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Fennel

January 15, 2021
Benefits fennel for health

Because it is not a common plant in some countries, many people have only heard of its seeds, but fennel definitely has a lot more to offer. A good example of this is its precious bulb, which is attributed a very special use in Mediterranean cuisine, as well as numerous properties in traditional home medicine . If you are interested in knowing a little more about the origin of fennel, its nutritional value, medicinal benefits, better forms of consumption and possible side effects, among other related topics, we invite you to continue reading our article.

What is fennel?

Fennel ( foeniculum vulgare ) belongs to the same family as carrots , parsnip , parsley, dill, and coriander. Recognized for its white bulb and long , bright green stems , it is undoubtedly a very interesting vegetable. All parts of fennel are edible, including the bulb, seeds, stem, and leaves. Its slightly sweet and aniseed flavor similar to licorice, and its crunchy texture, add a very refreshing touch to the ever popular Mediterranean cuisine.

It is known that this bulb vegetable has its origins in the Mediterranean region (Greece and Italy) and that, in addition to enjoying its culinary benefits, it has been widely used by many cultures for its medicinal properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, fennel has been used to treat several common ailments, such as an upset stomach, cogestion, insect bites or a sore throat.

10 general and interesting facts about fennel

  1. Fennel is made up of a white or pale green bulb , with closely overlapping stems.
  2. The stems are covered with feathery green leaves, near which flowers grow and fennel seeds are produced.
  3. Besides the bulb or tuber , the stem, leaves and seeds are also edible parts .
  4. Fennel belongs to the Apiaceae family (formerly Umbellifereae or Umbelliferae) and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrot, dill, and coriander.
  5. It contains a unique combination of phytonutrients , including the flavonoids rutin, quercetin, and various kaempferol glycosides.
  6. It grows mainly in coastal climates and on riverbanks, however it has not yet spread or naturalized in many parts of the world.
  7. It has been cultivated throughout Europe since ancient times, especially in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and the Near East. Today, countries such as the United States, France, India, and Russia are also among the top fennel growers .
  8. The aromatic flavor of fennel is unique, strikingly similar to licorice and anise. So much so that it can often be found mislabeled on the market as “anise”. Its crisp and striated texture is similar to that of celery.
  9. Fennel is one of the main components of absinthe or wormwood, however the plant does not have hallucinogenic properties.
  10. Fennel essence is widely used in making mouth fresheners, toothpaste, antacids, and foods.

Nutritional properties

When it comes to nutritional value, fennel is an excellent vegetable. Its high content of vitamins, essential minerals, fiber and healthy compounds make it a good recommendation to include in our regular diet .

One fennel bulb (234 grams) contains 1:

Macronutrients

  • Calories: 72.5
  • Carbohydrates : 17.1 g
  • Fibra: 7.3 g (29%)
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Protein: 2.9 g

Vitamins

  • Vitamina C: 28.1 mg (47%)
  • Folate : 63.2 mcg (16%)
  • Niacina: 1.5 mg (7%)
  • Vitamina A: 314 IU (6%)
  • Vitamina B6: 0.1 mg (5%)
  • Pantothenic acid: 0.5 mg (5%)
  • Riboflavina: 0.1 mg (4%)

Minerals

  • Potasio: 969 mg (28%)
  • Dosage : 0.4 mg (22%)
  • Phosphorus : 117 mg (12%)
  • Calcium : 115 mg (11%)
  • Magnesio: 39.8 mg (10%)
  • Iron: 1.7 mg (9%)
  • Copper: 0.2 mg (8%)
  • Sodio: 122 mg (5%)
  • Zinc: 0.5 mg (3%)
  • Selenium: 1.6 mcg (2%)

Note : the percentages indicated represent the amount that each nutrient provides with respect to the recommended daily dose.

Like many spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients that give it great antioxidant activity; This includes flavonoid compounds such as rutin and quercetin, as well as various kaempferol glycosides.

Benefits: What is fennel good for?

 

Fennel has been widely used as a natural remedy since ancient times. Its very special chemical composition has helped us treat numerous health conditions, including anemia, digestive problems, constipation and respiratory diseases, however the health benefits of fennel are much broader. Let’s see what scientific research thinks about these and other medicinal uses.

