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Fennel

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  • Botanical: Foeniculum vulgare
  • Family: Apiaceae
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Fennel

Botanical

Foeniculum vulgare

Family

Apiaceae

Known as

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, Brotsamen, Enis, Femis, Fenikl, Fenis, Fenkel, Finchel, Frauenfenchel

Old Use

medicinal; culinary

Collection Times

September to October

Parts Used

leaves, roots, seed

Aroma

spicy, sweet

Medicinal

abdominal pain, bowel cleansing, bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, bile weakness, epilepsy, flatulence, headache, laxative, indigestion, insect bites, insomnia, migraine, pain relief, rheumatism, stomach pain, vomiting

Hormone & Sexual Organs

cramps, menstruation promotion

Infection & Inflammation

conjunctivitis, eye inflammation, fever, infections, infections intestinal

Mind & Nerves

anxiety

Respiratory System

cough

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bowel cleansing, bladder disease, bladder weakness, digestion, flatulence, gastrointestinal, emetic

Properties

analgesic, anesthetic, antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, antiviral, anti inflammatory, carminative, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, galactagogue, stimulant, stomachic

Note

top

Extraction

steam distillation

Description

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, is a perennial herb. It is erect, glaucous green, and grows to heights of up to 2.5 m, with hollow stems. The leaves grow up to 40 cm long; they are finely dissected, with the ultimate segments filiform (threadlike), about 0.5 mm wide. (Its leaves are similar to those of dill, but thinner.) The flowers are produced in terminal compound umbels 5–15 cm wide, each umbel section having 20–50 tiny yellow flowers on short pedicels.

The fruit is a dry seed from 4–10 mm long, half as wide or less, and grooved

Properties & Uses

Fennel has a long history of herbal use and is a commonly used household remedy, being useful in the treatment of a variety of complaints, especially those of the digestive system. The seeds, leaves and roots can be used, but the seeds are most active medicinally and are the part normally used. An essential oil is often extracted from the fully ripened and dried seed for medicinal use, though it should not be given to pregnant women. The plant is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, galactogogue, hallucinogenic, laxative, stimulant and stomachic. An infusion is used in the treatment of indigestion, abdominal distension, stomach pains etc. It helps in the treatment of kidney stones and, when combined with a urinary disinfectant like Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, makes an effective treatment for cystitis. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throats and as an eyewash for sore eyes and conjunctivitis. Fennel is often added to purgatives in order to allay their tendency to cause gripe, and also to improve the flavour. An infusion of the seeds is a safe and effective cure for wind in babies. An infusion of the root is used to treat urinary disorders. An essential oil obtained from the seed is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Normalising'. The essential oil is bactericidal, carminative and stimulant. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Foeniculum vulgare for cough, bronchitis, dyspeptic complaints.

Other Uses

The seed yields up to 5% of an essential oil. This is used medicinally, as a food flavouring, in toothpastes, soaps, perfumery, air fresheners etc. The flavour of fennel oil depends upon its two main constituents. 'Fenchone' is a bitter tasting element whilst 'anethole' has a sweet anise-like flavour. The proportions of these two ingredients varies according to strain and region. Plants growing in the Mediterranean and southern Europe usually have a sweet oil whilst plants growing in central and northern Europe usually produce a more bitter oil. The quality of the oil also depends upon how well the seed has been dried - the oil from fully ripened and dried seeds being much sweeter and more fragrant. The dried plant is an insect repellent, the crushed leaves are effective for keeping dogs free of fleas. The plant was formerly used as a strewing herb. Yellow and brown dyes are obtained from the flowers and leaves combined.

Cautions

Skin contact with the sap or essential oil is said to cause photo-sensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people. Ingestion of the oil can cause vomiting, seizures and pulmonary oedema. Avoid for small children. Avoid if cirrhosis/liver disorders. Diabetics check sugar content of preparation 

Distribution

S. Europe. Naturalized in Britain.

Constituents

essential oil with anethole and fenchone, bergapten, boron, camphor, carvone, chamazulene, citral, citronella, coumarin, eugenol, flavonoids, fumaric acid, caffeic acid, limonene, linalool, linoleic acid, myristicin, psoralen, salicylate, thymol, tocopherol, trigonelline, umbelliferone , xanthotoxin, vitamin C