Fennel refers to the seeds obtained from the plant Foeniculum vulgare. It is sweet, aromatic and commonly used as a kitchen condiment. Apart from its use in kitchen it is also used for medicinal purpose. It is anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, expectorant, diuretic as well as a stimulant. It helps to improve eyesight and prevent macular degeneration due to its antioxidant properties. Externally, fennel water is used for washing eyes. It has estrogenic and galactagogue action. New mothers are given fennel water for increasing breast milk. Children and babies are given fennel tea in small amount to cure colic.
This aromatic herb is useful in abdominal gas, burning syndrome, colicky pain, vomiting, low appetite etc. It gives relief in cramping of the stomach and the intestines. It reduces the cough. It is also chewed as a mouth freshener after having meals. Chewing fennel stimulates bile flow and helps in better food digestion. Fennel is antispasmodic and relieves gas. It is given to nursing mothers as it stimulates the flow of breast milk.
A decoction of seeds obtained by boiling 5-8 grams of Fennel seeds in one glass water, is given as a laxative, stimulant, appetizer, for dysentery, biliousness, headache, spleen and kidney disorders.
Here is given information about fennel plant, seeds, essential oil, health benefits, medicinal uses, the way it should be used and some other details.
Fennel plant is aromatic perennial, erect, glabrous, 1-2 m high plant which is cultivated extensively throughout India up to 1830 m and also sometimes found wild. It is native to Southern Europe and Mediterranean region but now has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world.
Plant Description: Stem erect, three to four feet, striated, smooth, freely branched. Leaves thrice pinnate, awl-shaped leaflets. Flowers golden yellow, in broad, terminal umbels.
Fruits, usually entire with pedicel attached; mericarps, upto about 10 mm, long and 4 mm. broad, five sided with a wider commissural surface, tapering slightly towards base and apex, crowned with a conical stylopod, glabrous, greenish or yellowish-brown with five paler prominent primary ridges; endosperm, orthospermous. Taste and smell, sweetish and aromatic.
As a condiment, the seeds of plant are used. The fruits ripen in September, stems are cut with sickles and put up in loose sheaves to dry in sun. On drying, fruits are beaten out in a cloth in sun, cleaned by winnowing and collected. Dried fennel seeds are aromatic, anise-flavored spice, brown or green in colour when fresh and slowly turns dull grey as the seed ages.
- Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Fennel oil (extracted from the ripe fruit) and the dried ripe fruit or seeds
- Plant type / Growth Habit: Herb
- Duration: Biennial Perennial
- Native: South-east Asia, Mediterranean region
- Distribution: native of southern Europe and Asia cultivated extensively throughout India upto 1830 m.
- Habitat: Temperate regions of world, Mediterranean area, Asia Minor.
- Soil: Light, well-drained, good garden soil, preferably lime-rich.
- Exposure: Full sun.
- Propagation: Seeds sown in spring during the third lunar phase for a fall seed harvest. Also, by root division.
- Taste: Delightful, reminiscent of anise, peppermint, and licorice.
Vernacular names / Synonyms
- Sanskrit: Ahichhatra, Avakapushpi, Bhuripushpa, Chhatra, Gandhadhika, Ghosha, Ghoshawati, Karavi,
- Madhavi, Madhura, Madhuri, Madalina, Shatapatrika, Shataprasuna, Shatapushpa, Shitashiva, Sugandha, Supushpika, Talaparni, Tapasapriya, Trishahara, Vanapushpa
- Assamese: Guvamuri
- Bengali: Marui, Panmauri
- English: Large Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Wild Fennel, Fenkel, Bitter Fennel, Common fennel, carosella, Florence fennel, finocchio, garden fennel
- Gujrati: Variyali
- Hindi: Saunf, Souff
- Kannada: Badisompu, Doddasompu, Dodda sompu
- Kashmiri: Sanuf, Badnai
- Malayalam: Kattusatakuppa, Parinjaeragum
- Marathi: Badishop
- Oriya: Panamadhuri
- Punjabi: Saunf
- Tamil: Shombu
- Telugu: Sopu
- Unani: Baadiyaan, Baadiyaan, Bari Saunf
- Siddha/Tamil: Sogikeenai
All plants are scientifically classified into main 7 levels. These levels are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. A genus comprise of many species and botanical name consists of Genus (uppercase) followed by Species (lowercase). Genus consists of many species which are closely related and have lots of similarities. Species is the lowest level and represents the group of same plant.