Promotes good bone health

Maintaining adequate calcium intake is known to be essential for maintaining the health and strength of our bones. A single bulb of fennel contains approximately 115 mg of calcium, which represents 10% of the recommended daily dose. That is why it is recommended to consume it more frequently, especially those people who do not have an adequate calcium intake. Fennel also contains magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K, other nutrients that play an important role in maintaining bone health.2.

Helps improve skin health

Fennel is rich in vitamin C, providing almost half the RDA in just one bulb. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radical damage and is involved in the production of collagen. That is why regular consumption of fennel can help us reduce the appearance of wrinkles, keep our skin healthy, and naturally slow down the aging process.3.

Helps lower blood pressure

Due to its high potassium content and low sodium content, fennel can regulate blood pressure values ​​and reduce inflammation in the body; It has been observed that maintaining a diet high in potassium can help reduce systolic blood pressure by up to 5.5 points4 . This mineral acts as a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes blood vessel tension and lowers blood pressure. All of this helps to avoid the risk of developing other health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, atherosclerosis, and complications in diabetic patients, just to name a few.

It is a natural digestive

A fennel bulb contains approximately 7 grams of dietary fiber, which is very beneficial for the functioning of our digestive system. Fiber is essential to provide bulk to the stool and make muscles push and increase intestinal motility. Fiber also helps cleanse the colon of harmful toxins as it moves through the digestive system. Another digestive benefit of fennel is its effect as a mild natural laxative, which helps fight constipation and promotes greater elimination of toxins. Many people use it as a remedy to relieve episodes of diarrhea, excess gas, and indigestion.

A common practice in certain cultures is to chew fennel seeds after meals to aid digestion and prevent bad breath. Some of the oils found in fennel seeds are known to help stimulate the secretion of digestive juices.5.

This vegetable can also be very beneficial for people with acid reflux, as it balances the pH level within the body, especially within the stomach, helping to reduce reflux after meals. 6.

Increases satiety and helps you lose weight

As in other cases, the high fiber content in fennel is responsible for this benefit. Several studies have shown that high fiber diets can promote weight loss by promoting a decrease in appetite. During a 2011 study, participants who added 14 grams of fiber to their daily diet ate approximately 10% fewer calories per day and lost about 4 pounds over a 4-month period, without changing anything else.7.

Helps relieve infant colic

Researchers have found that fennel seed oil is able to reduce pain caused by colic and increase motility in the small intestine of babies. It has been shown that it can be more effective and safer in treating stomach cramps in children than some current medicines, for example the drug Dicyclomine hydrochloride (it can have some serious side effects)8.

A study involving 125 newborns was devoted to comparing the effect of fennel seed oil against a placebo. The researchers observed that in the group treated with fennel seed oil, the babies had 65% fewer colic (measured by crying spells) with no side effects, compared to those in the control group. However, since there is no set safe dose for babies at this time, the safest way to use fennel to treat infantile colic is for the mother to drink fennel tea while breastfeeding, only for short periods of time.910.

Helps prevent cancer

Fennel contains a very special oil called anethole, which has proven its ability as a natural remedy against cancer by reducing inflammation in the body and slowing the growth of tumor cells 11 . Fennel seed extract was found to prevent various strains of colon cancer, breast cancer, and liver cancer. It can even have a protective action on the body against the harmful effects of chemotherapy.

Other anti-inflammatory nutrients found in fennel, specifically selenium, have also been shown to help lower cancer death rates and future incidences of cancer. 12.

Lowers the risk of heart disease

Fiber-rich foods, especially soluble fiber like that found in fennel, have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, helping to reduce the overall risk of heart attacks and strokes 13.

Fennel also contains other potentially beneficial nutrients for heart health, for example potassium (lowers cholesterol and blood pressure), vitamin C (antioxidant) and folate (cardio-protective effect).

Promotes good eye health

Macular degeneration is the main cause of age-related vision loss and, although the exact cause is unknown, it has been observed that antioxidants with anti-inflammatory action can improve vision or slow the progression of the disease; This includes several compounds present in fennel, such as flavonoids, amino acids (arginine), vitamin C, magnesium, cobalt and zinc.14.

