Common name: Fennel, Sounf (Hindi)
Sanskrit: Shatapushpa, Madhurika
Its name Shatapushpa means ‘one hundred flowers’. Its other name Madhurika means ‘the sweet one’. Like its flower head it spreads and moves outwards, thus preventing congestion and stagnation in the centre.
Fennel is a perennial plant that is often grown as an annual. Fennel is a hardy perennial that thrives in dry, hot climates and is opposed to wet, damp, cold conditions. All members of the Apiaceae family, commonly known as the carrot or parsley family, are large and aromatic and display their small flowers in distinctive ascendant umbels, similar to those of cow parsley. Fennel grows up to 2.5m tall and has large, beautiful, aniseed-scented feathery leaves.Depending on the country of origin and the latitude where it is grown, fennel plants produce seeds with extremely varied essential oil content and essential oil composition. It is the essential oil content that determines the sweetness and bitterness detected in the taste of the plant. This is another member of the Umbelliferae family that aromatically warms digestion.
How it Works
The primary medicinal constituent in fennel is known as anethole. It is this component that gives fennel its characteristic taste and smell, often likened to that of anise and camphor. Anethole is a potent anti-microbial against bacteria, yeasts and fungi. It is also an effective anthelmintic used in the treatment of a wide range of infections in the digestive tract. Anethole also modulates the tumour necrosis factor helping reduce inflammation. In addition to anethole, fennel contains 12 major phenolic compounds and a high level of flavonoids. The phenolic compounds have displayed strong free radical scavenging activity, making fennel an impressive anti-oxidant. Flavonoids are characteristically anti-inflammatory supporting fennel’s activities in the body as an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial.
Into the Heart of Fennel
Fennel is brimming with therapeutic benefits. Fennel’s characteristic taste comes from a constituent known as anethole which is a strong anti-microbial in the gastric and urinary systems. The essential oils in fennel can help relax smooth muscle and relieve lower abdominal spasms and bloating within the digestive tract, making it an effective carminative. Fennel’s pungent and aromatic qualities encourage elimination and cleansing of congestion from the body. Although a heating herb, it benefits digestion without aggravating inflammation already present; its sweet post-digestive action actually leaves a residual cooling effect. Fennel is also an effective expectorant within the respiratory system, encouraging the release of stuck mucous and catarrh. Fennel stimulates the libido and is particularly supportive to the female reproductive system, encouraging efficient menstruation and reducing the painful and spasmodic symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Its anti-spasmodic activity in the gut is also effective within the musculoskeletal and reproductive systems by easing muscular spasms and pain. For breastfeeding mothers, fennel will also promote efficient lactation.
GIT: Fennels primary indication is within the digestive tract. Fennel will relieve digestive discomfort such as flatulence, borborygmus, cramps, nausea and a low appetite or metabolism. It is a specific herb for inguinal hernias and lower abdominal pain. It relaxes the smooth muscles and is a specific herb for lower abdominal pain from lower bowel tension. Fennel water is also used for colic in babies.
Urinary: Indicated in cystitis, difficult urination, burning and dark yellow urine, cloudy urine.
Nervous: Indicated in nervous tension created by muscular spasms and contraction. All spasms are relieved with Fennel, especially in the GIT, lungs and uterus. Its nourishing effects means that it tonifies the brain and nervous system.
Lungs: Indicated in obstructive coughs. It helps to clear phlegm congesting the alveoli and bronchioles in the lung tissue.
Gynaecology: Fennel is specific for increasing the flow of breast milk in lactating mothers. It is also indicated in menstrual difficulties that obstruct the lower abdomen influencing pain, cramps and a dragging sensation.
Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant activities of the fruit of Foeniculum vulgare. Fitoterapia. 2004 Sep; 75 (6): 557-65.
Comparison of fennel and mefenamic acid for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2003 Feb; 80 (2): 153-7.