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Herb Information
Name: Fennel
Biological Name: Foeniculum vulgare


Other Names: Large fennel, sweet fennel, wild fennel, finocchio, carosella, Florence fennel, Fennel
Parts Used: root, seed
Active Compounds:  

The main active constituents, which includes the terpenoid anethole, are found in the volatile oil. Anethole and other terpenoids may have estrogen-like activity and inhibit spasms in smooth muscles, such as those in the intestinal tract. Recent studies have found fennel to possess diuretic, choleretic (increase in production of bile), pain-reducing, fever-reducing, and anti-microbial actions.


One author reports that fennel may have bestowed immortality in the Greek legend of Prometheus. During third century B.C. Hippocrates prescribed fennel to treat infant colic. Four hundred years later, Dioscorides called it an appetite suppressant and recommended the seeds to nursing mothers to boost milk production.

The Roman naturalist Pliny included fennel in 22 remedies. He suggested that fennel cured eye problems, including blindness. Later it was thought to treat jaundice.

Fennel seeds are a common cooking spice, particularly for use with fish. After meals, they are used in several cultures to prevent gas and upset stomach. The seeds are also used in Latin America to increase the flow of breast milk.

Remedies For

Stomachic, carminative, pectoral, diuretic, diaphoretic, aromatic

Useful for:

Irritable bowel syndrome

The fennel tea traditionally made a good eye wash. It is a tested remedy for gas, acid stomach, gout, cramps, colic and spasms. Fennel seed ground and made into tea is believed to be good for snake bites, insect bites or food poisoning. Excellent for obesity. It increases the flow of urine and also increases the menstrual flow. Fennel oil was traditionally rubbed over painful joints to relieve pain. It was gargled for hoarseness and sore throat.

Digestive Aid: Fennel relaxes the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract (making it an antispasmodic). It also helps expel gas. It kills some bacteria.

In Germany, fennel is used like anise and caraway as a treatment for indigestion, gas pains, and infant colic.

Women's Health: Fennel had been used to promote menstruation in women. One studey suggests that fennel has mild estrogenic effect (It acts like the female hormone estrogen). This may be partially responsible for the use of fennel for milk production and for stimulating menstruation. It may be useful to relieve the pains of menopause in older women.


Fennel is a biennial or perennial plant that grows wild in the Mediterranean area and in the Asia Minor, but is commonly cultivated in the US and Europe. The long, carrot shaped root produces a stout, pithy, finely grooved stem with fine buish stripes. The leaves are decompound, dissected into numerous filiform segments, the upper leaves on broad sheaths that surround the stem. Yellow flowers appear from July to October. The fruit consists of two joined carpels, together taking an oblong form with prominent ribs.


Whole seeds may be chewed or used in tea. To make a tea, boil 1/2 teaspoon of crushed seeds in 250 ml (I cup) of water for ten to fifteen minutes, keeping the pot covered during the process. Cool, strain, and then drink three cups per day. As a tincture, 2-4 ml can be taken three times per day.


No significant adverse effects have been reported. Pregnant or lactating women, as well as anyone with an estrogen-dependent cancer, should avoid fennel in large quantities until the importance of its estrogen-like activity is clarified.

It is also recommended that people with a history of alcoholism, hepatitis, or liver disease avoid this herb till a confusing set of findings on the effect of fennel on the liver is clarified.

Fennel seeds are quiet safe; but some persons are sensitive to fennel oil. It is found to cause skin rashes. When taken internally, fennel oil may cause nausea, vomiting, and possibly seizures.

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