The botanical name of Fennel is Foeniculum vulgare. It belongs to Carrot family. The name foeniculum is from the Latin word for “fragrant hay.” Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae (comprising all living or extinct plants)
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (have lignified tissues or xylem for conducting water and minerals)
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta (produce seeds)
- Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
- Class: Magnoliopsida (flowering plant producing an embryo with paired cotyledons)
- Subclass: Rosidae
- Order: Apiales
- Family: Apiaceae ⁄ Umbelliferae
- Genus: Foeniculum Mill. – fennel
- Species: Foeniculum vulgare Mill. – sweet fennel
- Anethum foeniculum L.
- Foeniculum foeniculum (L.) Karst., nom. inval.
- foeniculum capillaceum Gilib.
- Foeniculum officinale All.
Constituents of Fennel
E- anethole, fenchone, methyl chavicol, limonene, α- pinene, imperatorin, bergapten, xanthotoxol, miyabenol C, cis – miyabenol C and its glycosides, foeniculosides VI, VII, VIII, IX, zizybeoside I, icaviside A, syringin, synapyl alcohol, 1, 3′- di- O- β-D-glucopyranoside, adenosine, threo- anethole glycol and erythro- anethole glycol.
The major components of Fennel seed essential oil have been reported to be trans-anethole, fenchone, estragol (methyl chavicol), and a-phellandrene. The content of trans-anethole varies between 81.63% and 87.85% in essential oil.
Phytonutrient Anethole is an aromatic ether. It is a monoterpene position isomer and the main constituent of essential oils from aromatic plants including anise, star-anise, and fennel. Anethole is used in food and pharmaceutical industries. It is very safe and is non-genotoxic and non-carcinogenic.
Anethole exerts oestrogenic, anti-genotoxic, anti-tumor, anti-metastatic, anti-oxidative, antimicrobia, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
The flavonoid anethole has significant anti-inflammatory action. It suppresses inflammation by inhibiting the cellular responses induced by TNF (TNF is acronym for tumor necrosis factor, a protein that is produced chiefly by monocytes and macrophages in response to endotoxins, that mediates inflammation, and that induces the destruction of some tumor cells and the activation of white blood cells), modulation of ion channel functions, inhibits leukocyte chemotaxis and vascular permeability and attenuates tissue damage associated with inflammation.
Anethole has been shown to have a safe antithrombotic activity due to broad-spectrum antiplatelet activity, clot destabilizing effect and vasorelaxant action. Anethole has been considered to be the active oestrogenic agent.
Ayurvedic Properties and Action of Fennel seeds
Foeniculum vulgare or Sonph or Satahva is considered bitter, sweet in taste (Rasa), sweet after digestion (Vipaka), and is cool in effect (Virya). Satahva cures aggravated vayu, daha (burning syndrome), vitiated blood, Sula (colic pain), trishna (morbid thirst) and chardi (vomiting). It is sweet, rochana (appetizer) and aphrodisiac. It alleviates pitta.
It is a Sheet Virya herb. Sheet Virya or Cool potency herb, subdues Pitta (Bile) and Vata (Wind), gives nourishment to body and supports building of body fluids. Fennel seeds are tonic that improves body immunity and removes toxins. As mentioned in Ayurveda, it has following properties and action.
- Rasa (Taste): Madhura/Sweet, Katu (pungent), Tikta/Bitter
- Guna (Characteristics): Laghu/Light, Snigdha (Unctuous or Oily)
- Virya (Potency): Sheet/ Cool
- Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Madhura/Sweet
- Dhatu (tissue): Plasma, blood, muscles, nerve
- Srotas (channel): Digestive, respiratory, nervous, urinary, reproductive, lactation
- Dosha Prabhav (Effect on Humors) Pacifies Tridosha (Kapha-Pitta-Vata)
It is Madhur Vipak (digests into sweet) and has building, moistening and nourishing effect on body. Such herbs are cooling and reduce swelling, decreases Pitta and have Anabolic effect on body.
Action / Pradhan Karma
- Amadosha–hara: Removes toxins
- Anulomna: Takes vata / wind downward, mild laxative.
- Balya: Increase the strength of the body.
- Chardinigrahana: Antiemetic.
- Deepan: Enkindles the digestive fire.
- Kaphahara: Pacifies Kapha Dosha.
- Mukhasodhana: Purification of mouth.
- Mutral: Diuretics, increase the flow of urine.
- Sattva: Increases clarity of consciousness.
- Shulprashamana: Alleviates intestinal spasms.
- Stanya shodhana: These herbs purify the breast milk.
- Stanyajanana: Increases breast-milk.
- Vatahara: Pacifies Vata Dosha.
- Vata-pitta-hara: Balances Vata and Pitta.
