeds may be effective in preventing carcinogenesis or the development of cancer. Since they kill cancer cells in animals, fennel seeds may exhibit anticancer action. Therefore, fennel is an all-natural source of anticancer chemicals.5
Rich in nutrients that protect your health
According to studies, fennel has beneficial antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory substances, as well as antioxidants that are good for your health. It comes as no surprise. However, fennel has a long history of usage as a medicinal plant for various conditions affecting the reproductive, digestive, endocrine and respiratory systems, as well as a milk stimulant for parents who are nursing.
Combat breath odour
A unique fragrant essential oil found in fennel seeds has antimicrobial properties that can aid in freshening breath. Saliva production is boosted by the sweet fennel seeds, which aid in the destruction of dangerous microorganisms. It is an easy and practical home cure for foul breath. Five to ten fennel seeds could help you breathe easier.
Aid in blood pressure control
Potassium is a mineral that is abundant in fennel seeds and helps control blood volume. It aids in maintaining blood pressure and heart rate. A naturally occurring substance called nitrite regulates blood pressure, and it has been shown that fennel seeds increase the level of nitrite in saliva.
Relieves menopause symptoms
The health benefits of fennel for menopausal women are mostly related to its oil. A 2019 study examined the benefits of fennel oil in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome, menopause, lactation, menstrual pain, and premenstrual syndrome. According to one study cited in this paper, postmenopausal women who took 100 milligrams of fennel oil twice a day for eight weeks fared better on a menopause rating scale than those who took a placebo of sunflower oil. They noticed decrease in symptoms like hot flashes, sleeplessness, and night sweats.
Reduces Period Cramps
Menstrual cramps may be relieved by fennel, which is beneficial if your cramps hinder your everyday tasks. This could be due to fennel’s potential to reduce prostaglandin levels in the body. Prostaglandins assist your uterine muscles in contracting and shedding the endometrium, or tissue that lines the lining of your uterus. Prostaglandin overproduction can cause painful contractions to occur more frequently than usual. Fennel also contains nitrites, which promote blood flow. Nitrites may aid the endometrium in shedding more quickly and efficiently than usual.
Benefit bone health
The calcium in fennel helps to maintain the health of your bones. Calcium is essential for strong bones. Inadequate calcium intake raises the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Could encourage healthy skin
Fennel contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces the damage to free radicals and harmful molecules - created in part by ultraviolet (UV) exposure due to skin cells. Free radicals could be a factor in skin cancer and early ageing.
Anethole, one of the chemical compounds found in fennel, may naturally reduce hunger, which is advantageous if you are trying to control your weight. In a 2015 study, three different teas, one of which contained fennel, were served to nine women. Overall, the researchers discovered that after consuming fennel tea, participants reported feeling fuller and less hungry compared to those who drank placebo tea.
Might guard against chronic illness
Fennel contains vitamins, minerals, and other components that may help prevent some chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular conditions. Fennel, for instance, is high in fibre, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Fennel’s anethole may also help reduce the likelihood of certain malignancies from forming or progressing. In a study released in 2021, experts discovered that anethole aids in triggering apoptosis. The process of programmed cell death, known as apoptosis, is crucial in halting the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Enhance brain health
Fennel may help prevent degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, according to some research. In a 2017 study, scientists looked at the antioxidants and EO extracts of four different herbs, including fennel. The researchers examined the herbs and discovered that they might aid in lowering oxidative stress, which harms your cells.
Lowers the risk of anaemia
One of the minerals in fennel is iron. Haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to various regions of your body, contains iron, which is a crucial component. Low iron levels can lead to anaemia, a disorder that can manifest as weakness and exhaustion, among other symptoms. Fennel, with its high iron content, can aid in restoring iron levels in your body if you have a deficiency or are looking to prevent one.
Support eye health
Antioxidants found in fennel help prevent eye conditions, including macular degeneration. For instance, a 2013 study discovered that the vitamin C in fennel supports the health of your eyes. Even other antioxidants that assist eye health, including vitamin E, can regenerate with the aid of vitamin C.6
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nutritional information for 1 cup of sliced, raw fennel is as follows:
- Calories: 27
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 6 g
- Fibre: 2.7 g
- Natural Sugars: 3 g
- Calcium: 43 mg
- Iron: 0.64 mg
- Magnesium: 15 mg
- Potassium: 360 mg
- Vitamin A: 838 international units (IU)
- Vitamin C: 10.4 mg7
Culinary uses of fennel
There is evidence that fennel helps with digestion. The fronds should be mushed, then combined with Campari, a bitter aperitif, to create a cocktail that will treat all stomach problems.
Savoury risottos with saffron or chorizo might benefit from adding sauteed fennel.
Fennel wedges are cooked simply as a side dish to go with fish or lamb by being lightly browned and then simmered in a fragrant wine.
If you cook fennel in Pernod, a French liqueur, before using it as a pizza topping, the anise flavour will be more pronounced.
To any gazpacho or seafood chowder dish, add diced fennel.
For spaghetti or to braise eggs, a meal known as shakshuka in the Middle East, add diced fennel to tomato sauce.
Not only carrots but other vegetables also pair well with sweets. To this nutty cake, fennel brings a sophisticated flavour.8
Side effects and other concerns
- Seizures and upset stomachs are possible side effects
- It can increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun and facilitate sunburns. If you have fair skin, use sunscreen
- There have been some cases of breastfed babies exposed to fennel-containing herbal tea through breastmilk developing nervous system
- When given to young infants with colic at the recommended doses for up to one week, fennel may be safe
- In those who are allergic to these plants, fennel may result in an allergic reaction
- Blood clotting may be slowed by fennel. In those with bleeding disorders, using fennel may raise the risk of bleeding or bruising9
Fennel with a yellow flower is a herb. Seeds of dried fennel are used in food. Additionally, medication is made from its oil and dried seeds. Originally from the Mediterranean, fennel is now grown all over the world. In terms of medicine, it might relax the colon, and it also seems to have a substance that might have estrogenic effects on the body. Fennel tastes similar to anise when used as a spice. Fennel can be used to treat menstrual cramps. Additionally, indigestion, menopause symptoms, and excessive crying in infants (colic) can also be treated with fennel.
Products containing fennel include EOs, seed extracts, seed powder, teas, and lotions, among other variations. But remember that dosages can be crucial, and natural products aren’t always safe. Before using, make sure to seek the advice of a healthcare professional and observe all pertinent instructions on product labels.
- Fennel. In: Wikipedia [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fennel&oldid=1154635780
- Fennel seeds can help you fart less and soothe bloating [Internet]. Greatist. 2020 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://greatist.com/health/fennel-seeds-for-gas
- Top 5 health benefits of fennel [Internet]. BBC Good Food. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-fennel
- 10 science-based benefits of fennel and fennel seeds [Internet]. Healthline. 2019 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fennel-and-fennel-seed-benefits
- Singh DR. Fennel (Saunf) seeds: uses, benefits, side effects, and more! [Internet]. PharmEasy Blog. 2022 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/ayurveda-uses-benefits-side-effects-of-fennel-seeds/
- 12 reasons fennel is so good for you, according to a nutritionist [Internet]. Health. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.health.com/nutrition/fennel-benefits
- A guide to fennel: nutrition facts, health benefits, cooking tips, and more [Internet]. EverydayHealth.com. 2022 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/fennel-nutrition-benefits-how-cook-with-it-more/
- 7 ways to use fennel [Internet]. Food & Wine. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.foodandwine.com/seasonings/spices/fennel/11-ways-use-fennel
- Fennel: overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-311/fennel