May alleviate menopausal symptoms

A 2017 study suggests that the use of fennel can relieve symptoms of menopause 15 . During the study, the researchers looked at 90 women between the ages of 45 and 60 who had been menopausal for at least 1 year and no more than 5 years, and who had at least moderate symptoms. Some participants received fennel capsules daily, while others only received a placebo. After 8 weeks, the women who had taken fennel experienced significant improvements in their symptoms, unlike those who took the placebo.

Other research has claimed that fennel also has an emmenagogue effect, which means that it relieves and regulates menstruation by balancing hormonal action in the body. In fact, fennel extract has already been used as an ingredient in various products to reduce the effects of PMS.

Prevents anemia

Iron and histidine, an amino acid found in fennel, are very useful nutrients for preventing and treating anemia. Iron is the main component of hemoglobin, while histidine stimulates the production of hemoglobin and is involved in the formation of other components of the blood.

Helps treat respiratory disorders

Fennel is an excellent remedy for treating respiratory problems such as congestion, bronchitis, and cough. The cineole and anethole compounds present in this tuberous bulb have been found to be expectorant in nature. Using fennel seeds and powder helps break up phlegm, prevents toxins and bacteria from accumulating in the throat or nasal passages, and promotes a speedy recovery when you have any of these respiratory conditions.

How to choose, store and consume fennel

Tips for choosing the best fennel:

  • Good quality fennel will have clean, firm and solid bulbs, with no signs of nicks, bruises or spots.
  • The bulbs should be whitish or pale green.
  • The stems should be relatively straight and overlap near the bulb; They should not extend too far to the sides. Both the stems and the leaves should be green.
  • There should be no signs of flowering buds, as this indicates that the vegetable is past maturity. Fresh fennel should have a fragrant aroma, subtly resembling licorice or anise.
  • Whenever possible, opt for fennel that comes from an organic source (certified produce, trusted local vendor)

Note : fennel is generally available from fall to early spring.

Tips for storing fennel:

Fresh fennel should be stored in a refrigerator drawer, where it can stay fresh for about 4-5 days. However, it is important to bear in mind that it tends to lose flavor over time , therefore it should be eaten as soon as possible. It is best to consume it shortly after purchase. Although fresh fennel can be frozen after lightly blanching, it also appears to lose much of its flavor during this process.

If you want to store dried fennel seeds, you must place them in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry place; These conditions will extend its shelf life for up to approximately 6 months. Some claim that storing the seeds in the refrigerator will help keep them fresh for longer.

Suggestions and ways to consume fennel:

As we’ve already mentioned, fennel has a crunchy texture and an aniseed flavor. It is an excellent addition to any recipe you want to give a “twist” to it. All its parts can be eaten, including the leaves, the bulb and the seeds, although the latter are usually dried to be used as a spice.

Tips for preparing fennel:

  • Separate the stems from the bulb, cutting right where they sprout.
  • If you’re not going to use the entire bulb in a recipe, first cut it in half, remove the base, and then rinse it with water before proceeding to cut it further.
  • Fennel can be cut into various sizes and shapes, depending on the recipe and your personal preferences. The best way to cut it is vertically through the bulb, and then into thin slices.
  • If your recipe calls for chunky, diced, or julienned fennel, it’s best to remove the hardest core in the center before cutting.
  • The fennel stalks can be used to flavor soups, broths, and stews, while the leaves can be used as a dressing.
Fennel bulb

Some ideas for using the fennel bulb in the kitchen are:

  • Sauté the fennel with onion to use as a side.
  • Combine fennel slices with avocados and orange for a delicious salad.
  • Braise scallops with fennel .
  • Use thin slices of fennel to garnish sandwiches alongside other traditional ingredients like lettuce and tomato.
  • Add fennel and mint leaves as a topping in a plain yogurt.
  • Add finely chopped fresh fennel when sautéing a salmon fillet.
Fennel seed tea

In addition to consuming the bulb, drinking fennel tea is one of the best ways to take advantage of all the benefits of this plant. The tea fennel seed is traditionally used for:

  • Fight infections
  • Help sleep
  • Increase breast milk production
  • Relieve digestive problems
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Freshen your breath
  • Relieve constipation

To prepare this infusion you will only need 1-2 teaspoons of dried fennel seeds.

  1. Put the seeds in a mortar and crush them lightly.
  2. Now bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
  3. Add the fennel seeds and let them soak in the hot water for 5-10 minutes.
  4. After this time, strain and drink the tea immediately.