Therapeutic uses of Fennel
- Digestive Problems such as colic pain, gas, bloating, abdominal distension, indigestion, griping of the bowels, stomachache, hyperacidity, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, constipation etc.
- Disorders of females such as menstrual cramps, pain during periods, less breast milk, pain in vulva etc.
- Reparatory Problems such as Cough, Dry Cough, Asthma
- Urinary problems such as Difficult Or Burning Urination
- Oral problems such as periodontitis, gingivitis, bad taste
Nutrition Fact for 1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds (Sounf/Saunf)
- Calories 7
- Total Fat 0.3g
- Saturated Fat 0.01
- Polyunsaturated Fat 0.034g
- Monounsaturated Fat 0.198g
- Carbohydrate 1.05g
- Dietary Fiber 0.8g
- Protein 0.32g
- Cholesterol Nil
- Potassium 34mg
- Sodium 2mg
- Vitamin A 0%
- Vitamin C 1%
- Calcium 2%
- Iron 2%
Health Benefits of Consuming Fennel
Fennel has innumerable health benefits like any other healthy food. But the most significant health benefits which we can get from fennel consumption are due to its antioxidant, antiinflammatory, expectorant, oestrogenic, relaxant, stimulant action and presence of calcium, vitamins and manganese.
To get its health benefits, you may chew the fennels or make a tea or decoction by boiling in water.
To brew a flavorful tea steep (How to Brew Fennel Tea) a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain out the seeds and drink. Or you may ground the seeds to make a coarse powder. This powder can be boiled in one cup water for few minutes. Then it can be filtered. You may add some sweetener to it for better taste. When using for cold-cough, it is better to be taken hot with honey.
- It is good for digestive system due to its carminative, antiflatulence, and laxative properties.
- It assists digestion but does not aggravate Pitta.
- It increases metabolic processes and promotes weight loss.
- It shows beneficial effects in gastrointestinal system disorders.
- It has laxative properties.
- It alleviates gas, bloating, and spasms.
- It can be used home remedy in inguinal hernias and lower abdominal pain.
- It relaxes the smooth muscles in lower abdominal pain from lower bowel tension.
- Fennel tea is good for lungs.
- It is used to treat cough, dry cough, sore throat and is an effective tooth and mouth wash.
- It helps in Vata–Kapha obstruction type cough.
- It clears phlegm that congests the alveoli and bronchioles.
- It helps in urinary disorders such as Cystitis, difficult urination, burning and dark yellow urine, cloudy urine.
- It is a diuretic and it reduces the risk of formation of renal stones.
- It has cooling effect on urinary organs.
- It increases the flow of milk in lactating mothers.
- It gives relief in painful periods.
- It shows good results in period difficulties such as pain in lower abdomen, cramps and a dragging sensation caused by Vata and Kapha obstruction.
- It is muscle relaxant.
- fennel oil has antispasmodic and relaxing effects on smooth muscles.
- It is safe for children and pregnant mothers and may protect them from iodine deficiency.
- It dissolves and disperses mucus and fats.
- It helps in eye and vision problem such as weakness in optic nerves, night blindness, weakness of eyesight with age, and macular degeneration.
- It helps in detoxification.
- It helps to reduce weight by lowering the appetite, stimulating metabolism, and getting rid of water retention.
- Presence of antioxidants including quercetin and kaemptorol, essential oil, vitamins and minerals make it excellent food for health of skin and hair.
Important Medicinal Properties
FENNEL is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Analgesic: Acting to relieve pain.
- Antiandrogenic: Blocks the action of androgens (male sex hormones).
- Antidopaminergic: Inhibiting or blocking the neurotransmitter activity of dopamine or related substances. Such agents are used in treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and stimulant psychosis.
- Antihepatosis: Anti acute or chronic liver disease of non-inflammatory nature.
- Anti–inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- Antipyretic/antifebrile/febrifuge: Effective against fever.
- Antispasmodic: Relieve spasm of involuntary muscle.
- Antitussive: Prevent or relieve a cough.
- Cardiotonic: tonic effect on the action of the heart.
- Carminative: Preventing the formation or causing the expulsion of flatulence.
- Diaphoretic: Promote sweating.
- Digestive: Aids or promotes the digestion of food.
- Estrogenic: Properties similar to estrogen, female sex hormone.
- Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
- Galactagogue: Promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk.
- Gastrostimulant: Increase motility of the gastrointestinal smooth muscle, without acting as a purgative.
- Immunostimulant: Stimulate the immune system by inducing activation or increasing activity of any of its components.
- Secretolytic: Breaks up secretions especially phlegm).
