Foeniculum Vulgare

Fennel, Sweet Cumin

Botany 

Fennel is a green plant with hollow stems that stands erect, growing up to 5 feet tall. The ends of the leaves are thread like and only about .5 mm wide. On the ends of the leaves, there are compound tufts of  20-50 tiny yellow flowers (2). 

Fennel is not too difficult of an herb to grow. It is a perennial that mostly just needs a good location where it can grow tall and not be hindered by roofs or other plants (2). It thrives in hot dry climates, but is pretty versatile. It loves lots of sunshine. It does not do well with high winds because of its height, and may need to be staked to the ground to help keep it erect. It is also know to hinder the growth of other plants, and should there fore be placed in an isolated location. If planting in a warmer climate, fennel should be planted in the fall. If planting in a cooler climate, fennel should be planted in the spring. It should not be over watered.  

Chemistry

One of the active agents in fennel includes flavanoids, such as rutin . These flavanoids give fennel strong antioxidant properties. They help to prevent cancer by attaching to Fe ions in humans, preventing them from latching onto hydrogen peroxide, avoiding the creation of a free radical that may cause damage to cells (7). Another important active agent is a phytonutrient compound called anethole. Anethole gives fennel it’s inflammation reducing properties, and also prevents the occurrence of cancer. Anethole has a biological mechanism which allows it to do this. The biological mechanism works by shutting down a signaling system called the tumor necrosis factor. By doing this, it prevents activation of an inflammation triggering molecule called NF-kappa (3). Anethole’s structure is composed of a ring, similar to benzene, made up of only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (6).

Fun Fact

 

History

The earliest use of fennel was seen by the Greeks, who sometimes steeped it into a weight loss tea (2).A Greek character, Prometheus, was said to have used a stalk of fennel to steal fire from the gods. It was also cultivated by the Romans to be used as food. In more recent history, the Puritans used to refer to fennel as the “meeting seed”. They did this because it was practice to chew the fennel seeds at the town meetings, after the town has eaten dinner. It was thought to refresh the breath and to aid in digestion. 

Uses/Pharmacology

Today, fennel is used in many different ways. The stalks are used as a vegetable in culinary practices, while the seeds and the fennel seed oil are used medicinally (5). It is used as a remedy for gas and cramps, as well as to treat colic and spasms in infants. It is said to increase milk production in lactating mothers. It is also administered as a tea for insect bites, fever, and even food poisoning. It increases urination and has a laxative effect, as well as reducing inflammation and helping to prevent cancer (1).

Dosing/Recipes

1. Steep 1 tbsp. of freshly ground fennel seeds in one cup of water for five minutes, and make into a tea. Sweeten with honey to taste.

2. Steep 1-2 tsp. each of fennel seeds, caraway, and anise in a cup of boiling water, and use as a flatulence relief for adults. This recipe can also be used to colic in infants, but should not have raw honey added to it. 

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions

Fennel is not known for having excessive caveats. It has no known drug r nutrient  interactions, and is considered an overall safe and gentle herb. Because it has estrogenic effects, however, it should not be taken by pregnant women. Skin contact with the pure oil can also cause photosensitivity, so it should be used with caution if you are going to be exposed to the sun. While the seeds are safe for ingestion, the ingestion of the pure oil can cause vomiting and seizures and should be avoided.

References Cited

1. Hoffman, David. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical            Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies. Milton: Elemental Books Limited,             1996. Print.

2. “Fennel”. Herbs (Penn State Extension). Web. 18 Mar 2012.

            http://extension.psu.edu/herbs/all-herbs/fennel.

3. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Web. 18 Mar 2012.

            http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice.

4. “Welcome to the PLANTS Database| USDA PLANTS.” 301 Moved Permanently.        Web. 18 Mar 2012. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/> .

5. “Medicinal Spices Exhibit-UCLA Biomedical Library: History and Special Collections.”           Web. 01 Apr 2012.             http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm?displayID=11.

6. “Anethole.” Welcome to the NIST Web book. Web. 01 Apr 2012.

            <http://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C104461>.

7. “Rutin.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 30 Mar 2012. Web. 01 Apr 2012.

            <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutin> .

Researched By: Monika Elion