Fennel Seeds help to relax the smooth muscles of the digestive system, which stimulates bile flow and reduces pain associated with digestion. They also exert an anti-spasmodic effect in the colon, making them effective at relieving bloating and excess gas. Fennel Seeds contain the phytochemicals; estragole, fenchone and anethole, which contribute to the plant's antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fennel has also been found to remove carcinogens from the digestive tract, helping to prevent resulting diseases associated with these toxic substances.
Fennel Seeds have been used by women in the Mediterranean area for many years to alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps. Research backs this up, with many studies showing that these seeds work just as well - even out performing some of their pharmaceutical counterparts. One study gave 55 young girls who suffered from menstrual pain either a Fennel extract or an over the counter painkiller. 80% of the Fennel group and 73% of the painkiller group reported complete pain relief or a significant decrease in pain. They also reported that 80% of the Fennel group as opposed to 63% of the painkiller group no longer needed rest. These results show that Fennel makes an excellent natural alternative to manage menstrual symptoms.
Fennel is also a powerful herb to assist women undergoing changes due to the menopause. Many studies have found it helps to minimise symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, night sweats and bone loss, but without increasing the risk of hormone driven cancers that have been associated with conventional HRT.
Fennel is a wonderfully supportive herb to the liver, it contributes to liver enzyme function and helps detoxify and cleanse through this important organ. Drinking Fennel tea regularly helps to flush out excess fluids as it works as a diuretic, thereby helping the removal of toxic substances and reducing the risk of urinary tract problems. It also has diaphoretic properties that stimulate perspiration - the skin is a major organ for the elimination of toxins from the body.
It is important to note that it is pure Fennel tea that is helpful to children’s health, not herbal supplements. Fennel tea is excellent for children with colic and digestive weakness, enhancing digestion and assimilation of food. It helps in reducing colic symptoms by relaxing the gastrointestinal tract and releasing trapped gas. Gripe water, the commercial remedy for colic actually contains Fennel oil as one of its ingredients. The best way to administer Fennel is by boiling a small quantity in water, filter the water with a cloth and remove all the pieces of Fennel. The earliest age of introduction is about 1 month. A baby with colicky crying can be given Fennel boiled and filtered water. It is advised to give this water in small quantities not more than 150 ml/ dosage.
Apart from relieving colic, Fennel acts as a booster for a baby’s immunity. The presence of both vitamins C and E will gently detoxify whilst providing the immune system with a boost.
Folklore and history
Fennel crops up in Greek mythology, when humanity received a fiery coal from Mount Olympus in a fennel bulb. Hippocrates talked about the medicinal powers of fennel to treat infant colic. The Greeks also called fennel " to grow thin" as they believed it contributed to weight loss. The Romans loved fennel and thought it could heal eye problems and blindness. Under the medieval Doctrine of Signatures, where the physical appearance of plants was thought to reveal their medicinal values. It was thought that fennel's yellow flowers were linked to the liver's yellow bile. Thus the herb was recommended for jaundice. The Anglo Saxons used fennel as a spice and digestive, they also hung fennel above their doors to protect them from hexes. 17th century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper prescribed fennel for flatulence, breast milk production, clear eye sight and to "make people lean who hath grown fat."
Fennel first made its appearance in the annals of history in Pliny’s “The Naturalis Historie” around 2,000 years ago. The Roman physician believed this herb so powerful that he used it to treat 22 different ailments.
The Ancient Greeks used Fennel for weight loss, calling it “marathon”, derived from a word meaning “to grow thin”. Other traditional uses include; digestive aid, longevity herb and to ease menstrual cramps.
Fennel essential oil: Phenols as trans-anethole, methyl chavicol, terpenes as a-pinene, a-thujene, y-terpinene, limonene, myrcene, phellandrene, ketones as fenchone, oxides as cineole, alcohols as fenchol, acids, lactones and courmarins.
No significant side effects have been found. However people with Estrogen dependent cancer should avoid fennel in large quantities.