Herbal Profile: Fennel |

Herbal Profile: Fennel

Sarena-Rae Santos February 15, 2023

What is Fennel

Fennel is also known as bronze fennel, bitter fennel, sweet fennel, fenkel, hinojo, finocchio, shatapushpa, xiao hui xiang, or its scientific name Foeniculum vulgare (1). Fennel has greyish-green foliage with thread-like feathered leaves and yellow flowers at the ends of the stems (2). Fennel is a perennial herb of the carrot family native to southern Europe and Asia Minor, but considered an invasive species in Australia and parts of the United States (3). 

Health Benefits of Fennel

Fennel is grown for its edible shoots, leaves, and seeds, commonly used for medicinal purposes. Some of fennel’s health benefits include:

Highly Nutritious

Fennel seeds are the most widely used part of the plant, which just so happens to be highly nutritious. Fennel seeds are known for their omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and C, and more (3). Although fennel has some protein, it is not a high-protein food and only consists of approximately 1 gram of protein per cup of fennel seeds.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (4). Fennel is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its wide array of plant compounds that help fight inflammation. For instance, the antioxidants in fennel, like vitamin C and quercetin, can help reduce inflammation and levels of inflammatory markers (5). 

May Improve Digestion

Fennel is a carminative herb rich in volatile oils that help the gut soothe and remove gas from the digestive tract (6). Between being a carminative herb and its anti-inflammatory properties, fennel is great for improving overall digestion. One study found that supplementing dietary fennel seed powder improves appetite, digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity (7). Additionally, antioxidants in fennel seeds help reduce gas and increase intestinal muscle movements (8). I recommend Earthley’s Digest Support {Digestive Bitters} or Earthley’s Infant Tummy Relief for these benefits.

Antibacterial Properties

An antibacterial property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can destroy or suppress the growth and reproduction of bacteria (9). Fennel contains certain compounds that have potent antibacterial properties. One study found that fennel extract’s phenolic compounds inhibit the growth of bacteria and yeasts, as well as high antiglycation activity (10).

May Support Heart Health

Fennel and its seeds may also positively affect your overall heart health. This is likely due to its high fiber content. Dietary fiber, predominantly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is best known for its ability to prevent or alleviate constipation. Still, it can also provide other health benefits, such as aiding in maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer (11). Studies have estimated that for every 7 grams of fiber consumed per day, heart disease risk decreases by 9 percent (12).

May Provide Menopause Symptom Relief

Menopause transpires when estrogen decreases and is characterized by a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. In the years leading to menopause, women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other uncomfortable symptoms (13). A study review found that fennel plant compounds are important in relieving hot flashes, vaginal itching, dryness, dyspareunia, sexual function, sexual satisfaction, and sleep distribution (14).

May Increase Breastmilk Supply

Lactation occurs when hormonal changes signal the mammary glands to make milk in preparation for a baby (15). The plant compound that aids in menopausal symptoms may also boost breastmilk production. Fennel has demonstrated galactogenic properties, meaning it aids in increasing breastmilk secretion. Research found that the plant compound anethole had dianethole and photoanethole, which are responsible for the galactogenic effects (16). Additionally, fennel may increase milk secretion and blood levels of prolactin, the hormone that signals the body to produce breast milk (17). I recommend Earthley’s Mama’s Magic Milk Boost for these benefits.

Anticancer Properties

One of the main active compounds in fennel seeds, anethole, has exhibited anticancer properties. Several studies have been conducted in both test tubes and on animals regarding the potential anticancer properties of ashwagandha. One test-tube study observed anethole’s ability to suppress cell growth and induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in human breast cancer cells (18). Another test-tube study found that fennel extract stopped the spread of human breast cancer cells and induced cancer cell death (19). In animal studies, fennel extract from the seeds demonstrated the ability to protect against breast and liver cancer (20).

Safety Concerns

Mainstream sources claim fennel is possibly unsafe when breastfeeding. They claim there are some reports of breastfeeding infants with damage to their nervous systems after they were exposed to herbal tea containing fennel through breastmilk (21). Other factors were likely in play, similar to lavender essential oil, where fragrance was likely the cause of endocrine disruption in boys.

As per trusted herbalist Richard Whelan, No adverse effects are expected (or have ever been reported) from taking fennel in tea or tincture, even in high or frequent doses. It may undoubtedly be confidently taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding and used by the young or old with safety (22).

How to Use Fennel

You can find fennel in dried bulk, capsules, powders, extracts, oils, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also options, especially when following ayurvedic medicine recipes. Some great articles to check out featuring the use of fennel include:

Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:

  • Earthley’s Digest Support {Digestive Bitters} relieves gas, bloating, and digestive distress. These natural bitters promote better nutrient absorption –alleviating symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.
  • Earthley’s Feel Better Fast is an herbal tincture created to knock out coughs, sniffles, and upset tummies in no time. Rather than cover up your symptoms with OTC meds that have side effects, nourish yourself with vitamins and minerals to help your body actually heal itself quicker!  
  • Earthley’s Infant Tummy Relief is special for little tummies but works for stomach upsets of all ages. It can help relieve pain associated with occasional gas, bloating, and even those pesky hiccups that babies are susceptible to. Unlike traditional gripe water, Infant Tummy Relief is free from artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. 
  • Earthley’s Mama’s Magic Milk Boost is an herbal tincture created to help increase milk supply with all-natural ingredients. This product is high in vitamins and minerals to nourish the body, but it also contains herbs to soothe baby’s tummy. This tincture is made with the highest-quality ingredients and supports both mom and baby on their breastfeeding journey. 
  • Earthley’s Mama’s Tummy Relief supports healthy liver function, banishes bloating and nausea, and promotes gut health. While it was formulated for expecting mamas, it’s also perfect for anyone with a general stomach upset!

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.

If you have fennel in your natural medicine cabinet, how do you use it?

This is the writings of:

Sarena-Rae Santos
Sarena-Rae Santos' journey to natural health began in 2019 when she swayed away from allopathic medicine after becoming wheelchair-bound due to the side effects of 20+ medications. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and dizziness due to nystagmus were the sources of her many health complications. Sarena's symptoms diminished after adopting a healthier lifestyle surrounding whole foods and herbs, leaving her a fantastic quality of life and a passion for educating people.

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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