Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a familiar cooking herb in the Mediterranean and is popular in the whole belt from Greece to Egypt.

Fennel seed is sweet and is eaten as a mouth freshener. It is a popular after-meal digestive in India. The Chinese use the leaves and stems in their cooking with the seeds added as a spice. The young, tender leaves are used to garnish food, as a salad, to flavor soups, sauces, desserts, and absinthe. Herbal tea can be infused with fennel. It is used as a flavor in natural toothpaste. The bulb and shoots have a mild crunchy texture and sweet flavor.

All parts of the plant from the bulb to the seed are edible. When grown as a vegetable, the flowering stalks are snipped off to prevent diversion of nutrients into flowering and seeding. The vegetable is eaten both cooked and raw. The leaves and seed of fennel taste like the aniseed flavor because of the anethole.

The Chinese herbal practitioners use fennel with cinnamon and other herbs to enhance lactation. According to them, fennel increases strength and helps reduce weight. Fennel bulbs are a rich source of energy.

In Ayurveda, fennel is considered good for digestive disorders and as a general tonic. Many of the treatments with fennel in Ayurveda are like those recommended in traditional Chinese medicine.

Fennel water has properties like anise and dill. Mixed with sodium bicarbonate and syrup made with sugar, a gripe water is prepared that provides relief from flatulence in infants. Both the seeds and leaves are used as medicine. Fennel is said to stimulate the appetite.

Fennel’s medicinal properties have been consolidated to include antioxidative, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, bronchodilatory, estrogenic, diuretic, lithotriptic, galactagogue, emmenagogue, anti-thrombotic, hypotensive, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, memory enhancing, and anti-mutagenic properties (Rahimi et al., 2013).

It is the broad spectrum of medicinal properties that have made it so popular in cuisine. To know more about this herb, you can check here.

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