Health Benefits of Fennel
The health benefits of fennel include relief from anemia, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders, menstrual disorders, eye care, etc. Fennel, bearing the scientific name Foeniculum Vulgare Miller, or its essence, is widely used around the world in mouth fresheners, toothpastes, desserts, antacids and in culinary.
Apart from these uses of fennel, there are numerous medicinal uses and health benefits, mainly due to the components of its essential oils, which can be summarized as under.
Health benefits of fennel
Anemia: Iron, and Histidine, an amino acid found in fennel, are helpful in treatment of anemia. Where iron is chief constituent of haemoglobin, Histidine stimulates production of haemoglobin and also helps forming other components of blood.
Indigestion: It is a common practice, particularly in Indian Subcontinent, to chew fennel seeds after meals. This is done to facilitate digestion and to keep bad breath away. Some of the components of the essential oils in fennel are stimulants and stimulate secretion of digestive and gastric juices, reduce inflammation of stomach and intestines and facilitates proper absorption of nutrients from the food. It also has anti acidic (basic) properties and is extensively used in antacid preparations. It is an appetizer too.
Flatulence: Fennel is most popular as an anti flatulent, due to the carminative properties of Aspartic acid found in fennel. Its extract can be used in right from the infants to the old, to cure flatulence and to expel gases from the stomach.
Constipation: Fennel seeds, particularly in powdered form, act as laxative. The roughage helps clearance of bowels whereas the stimulating effect helps maintain the proper peristaltic motion of the intestines, thereby helping proper excretion.
Diarrhea: Fennel is helpful in curing diarrhea if caused by bacterial action, as some components of essential oils in fennel such as Anetol, Cineole etc. have disinfectant and anti bacterial properties. Some amino acids such as Histidine aid digestion and proper functioning of digestive system, thus helping cure diarrhea due to indigestion.
Colic: Polymeric and heavy molecules are useful in the treatment of Renal Colic. Such polymers, also called Phytoestrogens, are found in Anethole, a component of the essential oils in fennel. Fennel, with this virtue, is thus helpful in treating Renal Colic.
Respiratory Disorders: Fennel is useful in respiratory disorders such congestion, bronchitis, cough etc. due to presence of Cineole and Anetol which are expectorant in nature, among their many other virtues.
Menstrual Disorders: Fennel is also an Emenagogue, i.e. it eases and regulates menstruation by regulating hormonal action properly in the body.
Eye Care: While using fennel in food helps protect eyes from inflammation, disorders related to aging, macular degeneration etc. due to presence of anti oxidants (vitamin-C, amino acid like Arginine which very beneficial for rejuvenation of tissues and prevention of aging), detoxifiers and stimulants etc. in it, more specifically in its essential oils, and minerals like cobalt and magnesium, the juice of fennel leaves and the plant can be externally applied on the eyes to reduce irritation and fatigue of eyes.
Other Benefits: Fennel is diuretic, i.e. increases amount and frequency of urination, thereby helping removal of toxic substances from the body and helping in rheumatism, swelling etc. It also increases production and secretion of milk in lactating mothers and since this milk contains some properties of fennel, it is anti flatulent for the baby too. It strengthens hair, prevents hair fall, relaxes body, sharpens memory and has a marvelous cooling effect in summer if the pale greenish-yellow water, in which it is soaked, is taken with a bit of sugar and black-salt.
Few Words of Caution: You must remember that everything has two aspects and too much of anything is harmful. It is true for fennel too. Certain components of essential oils such as Anethol, and few chemicals present in fennel, besides being beneficial, can be dangerous if ingested in over-dose, because you must remember that the compounds which can kill bacteria and microbes in low doses can be harmful for you too. It can induce trouble in breathing, increase palpitations and make heart beats irregular and also neurotic problems.