Fennel is a tall herb with hollow stems and yellow flowers. Originally native to the Mediterranean, it grows all over the world and has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant. Fennel seeds can be dried and used to make a potent and strong-smelling tea. The tea tastes a little like licorice, with a relaxing scent and slightly bitter aftertaste. Fennel tea can be purchased in almost any supermarket or health food store.

Fennel has long been thought to strengthen your eyesight, regulate hormones, improve your digestion, and help memory.

It can help fight infections

Fennel tea is an antimicrobial and antiviral agent, according to a review that catalogued multiple studies. If you feel a cold coming on, drinking some fennel tea can help your body fight back against the pathogens attacking your immune system.

It can help you sleep

A serving of hot tea is a great way to unwind after a long day, and putting fennel in the brew gives you an extra health boost. Since fennel can relax your muscles — including your digestive muscles — you may feel more ready for bed after drinking it. Ancient remedies called for the use of fennel to treat insomnia.

It can aid breast milk production

Fennel has been used for centuries as a galactagogue — a substance to increase the quality and quantity of breastmilk in breastfeeding moms. Some argue that the benefit of fennel hasn’t been definitively proven in this case. But anecdotal evidence and even some medical literature agrees that fennel can provide this benefit.

It can support digestion

If you have an upset stomach, flatulence, or diarrhea, you might want to treat yourself to some fennel tea. The warm water of the tea may calm your digestion, and fennel itself is known to help with digestive issues.

It increases the amount of antioxidants in your body

Fennel tea contains antioxidants, which your body needs to fight the harmful things in your environment that you are regularly exposed to. When you drink fennel tea, the antioxidants will attach to molecules in your blood that are fighting oxidative damage. This lessens the load on your kidney and liver, helps new cell production, and even reduces the signs of aging.

It can freshen your breath

Fennel tea is one of the original ways to relieve bad breath. This might be due to its antibacterial properties, which cleanse pathogens that cause your breath to smell bad. Whatever the case, drinking a cup of fennel tea before bed or when you wake up should banish morning breath.

It can relieve constipation

Fennel tea relaxes your digestive muscles, which might be just what you need if you’re struggling with regular bowel movements. Drinking some fennel tea will help cleanse your body and move toxins through your system.

If you can get a hold of fresh fennel seeds from your own plant or from a health food store, you can make your own fennel tea. You can dry the seeds out by laying them flat and baking them in sunshine for two or three days, or you can speed up the process by microwaving the seeds in increments of 30 seconds, checking on them often. Then simply crush the seeds and use them in a tea ball or empty tea bag, steeping in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.

You can also purchase fennel seed tea that’s ready to steep. Remember that the longer you steep the tea, the stronger the brew will taste. There is no recommended daily limit established for how much fennel tea is safe to drink. Since fennel tea affects digestion, start with one cup at a time and see how your body reacts to drinking it.

There is some controversy over whether fennel should be used to soothe infant colic. Estragole, which is found in fennel, might not be safe for babies or any person when they’re exposed to it in large quantities. If you’re pregnant, you should avoid drinking fennel tea. The estrogen that is activated in the oil of the fennel seed could confuse your pregnant body, which is already experiencing a surge in all kinds of hormones.

Since fennel is in the carrot family, avoid drinking fennel if you’re allergic to carrots or other plants in that family — including celery or mugwort. If you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, you should also use caution when drinking fennel tea.

This ancient remedy is under study and we are learning more about the ways that fennel can treat and heal our bodies. For most people, fennel tea has potential to be a safe and effective remedy for everything from digestive issues to insomnia. Introduce fennel tea into your routine slowly, making sure to take note of any side effects that it seems to create in your body.