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Benefits of Fennel

Updated: Jan 5

Scientific Name: Foeniculum vulgare

Common Names: Bronze fennel, Bitter fennel, Sweet fennel, Fenkel, Hinojo, Finocchio, Shatapushpa, Xiao hui xiang

Family: Apiaceae (Carrot)

herbal picture of fennel seeds, fennel tea, and the fennel plant, foeniculum vulgare on a dark grey (nearly black) background.

Fennel is also known as bronze fennel, bitter fennel, sweet fennel, fenkel, hinojo, finocchio, shatapushpa, xiao hui xiang, or its scientific name Foeniculum vulgare (1). Fennel has greyish-green foliage with thread-like feathered leaves and yellow flowers at the ends of the stems (2). Fennel is a perennial herb of the Apiaceae (carrot) family. Fennel is native to southern Europe and Asia Minor but is considered invasive in Australia and parts of the United States (3). Fennel is grown for its edible shoots, leaves, and seeds, commonly used for medicinal purposes.


 

Benefits of Fennel


Highly Nutritious

Fennel seeds are the most widely used part of the plant, which just so happens to be highly nutritious. Fennel seeds are known for their omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and C, and more (4). Although fennel has some protein, it is not a high-protein food and only consists of approximately 1 gram of protein per cup of fennel seeds.


Antibacterial Properties

An antibacterial property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can destroy or suppress the growth and reproduction of bacteria (5). Fennel contains certain compounds that have potent antibacterial properties. One study found that fennel extract’s phenolic compounds inhibit the growth of bacteria and yeasts, as well as high antiglycation activity (6).


Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (7). Fennel is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its wide array of plant compounds that help fight inflammation. For instance, the antioxidants in fennel, like vitamin C and quercetin, can help reduce inflammation and levels of inflammatory markers (8).


May Improve Digestion

Fennel is a carminative herb rich in volatile oils that help the gut soothe and remove gas from the digestive tract (9). Between being a carminative herb and its anti-inflammatory properties, fennel is great for improving overall digestion. One study found that supplementing dietary fennel seed powder improves appetite, digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity (10). Additionally, antioxidants in fennel seeds help reduce gas and increase intestinal muscle movements (11).

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May Support Heart Health

Unfortunately, heart disease is the world's number one cause of death (12). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it's hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. Fennel and its seeds may also positively affect your overall heart health.


Fennel's ability to support heart health is likely due to its high fiber content. Although dietary fiber (predominantly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) is best known for preventing or alleviating constipation, it can also provide other health benefits. Fiber can also aid in maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer (13). Studies have estimated that for every 7 grams of fiber consumed per day, heart disease risk decreases by 9 percent (14).


May Provide Menopause Symptom Relief

Menopause transpires when estrogen decreases and is characterized by a point in time 12 months after a woman's last menstrual cycle. In the years leading to menopause, women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other uncomfortable symptoms (15). A study review found that fennel plant compounds are important in relieving hot flashes, vaginal itching, dryness, dyspareunia, sexual function, sexual satisfaction, and sleep distribution (16).


May Increase Breastmilk Supply

Lactation occurs when hormonal changes signal the mammary glands to make milk in preparation for a baby (17). The plant compound that aids in menopausal symptoms may also boost breastmilk production. Fennel has demonstrated galactogenic properties, meaning it aids in increasing breastmilk secretion. Research has found that the plant compound anethole has dianethole and photoanethole, which are responsible for the galactogenic effects (18). Additionally, fennel may increase milk secretion and blood levels of prolactin, the hormone that signals the body to produce breast milk (19).


Anticancer Properties

Statistics say that 158.3 of every 100,000 individuals will die from cancer, but what if they didn't have to (20)? Thankfully, One of the main active compounds in fennel seeds, anethole, has exhibited anticancer properties. Several studies have been conducted in both test tubes and on animals regarding the potential anticancer properties of ashwagandha. One test-tube study observed anethole’s ability to suppress cell growth and induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in human breast cancer cells (21). Another test-tube study found that fennel extract stopped the spread of human breast cancer cells and induced cancer cell death (22). In animal studies, fennel extract from the seeds demonstrated the ability to protect against breast and liver cancer (23).

benefits of fennel (Antibacterial properties, Anti-inflammatory properties, May improve digestion, May support heart health, May increase breastmilk supply, May relieve menopause symptoms, Anticancer properties)

⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.


Contraindications & Interactions

Mainstream sources claim fennel is possibly unsafe when breastfeeding. They claim reports of breastfeeding infants with damage to their nervous systems after exposure to herbal tea containing fennel through breastmilk (24). My first thought was that there were likely other factors at play, similar to the study where they blamed lavender essential oil for endocrine disruption in boys, yet fragrance was likely the cause. So, I decided to research fennel use with infants.


I thoroughly searched the internet but came up empty-handed. The best I could find was a study from 1994, but every version I found was blank (25,26,27). I continued to dig and found one source that said the herbal tea mixture reportedly contained licorice, fennel, anise, and goat's rue (28). Although this may not ease your mind, I did find a study demonstrating the superiority of fennel seed oil emulsion compared to placebo when decreasing the intensity of infantile colic, and no side effects were reported (29).


As per trusted herbalist Richard Whelan, No adverse effects are expected (or have ever been reported) from taking fennel in tea or tincture, even in high or frequent doses. It may be confidently taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding and used by the young or old safely (30).


How I Use Fennel

When I make my own products herbal remedies, I try to buy herbs locally. When buying locally isn’t an option, I typically purchase from one of the following brands I trust:

I haven't had the opportunity to make herbal remedies with fennel, but I enjoy a few premade herbal products.


Products Recommended with Fennel Ingredients

  • Earthley's Digest Support {Digestive Bitters} relieves gas, bloating, and digestive distress. These natural bitters promote better nutrient absorption –alleviating symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.

  • Earthley’s Feel Better Fast is an herbal tincture created to quickly knock out coughs, sniffles, and upset tummies. Rather than cover up your symptoms with OTC meds that have side effects, nourish yourself with vitamins and minerals to help your body actually heal itself quicker!

  • Earthley's Infant Tummy Relief is special for little tummies but works for stomach upsets of all ages. It can help relieve pain associated with occasional gas, bloating, and even those pesky hiccups babies are susceptible to. Unlike traditional gripe water, Infant Tummy Relief is free from artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.

  • Earthley’s Mama’s Magic Milk Boost is an herbal tincture created to help increase milk supply with all-natural ingredients. This product is high in vitamins and minerals to nourish the body, but it also contains herbs to soothe the baby’s tummy. This tincture is made with the highest-quality ingredients and supports both mom and baby on their breastfeeding journey.

  • Earthley's Mama's Tummy Relief supports healthy liver function banishes bloating and nausea, and promotes gut health. While it was formulated for expecting mamas, it’s also perfect for anyone with a general stomach upset!

If you've ever used fennel, what's your favorite way to use it?

Sarena-Rae Santos

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