Though fennel is native to Europe, especially the Mediterranean region, it is today cultivated in many other parts of the world, including Asia, China, and North America. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a tall perennial herb. The leaves, bulb, and stalk of fennel look a lot like white celery and are edible. Its seeds are used as both a spice in cooking and in making herbal medicines. Fennel has a sweet licorice taste, and is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine.
Fennel has appeared in European history records for centuries. It grows wild in many parts of the world usually in dry soils upon river-banks or near the sea-coast, particularly on limestone soils. It is cultivated in the south of France, Galicia, Saxony, Russia, India and Persia. The odor of Fennel seed is pleasant and it has a warm, sweet and aromatic taste.
Fennel has a thick bright green root-stock and stout stems. The four to five feet tall plant has a certain beauty about it. The branched leaves bring forth bright golden flowers that blossom in July and early August each having thirteen to twenty rays.
The stems are used in soups or salads. Some even claim that eating the peeled stalks relaxes the body for sleep.
The presence of terpenoid anethole in fennel has made it famous for treating digestive ailments since the time of the ancient Egyptians. It has the ability to calm the gastrointestinal tract and relieve cramps. Often fennel is mixed with wormwood, peppermint, and caraway to treat heartburn, indigestion, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Fennel has traditionally be used to stimulate menstruation and milk production in nursing mothers, and to treat hormonal imbalance including PMS, menopause, and low libido. One study showed that fennel enhances the effects of estrogen in the system. It is used to relax the uterus, and to promote natural breast enhancement.
Fennel also helps with congestion problems by loosing phlegm in the breathing passages and treating a persistent cough. Give the patient fennel tea to do this, made by crushing 1 to 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds and mixing them in a cup of hot water.
Fennel also has a reputation for being an appetite suppressant and thus it is used to promote weight-loss. Some studies have shown that fennel has some diuretic effect, and may help reduce water retention.
Fennel can be purchased as an oil, seed, capsule, tincture, or liquid seed extract. You can also grow it yourself but keep it away from tomatoes or caraway as this will hinder their production. Use 2 to 12 drops of the oil, or 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of the seeds, or .5 teaspoons of the liquid daily.
A few cautions are in order. Some have reported allergic and asthmatic reactions to fennel. Don't give it to small children or take it for extended periods yourself. Don't take it if you are a pregnant or lactating woman either.
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