- Spasmolytic: Able to relieve spasm of smooth muscle.
Information About Fennel Oil
Fennel oil is the essential oil obtained from the dried, ripe fruits of Foeniculum vulgare by steam distillation. Anethol, fixed oil, pectin and pentosan are the main component of volatile oil. The oil has antimicrobial, antispasmodic and stimulating effects on gastrointestinal motility.
It also shows secretolytic action on the respiratory tract. When given internally it expels hook worms.
Sweet Fennel Oil contains alpha-pinenes, camphene, pcymene, myrcene, limonene, alpha- and beta-phellandrene, gamma-terpenes, terpinols, gamma-fenchen and following compounds:
- Trans-anethole (80-90%)
- Fenchone (1-10%)
- Estragole (3-10%)
Bitter Fennel Oil contains alpha-pinenes, camphene, pcymene, myrcene, limonene, alpha- and beta-phellandrene, gamma-terpenes, terpinols, cis-ocimene and following compounds:
- Trans-anethols (50-75%)
- Fenchone (12-33%)
- Estragole (2-5%)
FENNEL OIL is indicated in following conditions:
- Catarrh of the upper respiratory tract
- Dyspeptic complaints
- Feeling of fullness, flatulence
- Mild, spastic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract
Medicinal uses of Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds are used traditionally for treatment of digestive problems. Its internal use gives relief in gas, bloating, colic, nausea, inflammation and cough. The seeds also have ability to stimulate breast milk and is a useful remedy for breastfeeding mothers. The seeds are also used as an aid for losing weight.
Fennel gives relief in bronchitis and cough. Fennel stimulates movements of the digestive system, and the transit of the contents within it. It also stimulates bile flow from the liver.
Fennel seeds contains fixed oil from 15 to 30% and a volatile essential oil up to 12%. The fruit also contains flavonoids, iodine, kaempferols, umbelliferone and stigmasterol and ascorbic acid, traces of aluminium, barium, lithium, copper, manganese, silicon and titanium. Fennel contains aroma active compounds anethole which is an active estrogenic agent.
An infusion of the seeds is used as a gargle for sore throats and distilled water of the seeds as an eyewash for sore eyes and conjunctivitis. Below is given, how to use fennel seeds for treatment of many common ailments.
Abdominal pain, colic
In case of pain in abdomen, take 3-6 gram seeds powder and 2 gram Saindhava (rock-salt) with water thrice daily. Or chew 3-6 grams fennel.
Bad breath, mouth freshener
Chew 1 teaspoon fennel.
To get relief from burning sensation, mix equal quantity of coriander seeds and fennel seeds. Grind both to make fine powder. Add some Mishri/sugar candy and eat 1 spoon after meal with water.
Burning micturition/ Burning urination
Mix fennel seed powder and Mishri/rock sugar in one cup water. Mix well and drink. Repeat thrice a day.
In constipation, add Gulkand and fennel in one glass milk and drink before going to bed.
Take fennel seeds in any form.
For improving digestion, soak 15 grams of fennel seeds in 250 ml water for two hours. Filter and use the macerate at short intervals.
Take 3-6 grams powdered seeds, add in glass of buttermilk and drink twice a day. OR
Fry fennel seeds in cow ghee. Mix with Mishri and eat thrice a day.
Keep fennel seeds with one gram Mishri in mouth.
Glowing skin, antioxidant, improving immunity
For glowing skin eat 6 gm fennel, two times daily in morning and evening.
Indigestion in infants, colic pain
Boil 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds in 2 cup water. After boiling steep for 20 minutes and let it cool. This water can be given too baby in dose 1-2 teaspoon.
For pain in head fennel can be used externally. Make paste of fennel with Chandan and apply on forehead.
Fennel seeds in combination with Poha (Rice flakes) are useful in managing hyperacidity. Take poha and fennel in equal proportion and reduced them to powder. Take 30g of this powder and soak in one litre of water overnight. Next day this liquid is to be taken during the day whenever thirsty.
Or take 3-6 grams seeds powder with coconut water or water two times a day.
Indigestion (burning sensation in the stomach, bloating, and gas) due to overeating, consuming alcohol, or heavy food
Boil 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of fennel seed for 20 minutes in a covered pot. Strain and drink 3 to 4 cups daily.
In insomnia and headache add 5 gm in glass of water and drink.
If you are suffering from nausea, vomiting then boil 5 gm fennel in 250 ml milk. Filter, add some sugar and drink.
Pain in Vulva (Vulvodynia)
Take one teaspoon or 3 grams, twice a day with warm water and honey before meals. You may take this with one teaspoon of Ghee for better results.
