Health benefits of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) have been known and used since the ancient times. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used this herb in their traditional medicine. Health benefits of fennel include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antispasmodic and anti-tumor properties.
What is Fennel?
Fennel is native to the Southern Mediterranean region, but now it is grown in many places. You can grow fennel in your herb garden to have fresh herbs and attract beneficial insects. There are several varieties of fennel which you could plant.
Fennel is a vegetable that looks like celery (they are related), with a white bulb and long green stalks. This perennial herb also looks similar to dill with feathery leaves and yellow flowers.
It may take some time to get used to the taste of fennel. This herb is very aromatic, quite similar to anise, with a licorice-like flavor. All parts of the plant are edible, including the leaves, stalk, bulb and seeds. Fennel has a crunchy texture which can be consumed raw or cooked. Eat fresh fennel right after harvesting because it only lasts a few days in the refrigerator and it will lose its flavor over time. Seeds are used as a condiment and they can last around six months.
Fennel is used to make liquors including sambuca and absinthe, just like wormwood. This herb is also included in mouth wash and toothpaste because it can improve the breath. Fennel seeds are used to make fennel essential oil. They are crushed and then the oil is taken using a process known as steam distillation.
Fennel Nutritional Facts
Health benefits of fennel include its high fiber content, one bulb can give you 28% of your daily needs. Most people do not consume enough fiber in their diets. Fennel has no fat or cholesterol, one bulb has 3 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbohydrates and 73 calories.
This herb also has very high content of vitamin C, with 28 milligrams per bulb which is almost half of the daily recommended value. Fennel also contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin K. It is a good source of minerals such as potassium, iron, copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, niacin, selenium and zinc.
Essential oils found in this herb have more than 87 volatile compounds including apigenin, quercetin, chlorogenic acid and rosmarinic acid. All of these polyphenol antioxidants are powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
Fennel seeds are rich in flavonoid antioxidants and have concentrated micronutrients. They are used medicinally since they have over 28 compounds including anethole, limonene, fenchone, and methyl chavicol. While the fennel bulb has phenolic compounds, such as coumarins, tannins, bioflavonoids, phenolic acids and hydroxycinnamic acids.
Health Benefits of Fennel
Fennel is a galactagogue, which means it increases the production of breast milk in lactating women. According to this study, it does so by increasing blood levels of prolactin, the hormone that tells the body to produce breast milk. There are many herbs that have similar effects including fenugreek, milk thistle, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, and stinging nettle.
Fennel is a phytoestrogen which may contribute to improvements in menopausal symptoms such as dryness, vaginal itching, sleeping issues, night sweats, and hot flashes. Health benefits of fennel can also help improve sexual function and satisfaction. According to a study, post menopausal women who received fennel saw significant improvements.
Fennel may help women with low estrogen levels as well as those who had early menopause or a hysterectomy or oophorectomy. Since estrogen occurs naturally in fennel, it can help raise the levels and reduce abdominal weight gain.
As an emmenagogue, this herb can bring on the menses and regulate menstruation. Health benefits of fennel include regulating hormonal action in the body. It can also reduce effects of PMS, since it is a pain reliever. Do not use this herb medicinally if pregnant.
Infant colic can drive any new parent crazy! Parents would try almost anything to calm down a crying child. Pharmaceutical medication for colic can have serious side effects. Research found that fennel seed oil (just like dill) can reduce pain and increase motility in the small intestine. This herb also helps calm down the infant. A child can be given gripe water or a breastfeeding mother can drink fennel tea.
High content of fiber is one of the health benefits of fennel since this helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Without fiber, the muscles in the digestive system wouldn’t be able to operate optimally to move the gastrointestinal muscles to push. Fiber clears the colon from toxins that could cause colon cancer. Fennel acts like a laxative and eliminates toxins.
Many adults who suffer from constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could benefit from this herb which is commonly found in medications to treat stomach problems and intestinal issues. Health benefits of fennel also include its ability to reduce flatulence because it is a carminative which can expel gas from the stomach. It is commonly used in medications and it is safe for elders, young children and infants.
