Herb Basics: Fennel Seed Facts

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Common names: Fennel, fennel seed, wild fennel, sweet fennel
Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare
Family: Apiaceae
Part used: Fruit (commonly known as “seed”); the bulb is eaten in salads and other dishes.
Medicinal uses: Fennel helps soothe the digestive tract and relieves stomach bloating and flatulence; it’s also used for upper respiratory congestion, to help loosen and expel phlegm. A mild fennel tea can be used as an eye compress for conjunctivitis.
Forms commonly used: Seeds (fresh or dried), capsules, tinctures and teas.
Side effects: Fennel is a very safe herb, but rare allergic reactions have been reported. According to Steven Foster’s 101 Medicinal Herbs (Interweave, 1998), the herb has a potential estrogenic effect and medicinal use should be avoided during pregnancy (culinary use does not pose a problem).
Notes: Foster writes that fennel “is mentioned in virtually every European work on herbal medicines from ancient times to the present day.” The herb, which tastes similar to licorice and anise, is often mixed with fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) and peppermint (Mentha ¥piperita) for an effective digestion-soothing blend. To make fennel tea, steep 1 teaspoon of the seeds in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes; strain and drink.