You may have heard of fennel as an aromatic additive in sambuca and absinthe. But, in addition to this, fennel has many medicinal properties and almost no contraindications. It can be given even to newborn children if they are tormented by colic. Due to its nutritional properties, fennel has been used since ancient times. And now it plays an important role in traditional medicine.
In the ancient world, the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians used fennel as part of their ceremonies. He served as a symbol of health and pleasure. Its healing properties for digestive health have been valued for millennia.
Today, this popular plant continues to be one of the most widely used traditional medicine. Fennel essential oil and all parts of the plant are used for cooking, baking and as a medicine for more than 40 types of disorders.
The range of its healing properties is huge. Fennel has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitumor and antispasmodic effects. And these are just some of his abilities. That is why fennel is considered a valuable plant for millennia.
In the article we will consider – what nutrient nutrients fennel consists of, its medicinal properties and contraindications for consumption.
What is fennel
Fennel is a winter vegetable similar to celery with an interesting malt flavor. Although not everyone may like it, fennel provides tremendous health benefits.
The plant arose in the southern part of the Mediterranean Sea, and due to its growing became wild in the Northern, Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
The scientific name for fennel is Foeniculum vulgare . This is an ancient perennial herb with cirrus leaves and yellow flowers similar to dill. Fennel is often confused with dill. But fennel and dill are not the same thing. These are different plants.
Fennel is known for its highly aromatic properties. It slightly gives off anise, but has warmer and woody shades. The peak of fennel vegetation is autumn and winter.
Fennel is recognized by its white onion and long green stems. The whole fennel plant is edible, including the bulb, seeds, stem and leaves.
Fennel bulb can be chopped and added to salads, pasta dishes and soups. This will add a fresh and crispy texture to any dish, and a sweet aroma. The fennel bulb contains a number of phenolic compounds, including bioflavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, coumarins and hydroxycinnamic acids ( 1 ).
Fennel seeds are rich in flavonoid antioxidants and contain a concentrated source of trace elements. Fennel seeds are used to make fennel essential oil. First by mechanical crushing, and then using a process called steam distillation.
The nutritional value of fennel
One medium-sized fennel bulb contains 73 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 17 grams of carbohydrates. It contains only trace amounts of fat and does not contain cholesterol.
Fennel is exceptionally rich in fiber. Each bulb provides 7 grams of fiber, or 28% of your daily needs. Most people lack fiber. Therefore, adding fennel to your diet can help you with this!
One bulb also gives 969 milligrams of potassium, or 27% of the recommended daily intake. Potassium is critical to lowering blood pressure, as well as maintaining fluid balance.
Fennel is also rich in vitamin C, providing 28 milligrams per bulb or nearly half the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help slow down aging and also support a healthy immune system.
Fennel contains additional important vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin K and folate. It is also a good source of other minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, zinc and selenium.
One cup of raw fennel bulb contains approximately:
- Calorie content – 27 kcal
- Carbohydrates – 6 gr.
- Fiber – 3 gr.
- Protein – 1 gr.
- Vitamin C -10 mg (17%)
- Potassium – 360 mg (10%)
- Manganese – 0.2 mg (8%)
- Folic Acid – 23 mcg (6%)
- Calcium – 43 mg (4%)
- Iron – 0.6 mg (4%)
- Magnesium – 15 mg (4%)
- Phosphorus – 44 mg (4%)
- Niacin – 0.6 mg (3%)
- Copper – 0.1 mg (3%)
- Vitamin A – 117 IU (2%)
Top 11 healing properties of fennel for health
- Improves bone health
- Improves skin health
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves digestion
- Increases Satiety
- Facilitates colic in newborns
- Helps Prevent Cancer
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Eye health
- May ease menopause symptoms
- Stimulates breast milk production
Note that the medicinal properties of fennel are not limited to this, while there are very few contraindications for its use. That is, fennel is truly the richest plant for the human body.
1. Improves bone health
Due to its calcium content, fennel helps maintain bone strength and health. One cup of fennel contains about 43 milligrams of calcium, which can be useful for those who do not eat enough foods high in calcium and may have a calcium deficiency. Studies show that increasing calcium intake from food sources increases your bone mineral density ( 4 ).
But calcium is not the only nutrient for strengthening bones found in the bulb. Fennel also contains magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K. They all play a role in maintaining bone strength.
2. Improves skin health
Fennel is rich in vitamin C, providing nearly half the recommended daily allowance in just one onion. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce free radical damage, leading to premature aging.
Vitamin C is also necessary for the formation of collagen and is a powerful means of protecting the appearance of the skin, which makes it a good choice for naturally slowing down aging. Vitamin C deficiency is called scurvy, which manifests itself in the inability to properly form collagen, which leads to bleeding gums and bleeding under the skin ( 5 ).
Thanks to these functions, an adequate intake of vitamin C is crucial to reduce wrinkles and maintain healthy skin.