Note : If you have a tea bag, put the seeds in it and let it rest for the same time in the hot water. If available, you can also buy fennel seed tea at your local grocery store.

It is recommended to drink a cup of this infusion 30 minutes before the meal , repeating up to 3 times a day.

Remember that dried fennel seeds can be used as a spice to add a certain anise flavor in different recipes, as well as to obtain a medicinal oil.

Fennel leaves

Fennel leaves have a delicate anise flavor and are so tender they practically melt in your mouth. They should not be cooked for long, so it is best to use them fresh as part of a salad or vegetable juice.

Recommended Video: How to Prepare Fennel

Contraindications and side effects of fennel

Although fennel can be a health food or an effective remedy for most people, some should use it with caution or simply avoid its consumption.

  • Allergies . Some people may have allergic skin reactions to fennel. Those who are allergic to plants like celery, carrots, and mugwort are more likely to be allergic to fennel. Fennel can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
  • Pregnancy and lactation : although there are studies that assure that fennel can be very favorable to prevent colic in newborns, there is still not enough evidence about its safety during pregnancy and lactation. Experts recommend not consuming it frequently.
  • Bleeding Disorders : Fennel can slow blood clotting, hence taking fennel may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
  • Hormone sensitive condition (breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids): fennel is thought to have estrogenic action; its use could worsen any of these conditions.
  • Kidney disease and high blood pressure : due to its high potassium content, people with kidney disease, or who take beta blockers to control blood pressure, should maintain a moderate consumption of fennel; otherwise they could suffer adverse reactions by raising their potassium levels in the blood too much16.

Fennel images

Quick answers to frequently asked questions

What is the fennel plant like?

Fennel is a perennial herb, green in color and growing upright, which is related to plants such as carrots, dill and coriander, among others. It can reach heights of up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) and its leaves grow up to 40 cm long.

The most distinctive feature is its white or pale green bulb , from where the closely superimposed stems are arranged; This bulb grows partially underground as if it were a tuber.

The stems of fennel are covered with green and feathery leaves; these are very similar to dill leaves but a little thinner.

Small yellow flowers grow near the leaves in terminal umbels. This is where fennel seeds , small, oval-shaped, greenish-brown nuts are produced .

Is it safe to take fennel in pregnancy?

There is some scientific debate about whether it is safe to consume fennel during pregnancy. On the one hand, it has been observed that when consumed in adequate doses through food or infusions, fennel is safe for pregnant women; but on the other hand, several potential risks have been identified.

Anethole content in fennel . Extensive animal testing has indicated that foods containing anethole are harmless to humans. However, experts say that fennel tea can sometimes contain high doses of anethole, exceeding the recommended daily intake. In theory, these large doses could cause dangerous side effects, hence its regular consumption is not recommended for pregnant women.

Estrogenic effects . Drinking too much fennel tea appears to significantly alter levels of estrogen, a female reproductive hormone involved in conception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.

Risk of vaginal bleeding . Although there is not enough evidence, fennel may have an emmenagogue effect17 and lead to vaginal bleeding. The presence of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy can cause complications, for example a miscarriage. With this in mind, it is not recommended to consume fennel frequently during pregnancy.

The general recommendation is that a doctor is always consulted before consuming fennel during pregnancy. This is also valid during breastfeeding , since scientific opinion has not reached a consensus on the subject either. Many claim that the consumption of fennel in lactation helps to increase the production of breast milk, and there have even been studies that show that this reduces the risk of colic in newborn infants, however there is still not enough evidence to confirm such findings.

What is the origin of fennel?

The origin of fennel dates back to ancient Greece, where it was known by the name of “marathon”. As they say, this plant grew in the field where one of the great battles of the time was fought, which was later named as the Battle of the Marathon in honor of the venerated plant. Greek myths also hold that knowledge was delivered to man by the Olympian gods on a fennel stalk filled with charcoal.

On the other hand, it is known that fennel was a staple food of King Edward I of England. Apparently one of his account books for the year 1281 listed a purchase of more than 8 pounds of fennel seeds (all a month’s supply). At the time, fennel seeds were used as a condiment and as an appetite suppressant during the “fast days” imposed by the Church.

