Fennel, the sweet-smelling herb originally from the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, has a flavor similar to anise. Fennel leaves, stalks, and bulbs are edible and have a crunchy texture. Add it to salads, baked goods, pesto sauce — try our recipe! — or even your next cup of tea.
But there are many more ways to put the perennial fennel plant to use. This yellow-flowered, sweet-smelling plant can also be used to improve your health.
1. For Breastfeeding
According to a 2008 study, fennel contains a mild form of estrogen. This hormone stimulates breast milk production in goats and is believed to do the same in women. This use dates back centuries, and many new mothers today still use herb-based drinks to boost their milk production.
2. For Colicky Infants
Colic is a condition that causes newborns to cry inconsolably for hours at a time. There is no definitive cause for colic, but it can cause immeasurable stress for parents. A study conducted in Russia found that fennel seed oil was able to reduce the intensity of colic, measured in hours of crying, by as much as a quarter.
3. For the Respiratory System
Gargling an infusion of fennel seeds can loosen mucus in your lungs and relieve your cough or sore throat, say researchers in Italy. Try gargling with 5-7 grams (between about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons) of fennel seed daily to see results.
4.To Relieve Menstrual Cramps
A recent study conducted in Iran found that the combination of fennel extract and vitamin E drastically reduced cramping pain from menstruation. The fennel mixture was actually more effective than other over-the-counter pain relievers.
5. For Wounds and Bites
In Asia, fennel has a long tradition of being used to heal wounds and poisonous bites and eliminate ingested poisons. This is because the essential oil of fennel has antibacterial and antifungal properties that promote topical healing and possibly internal healing as well.
6. To Boost Libido
According to folklore, fennel also can be used as an aphrodisiac, or a substance that boosts sexual drive. Unfortunately for lovebirds, there is not a lot of scholarly research to back this particular claim so far.
7. For Taste and Fragrance
Fennel can be distilled to create a volatile oil. Volatile oils typically have a pleasant smell and are easily absorbed by the skin. This means that fennel oil is ideal for soaps and perfumes. Fennel also has a pleasant flavor and is often used to improve the taste of medications.
8. To Fight Disease
Recent scientific studies show that simple herbs, which include sweet fennel, can be very effective in helping to fight and slow down the growth of the bacteria found in the devastating cholera disease.
The next time you add fennel to your salad or homemade bread recipe, take note of the other ways in which this herb is working to keep you healthy. If you’ve never tried a fennel remedy, consider talking to your doctor about it.