Fennel Seeds - The Festive Season Saviour
Posted on 15 December 2015 by Leonie Satori
Excellent for digestive symptoms associated with over-indulgence, fennel seeds work well combined with other aromatic herbs such as ginger and peppermint, and also work well chewed on their own. Fennel seeds are not only a saviour for overindulgence during the festive season, but are also beneficial for the respiratory and endocrine system.
Botanically known as Foeniculum vulgare and belonging to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, fennel plants produce umbels of seeds in abundance. Fennel can be seen in Australia growing wild along side train tracks and can grow to two metres high. Fennel is one of the most easy to grow herbs, producing an abundance of seeds with medicinal value. Fennel seed is a valuable herb to keep on hand during the festive season and throughout the year to remedy all sorts of digestive complaints and to use in herb teas or in cooking.
Fennel Seed Through History
Indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, fennel seeds were said to have been consumed by athletes preparing for the Olympics, to promote courage, endurance and energy. The seeds of the fennel plant spread towards India and can now be found growing wild in many parts of the world. During the Middle Ages, all parts of the fennel plant, including the seeds were used for various purposes, but during this time it was often prescribed by herbalists for eye conditions. Used as an eyewash, fennel seeds have an historic use for treating eye inflammation associated with conjunctivitis and blepharitis. Many other medicinal uses for fennel seeds throughout history include for wheezing, urinary stones and as a diuretic.
Fennel Seed and Digestion
Fennel seeds are renowned for their carminative properties - soothing digestion after eating wrong food combinations and helping to move wind and discomfort associated with indigestion. Often prescribed in combination with other digestive herbs to prevent griping, fennel seeds are a traditional ingredient in gripe water. It is the fragrant volatile oils in fennel seeds that are attributed for this carminative quality, but also play a role as a spasmolytic, suggesting use not just for digestion but also for coughs.
Fennel Seed and the Respiratory System
Not always the first choice for coughs, however the fragrant oils in fennel seeds make it beneficial for supporting the lungs, with a mild expectorant and antispasmodic action. The sweet flavour and ease of use in a warm tea, make fennel seed an excellent at home remedy for children.
Fennel Seed and the Endocrine System
Known as an excellent remedy to enhance breast milk production during lactation. The volatile oils in fennel seed pass through to the breast milk to help normalise digestion for infants. This makes fennel doubly useful during breastfeeding for mum and bub.
Also reputed as an excellent weight loss herb, fennel seeds are an excellent addition to any dietary regime, especially where the person is conscious of avoiding sugars and sweet foods in the diet. Including fennel seeds with foods can help to aid digestion and manage sweet cravings and appetite.
Fennel Seed and Ayurveda
Fennel seed or, as it is known in Sanskrit - Mishreya is considered to be a good general herb and spice for all Ayurvedic constitutions. With a sweet, pungent and slightly cooling taste, fennel seeds can be chewed after meals, made into a tea or added to foods. With their sweet, palatable taste, fennel seeds are suitable for children or the elderly, and can give relief to those with weakened digestion.
Considered to be an Anuloma herb, fennel seeds are said to help move Vata 'downward', hinting to a correlation to the carminative properties of this herb as used in Western Herbal Medicine. With many similar uses in Western Herbal Medicine and Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine, Ayurveda suggests use of fennel seeds for digestion, the urinary tract, as an aphrodisiac and to promote milk production. One traditional use of fennel seeds in Ayurveda includes combining fennel seed with cinnamon and ginger to promote agni or digestive fire, making this a delicious flavour combination for stimulating the appetite, especially for children.
Using Fennel Seeds at Home
Being such an easy herb to grow in the home garden, fennel has numerous uses in the kitchen, the bulb and leaves, as well as the seeds can be eaten and included in a range of dishes. Fennel seed can be added to pickles, sauerkraut, egg dishes, salads and because of their naturally sweet flavour can be included to 'sweeten' dishes for a sugar free alternative.
Fennel seeds can be enjoyed by most people, however caution should be taken with those with sensitive digestion. Due to the hormonal effects of fennel seeds, this herb is not suitable for use during pregnancy.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her wellness clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.
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