Drink fennel water.
Fennel water (How to make fennel water) can be prepared by soaking 10-15 grams of fennel seeds in one glass of water for one hour. Then, the soaked seeds can be removed from the water and ground to make a paste. The paste is again added to the water which was used for soaking the seeds and left for 2 hours. This fennel water can be stored in refrigerator and taken throughout the day.
Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, often causing shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth)
Either chew fennel or drink fennel tea.
Uric acid, liver cleansing, detoxification
Prepare infusion of fennel seeds. This infusion (How to make fennel infusion) is prepared by putting one teaspoon of fennel seeds in one cup boiling water for 20 minutes. Filter this and drink.
This should be taken thrice a day.
Dosage of Fennel Seeds and Oil
- The seeds can be crushed or ground for making teas, and other preparations for internal use.
- The recommended dosage is 5-8 grams in form of powder or seeds.
- For making teas, decoction, infusion etc. 10-20 grams can be used.
- The recommended dosage of Fennel Essential oil for internal use is 0.1 to 0.6 ml. This can be used maximum for half month.
- In hepatic disorders the Recommended daily dosage is 5–20 drops ONLY.
Fennel tea is very useful in treating various digestive disorders like dyspepsia, heartburn, gas, acidity, constipation and abdominal pain. It can be taken after meals to improve digestion.
Fennel tea should be taken twice a day to manage and reduce weight.
Health benefits of Fennel tea
- Indigestion, Bloating, Abdominal pain
- Digestive disorders
- Painful menstruation, Menstruation related problems
- Weight loss
- Infantile colic
Recipe for making fennel tea and benefits
Here is recipe for fennel tea or Saunf tea. It is fennel infusion which is easy to prepare and good for health. In this you may add cardamom or cinnamon.
- Fennel seeds, Cardamom, water, Honey or sugar (Optional)
Recipe of Fennel tea
- Boil fennel seeds (2 tbsp), cardamom in glass of water.
- Cook for twenty minutes.
- Filter and drink. You may add honey.
Fennel tea can be given to babies in dose of 1 teaspoon to relieve abdominal gas and cramps.
Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings FENNEL
It can be taken by anyone in the amounts commonly found in food. There is not enough evidence to know whether it is safe for every adult when used in medicinal amounts. But Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not commonly recorded.
- Always eat in moderation. Fennel in dose of 6 g seed/day should not be taken for long duration.
- Fennel in medicinal amounts is contraindicated during pregnancy.
- Fennel is contraindicated in inflammation of the kidneys.
- High doses of Fennel can stimulate the uterus
- Allergic reaction, including trouble breathing, hives, rash, swelling of the lips or face and closing of the throat and other respiratory system following intake of Fennel have been only very rarely observed.
- Avoid if sensitivity to anethole exist. People who are allergic to celery, carrot, and mugwort are more likely to also be allergic to Fennel.
- Fennel containing preparations may contain sugar.
- Nursing mothers taking anise and/or Fennel tea to stimulate lactation exhibited temporary CNS disturbances, emesis, lethargy, poor suckling, restlessness, and torpor in the newborn (15–20 days old), possibly due to anethole in the milk (infants were healthy at 6-month follow-up)
- Extracts of Fennel can induce estrus and cause growth of mammary glands.
- Cases of premature breast development in girls has been reported with the use of Fennel.
- Fennel in medicinal amount may slow blood clotting and hence can increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in bleeding disorders.
- Fennel has estrogenic effect. Therefore, do not take Fennel in therapeutic doses in any medical condition which can be worsen by exposure to estrogen.
- Due to estrogen like effect, it may interact with Birth control pills (Contraceptive pills).
- Fennel may interact with certain medications, including certain antibiotics and seizure medications. It may decrease the absorption of ciprofloxacin antibiotic.
- Do avoid drug interaction, do not take fennel and medicines together. Maintain a gap of minimum two hours.
- It can cause sun poisoning, skin reactions, and cross reactions. It may increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and hence increases risk of sun burn.
- High doses of essential oil (greater than 0.1–0.6 mL/day) are contraindicated in pregnancy, infants and toddlers.
- Fennel oil may cause hallucinations and seizures.
- Fennel oil may cause skin rash in sensitive individuals. When taken internally, it may cause nausea, vomiting and possibly seizures.
- Fennel essential oil should be avoided in hepatic disorders.
- Drug Interaction between Fennel oil and drugs in humans is not known.
- Please note, Fennel alone may work or may not work for specific condition. In any case, you must try to find the real cause for the health problem. Then only, specific cure can be given that treats the condition effectivity.