Fennel, or Foeniculum vulgare, is a biennial aromatic herb. It is native to southern Europe and Turkey. The smell and flavor of the plant offer a hint of anise, or licorice. The seeds, leaves, and roots of the plant have long been used as part of the herbal pharmacopeia. The most common fennel benefits include easing digestive issues and eye problems, increasing breast milk, and soothing colic.
Fennel can also help reduce bloating, upset stomach symptoms, and mild gastrointestinal spasms. The oil from the seeds is most often used for stomach and intestinal issues. In the Middle Ages, fennel seeds were often prescribed for patients to chew, to calm upset stomach and prevent unwanted stomach rumbling during church services.
The carminative property of the herb is another fennel benefit. A carminative is a substance that helps prevent gas from building up in the digestive system, thereby helping alleviate and prevent flatulence. This is why fennel is often paired with purgatives, in the hope that it will allay any side effects. Like laxatives, purgatives are substances given to a patient to loosen stool, and these can cause diarrhea.
Another of the many fennel benefits is that it may be a galactagogue, and may help the growth of breast tissue. Galactagogues are substances that promote lactation. It is thought that the phytoestrogens contained in fennel are what help promote breast enlargement as well as milk production. Phytoestrogens, or dietary estrogens, are naturally-occurring chemical compounds that are like the human hormone estrogen.
Infants can also reap fennel benefits, especially if the child has colic. Colic is a condition in which an infant screams and cries for prolonged periods of time. It is thought to be caused by excessive trapped gas in the body, but no one is entirely certain what its true cause is. Parents may use fennel as a treatment for colic because it is safe and effective. A small amount of fennel seed oil in the infant’s formula should help soothe the condition. Before administering any treatment, however, parents should consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.
Eye conditions like glaucoma, a condition in which the pressure in the eye is abnormally high, may also benefit from fennel being added to the diet. Among the other eye-related fennel benefits, is that it may also help improve eyesight in general. The ancient Romans believed that snakes went to fennel plants at night to suck its juices in order to improve their eyesight.
A powdered form of fennel can also be used to prevent flea and other bug infestations. This is one of the other fennel benefits that many pet owners, who seek out natural alternatives to pesticides, enjoy. Fleas do not care for fennel and tend to avoid animals that have been treated with a dusting of this powder. Many all-natural flea powders often contain fennel, as well as other natural ingredients that pests do not like. These can include powdered pennyroyal, garlic, cayenne pepper, and wormwood.