Habitat & Cultivation : Originating from the Mediterranean region, fennel is currently grown in temperate zones globally, with its seeds typically harvested in the autumn.
Parts Used : Seeds, essential oil.
Constituents : “Sweet” fennel seeds contain about 8% volatile oil (about 80% anethole, plus fenchone and methylchavicol), flavonoids, coumarins (including bergapten) and sterols. The volatile oil relieves wind and is antispasmodic. “Bitter” fennel seeds contain significantly higher levels of fenchone.
History & Folklore : In the 1st century CE, Dioscorides mentioned that applying the juice to the eye can improve vision, and when introduced into the ear, it can eliminate the worms (referring to bacteria) that might be present.
Medicinal Actions & Uses : Fennel seeds are primarily employed to alleviate bloating, while also providing relief from stomach pain, stimulating the appetite, and exhibiting diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. Similar to anise (Pimpinella anisum) and caraway (Carum carvi), these seeds can be used to prepare an infusion that aids digestion and reduces abdominal distension. Fennel seeds are beneficial in treating kidney stones, and when combined with urinary antiseptics like uva-ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), they become an effective remedy for cystitis. An infusion of the seeds can serve as a gargle for sore throats and a mild expectorant. Fennel is considered safe for children in low doses and, as an infusion or syrup, can be administered for colic and painful teething in infants. It also promotes increased breast-milk production, and historically, the herb has been used as an eyewash for sore eyes and conjunctivitis. Fennel seeds have a longstanding reputation for aiding weight loss and promoting longevity. The essential oil derived from the sweet variety is valued for its digestive and relaxing properties, along with its estrogenic activity, potentially offering relief from menopausal symptoms.