Research shows that fennel can help with digestion, along with chamomile, dandelion, peppermint, ginger and citrus fruit. Some cultures, such an India, chew fennel seeds after meals to help digestion and remove bad breath. Health benefits of fennel can also help people with acid reflux since this herb can balance the pH of the body, especially in the stomach.
Health benefits of fennel include high quantities of fiber (7 grams) which are calorie free. Diets high in fiber help people lose weight, since they increase satiety. Fennel is also a good source of vitamin B6, which breaks down carbohydrates and proteins into amino acids and glucose. Smaller compounds can be processed by the body easier, thus improving energy metabolism.
High flavonoids, amino acids like arginine, vitamin C and minerals such as magnesium and cobalt are part of the health benefits of fennel. All of this can help reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, thus preventing macular degeneration which is the leading cause of age related vision loss. Flavonoids protect pigment cells from dying. Juice from fennel leaves and plant can be applied externally to reduce eye fatigue and irritation.
High fiber food reduces cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Fennel is also high in potassium which can lower blood pressure. Normal levels of blood cholesterol can help reduce the risk of strokes, atherosclerosis and heart attacks. A study found that fennel showed a positive changes in HDL and LDL cholesterol, as well as triglyceride levels. Health benefits of fennel also include cardio protective vitamins such as folate, vitamin B 6 and vitamin C.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High potassium and low sodium content in fennel help the body lower its blood pressure and inflammation. Potassium works against sodium, fighting high blood pressure. Potassium is a vasodilator, which can reduce the tension in blood vessels. Diets high in potassium, instead of high in sodium, can help reduce blood pressure by 5.5 points. Fennel also has calcium and magnesium which decrease blood pressure naturally. You must be patient since the change will take about a month.
Regulating blood pressure levels is also important for diabetics since it can help manage their glucose and insulin levels without complications.
Anethole found in fennel seeds reduces inflammation that may lead to cancer. They are rich in alkaloids, flavonoids, and phenols which can inhibit the growth of tumors and can protect against the harmful effects of radiation during cancer treatment. Clinical studies showed its natural anti cancer activity, since it helped reduce the growth of breast cancer cells.
Health benefits of fennel also include selenium, a trace mineral that could help decrease cancer mortality rates. Selenium can decrease tumor growth rates, prevent inflammation and help detoxify the body since it contributes to liver enzyme functions. Folate found in fennel, helps repair DNA which may prevent cancer cells from forming. Chinese medicine has been using fennel to treat inflammatory conditions for centuries.
One bulb of fennel provides almost half the recommend daily intake of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce free radical damage. Vitamin C can prevent premature aging since it is necessary for the formation of collagen. Appropriate intakes of vitamin C are very important to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and keep your skin healthy.
Health benefits of fennel include high calcium content, since one cup of fennel has about 43 milligrams of calcium. Consuming calcium from food sources increases your bone mineral density. Fennel also has phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin K, which are important to maintain bone strength. Vitamin K improves calcium absorption and helps reduce the excretion of calcium in the urine. Low levels of vitamin K can lead to higher risk of bone fracture.
Cineole and anethole found in fennel are expectorants which can help with respiratory disorders such as cough, bronchitis and congestion. Fennel seeds and powder can break up the buildup of phlegm and toxins in the throat and nasal passages so they are eliminated from the body.
Precautions of Using Fennel
Use health benefits of fennel in moderation, since excess consumption could cause increased palpitations, irregular heartbeats, and difficulty breathing. Anethole and other chemicals found in the herb are what could be dangerous. Speak to a healthcare professional if you have any questions.
Fennel is a diuretic, which can increase urination and remove toxic substances from the body. People who are allergic to fennel, coriander or caraway and should not consume this herb. This herb has high levels of potassium which may interact with beta-blocker medicines. Too much potassium could cause damage to people with kidney problems which may not be able to filter excess potassium from the blood.
Pregnant women should not consume this herb in medicinal doses since it has estrogenic properties, which could have a toxic effect on fetal cells. Fennel is an emmenagogue, so it may also have abortive properties.