I didn’t always like fennel, I’m not a big fan of aniseed so I had tended to avoid it.
But not any more!
Young fennel has such a mild flavour, and after having an orange and fennel salad that I really enjoyed, I thought I’d find out more about this crunchy wonder.
Fennel has long been used for it’s medicinal properties.
Fennel contains anethole a type of phytoestrogen which may explain some of its medical effects. Anethole has a liquorice taste and is only slightly soluble in water but exhibits high solubility in alcohol. This difference causes certain anise-flavoured alcoholic drinks to become opaque when diluted with water. This is known as the Ouzo effect.
The essence of fennel can be used as a safe and effective herbal drug for primary dysmenorrhea (painful periods).
Fennel is widely employed as a carminative, both in humans and in veterinary medicine (e.g., dogs), to treat flatulence by encouraging the expulsion of intestinal gas.
In the Indian subcontinent, fennel seeds are also eaten raw, sometimes with some sweetener, as they are said to improve eyesight. Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight. Root extracts were often used in tonics to clear cloudy eyes. Extracts of fennel seed have been shown in animal studies to have a potential use in the treatment of glaucoma.
Fennel may also be an effective diuretic and is a potential drug for treatment of hypertension.
Historical anecdotes suggest that fennel improves the milk supply of a breastfeeding mother. This use, although not supported by direct evidence, is sometimes justified by the fact that fennel is a source of phytoestrogens, which promote growth of breast tissue. However, you should be careful with what you ingest during breast feeding. Two case reports resulted in illness for the newborn child: Both mothers had been drinking more than 2 litres a day of a herbal tea mixture reportedly containing licorice, fennel and anise. The authors attributed the maternal and infant symptoms to anethole, which is found in both fennel and anise; however, the anethole levels were not measured in breastmilk, nor were the teas tested for their content. Symptoms resolved in the children after their mothers discontinued the teas.