The daily intake of vitamin C is 60 milligrams per day. Getting vitamin C from whole foods like fennel helps keep your skin healthy from the inside out.
3. Lowers blood pressure
The healing properties of fennel extend to the ability to lower blood pressure and inflammation due to its high potassium content and low sodium content. Potassium works against sodium, helping to fight high blood pressure in the body.
A high potassium diet can lower systolic blood pressure by 5.5 points compared to a high sodium diet. But do not expect a drop in blood pressure overnight. It will take about four weeks to consume a diet high in potassium so that blood pressure returns to a stable norm ( 6 , 7 ).
4. Improves digestion
Fennel is included in the diet to improve bowel function GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome). Since fennel contains 7 grams of fiber, it can help maintain a healthy digestive system. The digestive system needs dietary fiber to provide a load for the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and increase their mobility. Thus, fennel is part of a therapeutic diet for constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Fiber also acts as a small brush when it passes through the digestive system, cleansing the colon of toxins that could potentially cause colon cancer. Fennel itself can act as a laxative, helping to eliminate toxins.
Studies published in the International Journal of Food Sciences show that fennel has significant potential to support digestion. Researchers also note that ginger, peppermint, citrus fruits, dandelion and chamomile also contribute to digestion ( 8 ).
In some cultures, it is also customary to chew fennel seeds after meals to aid digestion. This simple action will also help eliminate bad breath. Some oils in fennel help stimulate the secretion of digestive juices ( 9 ).
Fennel also has healing properties for acid reflux. Adding fennel to your diet can help balance the pH level in your body, especially your stomach, and can reduce reflux after eating.
5. Increases satiety
Fiber does not contain calories, but provides volume, increasing the feeling of satiety. People do not have the enzymes necessary to break down fiber, so it cannot be absorbed as calories. Fennel provides 7 grams of non-nutritive, loosening fiber.
Studies show that high fiber diets can help people lose weight effectively. A 2001 study found that participants who added 14 grams of fiber per day to their diets without changing anything ate about 10% fewer calories per day and lost about two kilograms in four months. Increasing fiber intake by adding fennel and other high-fiber foods to your diet can be an easy way to feel more satisfied and experience weight loss ( 10 ).
6. Facilitates colic in newborns
Infantile colic, although a relatively mild illness, can have a significant impact on newly minted parents. Most parents try to calm their crying baby during colic.
A common colic drug called dicyclomine hydrochloride may have some serious side effects and may not always be effective. But the researchers found that fennel seed oil reduces pain and increases mobility in the small intestine. This makes it an excellent natural remedy for colic. Fennel also helps calm a baby and reduce bloating.
In a 2003 study, researchers compared fennel seed oil to placebo in 125 children. It was reported that in the group receiving oil from fennel seeds, colic was 65% less than in the control group, without side effects.
Although this study may be promising, a safe dose for infants has not yet been determined. The safest way to use it to treat childhood colic is to drink tea from fennel to a nursing mother ( 11 , 12 ).
7. Helps prevent cancer
Fennel has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory diseases such as insect bites or sore throats. The ability of fennel to reduce inflammation prompted researchers to find out whether the healing properties of fennel can be applied to other inflammatory diseases, including various forms of cancer.
Fennel contains an oil called anethol. It has been proven to act as a natural cure for cancer, helping to reduce the growth of breast cancer cells. Anethole is believed to reduce inflammation, which can lead to cancer. Although further research is needed to determine how it can be used ( 13 ).
Fennel also contains other anti-inflammatory nutrients, in particular selenium. This trace element can also help reduce the risk of cancer. A large study involving more than 8,000 participants showed that selenium really reduces the likelihood of cancer in the future ( 14 ).
8. Reduces the risk of heart disease
High-fiber foods, especially the soluble fiber found in fennel, have been proven to help lower blood cholesterol. A high fiber diet can help lower your overall risk of heart attacks and strokes, helping lower your blood cholesterol levels to normal.
In 2018 a study published in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine , showed the following. When postmenopausal women used fennel to increase cholesterol, this led to a small positive change in LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as triglyceride levels ( 15 ).
High fiber and potassium make fennel a super-product in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Fennel is also rich in other potentially cardioprotective vitamins, such as folate and vitamin C.
9. Eye health
Macular degeneration is the main cause of age-related vision loss. Although the exact cause is unknown, antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, such as certain flavonoids, vitamin C, and zinc, can help improve vision or slow the progression of the disease.
Fennel contains many of these vision-retaining nutrients. Due to its high content of flavonoids, vitamin C, and minerals, it can help reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, and can also help prevent macular degeneration ( 16 ).
10. May ease menopause symptoms
A 2017 study showed that using fennel as a phytoestrogen can help improve menopausal symptoms. The researchers analyzed 90 women aged 45 to 60 years who were postmenopausal for at least one year (no more than five years) and had menopausal symptoms, at least mild. Participants received fennel capsules or placebo daily for eight weeks.
