Fennel, also scientifically known as Foeniculum Vulgare, is a perennial growing herb that belongs to the carrot family. The plant can grow up to 2 meters in height. Its threadlike leaf segments are 1 to 5 cm long. The 4mm long fruits are oblong-ovoid shaped and yellowish brown or greenish in color.
Fennel seeds produce an essential oil whose main constituent is anethole, a commonly used flavoring substance. Anethole is also a large part of the flavor and odor of fennel. Fennel leaves have been used for years to flavor and also garnish fish.
What are the edible uses of fennel?
Fennel’s crunchy texture and mild sweet flavor make it a great complement to almost any dish. Every part of the plant is edible and is seeds have always been a condiment in a variety of recipes. Although you can store fresh fennel in your refrigerator, it is better to eat it after buying as it does lose its flavor over time.
It is also used extensively in antacid preparations due to its basic properties.
In the culinary sector, fennel is a common ingredient and an important part of many appetizers.
Fennel’s medical benefits include:
(1) Antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
Indigenous cultures have used fennel as a cure for diarrhea for many years. Its essential oils have anethole and cineole which have antibacterial and disinfectant properties. This makes fennel helpful, especially if diarrhea is as a result of bacterial infection. Anethole boosts immunity and maintains cardiovascular health.
(2)Antioxidant benefits of fennel
Fennel and other similar herbs have more concentrations of antioxidants than most common fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants protect your cells from the oxidative stress resulting from free radicals. Free radicals are the primary drivers of the aging process. Antioxidants help reduce the risk of the many health problems that result from aging.
Fennel is rich in potassium which is essential for a wide range of crucial processes in the body. Potassium is a great vasodilator. This means it helps relax the tension in blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure can result in a stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.
(4)Fennel and Diabetes
Fennel contains compounds that are useful in improving the health of people with diabetes. Its leaves, stems and base can be eaten raw or added when cooking food. However, you need to speak to your doctor first before attempting to use fennel to manage diabetes.
(5)Fennel as an estrogenic agent
Fennel regulates hormonal activity in the body. It has been used for centuries to promote menstruation and improve milk secretion, increase libido and facilitate birth. The anise and anethole contained in the essential oils are the active estrogenic agents.
Fennel has also been shown to have antithrombotic properties. Not only does it help reduce pressure but also helps reduce the risk of blood clots forming.
Other Fennel benefits include:
Fennel contains vitamin B-6, which helps break down protein and carbohydrates into amino acids and glucose. These broken down compounds are then utilized by the body for energy.
Fennel contains aspartic acid, which has carminative properties, making fennel a great anti-flatulent. Anyone, young or old, can use its extract to reduce flatulence and also expel any excess gas in the stomach. Many medicines use it to alleviate non-ulcer dyspepsia in infants as well as young children.
Chewing fennel seeds immediately after meals is a common practice in many communities. They do this as a way to help digestion and also reduce bad breath. Its essential oils also contain stimulants that stimulate the secretion of digestive as well as gastric juices which aid in absorption of the food nutrients.
Fennel seeds are a good laxative. The roughage helps in clearing the bowels and their stimulating effect helps promote efficient excretion by maintaining good peristaltic motion in the intestines. Most medicines used to treat diarrhea, abdominal pain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and many other intestinal ailments contain fennel.
Side effects of fennel
Everything is good in moderation, including the fennel.
Aside from all the benefits discussed above, some of the components contained in fennel such as Anethol can be dangerous if ingested in large quantities. Most compounds that kill bacteria when taken in low doses can also harm you.
Eating too much fennel can cause increased palpitations, neural problems, and difficulty in breathing and irregular heartbeat.
The oil may also cause seizures and hallucinations if taken in very large quantities.