During medieval times, it was thought that hanging fennel over doors served to protect those inside from spirits. In addition, it was believed that inserting fennel seeds into the keyholes protected the home from night ghosts. 

Beyond these beliefs, the truth is that fennel was highly revered and used by both the Greeks and the Romans due to its medicinal and culinary properties. Then its cultivation spread throughout Europe, especially in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and the Near East.

What is fennel oil and what is it used for?

The oil fennel seeds is usually obtained after crushing the seeds of this plant and subjected to a distillation process steam. Like the bulb, fennel oil has a taste similar to licorice and a delicate aniseed aroma. 

Fennel essential oil is well known as a powerful remedy for good digestive health [ 18 ], but this is not its only benefit. Its main uses include: 

  • Relief and elimination of intestinal spasms
  • The prevention of gas and stomach bloating
  • Wound healing
  • Detoxification and purification of the body
  • Improving respiratory conditions
  • Increased production of breast milk
  • Relief from constipation (natural laxative)
  • Elimination of bad mouth breath

On the quality of fennel oil

No todos los aceites de hinojo son creados de la misma manera. Debido a la falta de estándares industriales y la falta de regulación en términos como “natural” o “puro”, gran parte de lo que puedes encontrar en el mercado NO tiene un grado terapéutico, puede carecer de calidad real, e incluso puede contener contaminantes o adulterantes. Para escoger un buen aceite de semillas de hinojo (o cualquier otro) debes tener en cuenta que:

  • El aceite se haya fabricado a partir de la variedad de planta apropiada.
  • El hinojo haya sido cultivado sin usar pesticidas químicos, herbicidas, etc.
  • Se haya esperado el tiempo de cosecha necesario para obtener la mayor cantidad de propiedades.
  • El proceso de extracción se haya realizado con la temperatura y la presión adecuadas para conservar las moléculas de aceite.
  • The product recommend the internal use of the oil.

What does it taste like?

We can’t say that fennel’s sweet and fragrant taste is unique as it is strikingly similar to licorice and anise. This does not mean that the fennel bulb provides an intense liquorice flavor in our recipes; on the contrary, it can be a succulent addition to many dishes.

What other names does it have?

This bulb has an extensive list of common names. Depending on the place, in addition to fennel, it can be known as: fennel, fennel, bitter fennel, common fennel, domestic fennel, hortense fennel, wild fennel, wild fennel, vulgar fennel, inojo, jenoyo, jinojo, flax, thistle, acinoji, acinojo , acinoju, ahinojo, alinoji, alinoju, almacio, anise, anisete, bravo anise, Florence anise, wild anise, hacinojo, hay, anise grass, St. John’s wort, holy herb, arinojo, cañiguera, cenojo, cenoyo, cinoho , cinojo, cinoju, cinoyo, ciollo, dill, anger, enoyo, esmeldo, asparagus bravo, fanoyo, fenojo, phenol, fenoll, fenollo, fenoyo, fenullo, feniculum, finofio, finojo, fiollo, fioyo, funcho, funcho bravo, funcho ordinary, wild funcho, kills the grape, matalahuga, matalauva, mellu, millu, millua, milu, burrero parsley, gypsy parsley, parsley, senijo, sinijo, tenojo, tinojo,

Fennel’s scientific name is Foeniculum vulgare (a unique species of the genus Foeniculum in the Apiaceae family).

References:

  1. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/3023/2
  2. http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/building-stronger-bones?page=2
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18505499
  4. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp
  5. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09637486.2011.627841
  6. https://draxe.com/acid-reflux-remedies-natural-cures/
  7. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x/abstract
  8. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-5247/dicyclomine-oral/details
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12868253
  10. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/infantile-colic
  11. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711312000815
  12. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=412293
  13. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/69/1/30/4694117
  14. https://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts
  15. https://www.jwatch.org/fw112900/2017/05/19/fennel-tied-reduction-menopausal-symptoms?query=pfwTOC&jwd=000020054348&jspc=
  16. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-311-fennel.aspx?activeingredientid=311&activeingredientname=fennel
  17. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-311-fennel.aspx?activeingredientid=311&activeingredientname=fennel

My name is Louise Hammond, and I am the creator of this website, a place to find information about tubers, bulbs and medicinal roots. In Dreamsship.com I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.