Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare, Umbelliferae. The seeds and leaves are the parts of the plant used.

The seeds are collected in the autumn when they are ripe and split. Dry the seeds slightly in the shade. The leaves can be harvested at anytime.

Functions of fennel

Fennel is an aromatic plant that has traditionally been used to aid digestion. It:

  • has volatile oils that enhance the appetite and increase the secretion of digestive juices. This promotes the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • has calmative properties which relaxes the digestive tract. This aids in the relief of flatulence and colic. It can also be of assistance in the treatment of indigestion, heartburn, constipation and abdominal pain.
  • increases the production of milk in nursing mothers and when it is taken by the mother the volatile oils will pass to the baby thus soothing any of the baby's digestive problems.
  • is useful in relieving period pains and regulating menstruation.
  • has diuretic properties which help to relieve fluid retention. When this is combined with fennel's antiseptic properties it is useful for treating urinary infections.
  • aids in the removal of toxins from the body via the urine and is therefore useful in the treatment of urinary infections.
  • strengthens the eyesight and as an infusion eyewash it can be helpful for eye soreness, tiredness, inflammation and infections.
  • has antiseptic properties that make it useful for many infections, particularly in the respiratory tract.
  • can be used as a massage oil (the diluted oil) for painful joints.

Dosage

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonsful of the slightly crushed seeds and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This can be drunk three times per day. To ease flatulence take a cup 1/2 -1 hour before meals.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times per day.

Notes on fennel

  • Small amounts used in cooking are generally safe but do not take internally in medicinal doses during pregnancy.

For the gardener

Fennel is a hardy perennial that can be grown from seed. Plants can grow to 2 meters (6 feet) with minimal attention as long as they are weeded in the early stages. They will grow in all kinds of soils, although they do prefer well drained loam or black sandy soil. They will grow in the sun or partial shade.

If you choose to grow your plant from seed you will need to get them started in the spring. Select fully ripe but green seed and let them dry in the shade. Fennel doesn't transplant well so you will need to sow the seeds where you want them to grow. Sow the seeds at a depth of about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm). They will germinate in 1 - 2 weeks. If you need to transplant your fennel dig deeply around the plant so that you don't disturb the taproot.

References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, D. 2001, Healthy Bones and Joints. Newleaf.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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