Significant improvement in symptoms was observed in fennel recipients, but not in placebo recipients. The researchers concluded that fennel can help alleviate menopausal symptoms in women with low estrogen levels, as well as those who have had early menopause or undergone a hysterectomy or ovariectomy. However, a larger test is required to confirm these findings ( 17 ).
Both the 2018 systematic and meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine , showed that when fennel is used to alleviate menopausal symptoms, it helps to reduce vaginal itching, dryness, sleep problems, and vasomotor symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes. Fennel also helped improve sexual function and sexual satisfaction ( 18 ).
11. Stimulates breast milk production.
A well-known therapeutic property of fennel that has no contraindications is the ability to increase the amount of breast milk.
Fennel is traditionally used as a galactogenic agent for lactating women. Galactologists increase the production of breast milk. Studies have confirmed that fennel, as well as milk thistle and goatberry, are effective in regaining lactation ( 19 ).
The use of fennel in folk medicine
Due to its medicinal properties and small contraindications, fennel has long been used in folk medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat various diseases. For example, indigestion, insect bites, or sore throat.
Fennel is valued in Ayurveda due to its warming properties. It is believed that it helps balance all types of doshas (physique), including vata, pitta and kapha. It is considered nutritious to the eyes and brain. Facilitates digestive complaints, such as increased gas formation.
The plant is also used in other traditional systems of medicine, including the systems of Unani, Siddha, India and Iran.
In traditional medicine, fennel is used to treat a range of diseases, from simple problems such as a runny nose and cough to more complex conditions like cancer, arthritis, colic, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, liver pain, and kidney problems.
How to choose and store fennel
Fennel has a crispy texture and taste similar to licorice or anise. This is a great addition to any winter dish to give a unique, slightly sweet and warming taste.
When choosing a fennel bulb, look for one that is solid and white. Avoid brown or spotted bulbs. The stems should be tied together, not flowering.
The fennel bulb should be stored in the refrigerator for about four to five days. It will lose flavor over time, so fennel should be consumed for several days.
You can eat all parts of the fennel bulb, including seeds, leaves, and the bulb itself. Seeds are usually dried and used as a spice.
To prepare the fennel bulb, first cut the stems from the bulb where they sprout. Then cut the onion vertically into thin slices, depending on the recipe you choose. You can eat raw onion, you can fry it alone or fry it with other vegetables.
We suggest you try healthy and delicious fennel soup.
Fennel Apple Soup
Total time: 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 1 onion
- 2 (medium and large) fennel stalk, diced
- 2 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 liter of chicken stock
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan.
- Sauté the onion over low or medium heat for 10-15 minutes until it is soft and browned.
- Add fennel and apples and simmer in a small amount of water for 5-10 minutes until they become soft or brown.
- Add chicken stock and thyme.
- Puree in a blender until a smooth creamy consistency is obtained.
- Bon Appetit!
Fennel Historical Facts
This root crop originated in the Mediterranean countries of Greece and Italy. But now it is grown in many countries, including the USA, France, India and Russia. It is usually harvested in the fall and used in recipes in the fall or winter.
Fennel has a rich history of use due to its many nutritional properties. Since the time of Hippocrates, it has been used as a medicine. The Romans considered fennel a sacred ritual object and used it as a digestive stimulant. The Greeks used fennel during their ceremonies because it symbolized pleasure and prosperity. And the ancient Chinese and Egyptians used this vegetable as food and medicine.
For centuries, fennel has been used in various Mediterranean countries for cooking and baking. It was even added to loaves of bread to give an additional flavor and facilitate its digestion.
Fennel calmed the digestive problems in children, and was also prescribed to mothers during childbirth. It has also been used as part of an eye wash to enhance eye health.
Fennel today is used to make absinthe, an alcoholic drink with a very high alcohol content (from 45-74%) and known for its natural green color. Absinthe is made from medicinal and culinary herbs, including anise and fennel. It originated in Switzerland at the end of the 18th century and is known for its hallucinogenic properties. Today absinthe is not allowed to sell in bars and liquid stores.
Despite the healing properties of fennel, it should sometimes be limited to people with certain diseases.
Some people may be allergic to certain spices, so you should avoid eating fennel seeds.
If you have kidney disease, you are also contraindicated in consuming a lot of fennel due to its high potassium content.
People taking beta-blockers, which are usually prescribed to control blood pressure, may also have elevated potassium levels and may need to avoid fennel ( 21 ).
- Fennel has the botanical name Foeniculum vulgare. This is a traditional and popular herb with a very long history of use in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
- All parts of fennel can be consumed, including onion, leaves, and seeds. Fennel is known for its aroma of anise and licorice.
- Fennel is unique in that it has many medicinal properties and small contraindications. The health benefits of fennel include its ability to improve cardiovascular health, improve skin condition, digestion, increase satiety, relieve colic in children, prevent cancer, improve eye health, and alleviate menopause symptoms.