In the Middle Ages, on Midsummer's night, people hung fennel over doorways to protect the household from evil spirits.
The benefits of fennel tea are both culinary and curative. Fennel is used in many different cuisines, from Indian to Italian, to contemporary fusion, and all parts of the plant are used, including the leaves, seeds, and bulb.
The Emperor Charlemagne was so taken with fennel that he took the flowering plant to Europe and grew it on his estates.
Fast facts on fennel:
- The Latin name for fennel is foeniculum vulgare.
- The ancient Greeks and Romans thought fennel could bring strength and fortitude and lead to longer life.
- The benefits of fennel tea are very similar to those derived from fennel seeds.
Through the ages, many health claims have been made for fennel, and drinking fennel tea is an established practice in traditional medicine throughout the world.
Although Western science has not verified all these benefits, humans have used fennel to:
- relieve flatulence
- encourage urination
- boost metabolism
- treat hypertension
- improve eyesight
- prevent glaucoma
- regulate appetite
- clear mucus from the airways
- stimulate milk production in nursing women
- speed digestion
- reduce gas
- reduce stress
- detoxify the body
According to herbalists, fennel seed is an effective aid to digestion. It can help the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal system relax and reduce gas, bloating, and stomach cramps.
In fact, tinctures or teas made from fennel seeds can be used to treat stomach muscle spasms caused by irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and other conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system.
Fennel may also be used in combination with other herbal remedies to modify the side effects of herbal formulas used as laxatives, or other treatments for digestive problems.
1. Painful periods
Painful periods or dysmenorrhoea are a common problem for many women, who often use over-the-counter medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat the pain.
However, roughly 10-20 percent of women who suffer from severe cramping and discomfort during their period do not find relief through this approach.
Many turn to alternative or complementary treatments instead, and a 2012 study suggested that fennel can be helpful in this regard.
Researchers speculate that fennel helps keep the uterus from contracting, which is what prompts the pain reported by women with dysmenorrhea.
One of the significant benefits of fennel is its anti-spasmodic qualities. Because of this, some people believe that fennel tea may also play a role in reducing the symptoms of colic in infants.
3. Regulating blood sugar
Many herbalists and complementary healthcare practitioners recommend fennel tea as a way to regulate blood sugar.
A study in Bangladesh, in which mice were treated with an extract made from mentholated fennel seeds, found that, at some dosage levels, this extract reduced blood glucose levels at a rate comparable to that of standard antihyperglycemic medications.
4. Pain relief
Fennel is also considered helpful for pain relief. The same study from Bangladesh found that fennel extract reduced indications of pain at a level close to that provided by aspirin.
Staying well hydrated is important for overall health, so one of the more direct benefits of fennel tea is that it provides individuals with a tasty, caffeine-free beverage.
Fennel tea or fennel extract?
Extract of fennel seeds is not the same thing as fennel tea. Fennel tea is less processed and more likely to be pure; and the measurable, beneficial impacts of fennel tea suggest multiple reasons for drinking it. The U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) do not monitor supplements and extracts of herbs.
Also, some people simply find fennel tea delicious.
Although most of the health claims made for fennel and fennel tea are based on traditional medicine, some scientific, medical studies have identified specific drug-like qualities of the plant, particularly its essential oils, which may promote health.
Studies have found that fennel tea benefits linked to fennel's essential oils include:
- reducing the formation of blood clots
- increasing milk secretion and supporting the female reproductive system
- acting as an antioxidant
- antibacterial effects
- antifungal activity
- anti-inflammatory properties
- controlling dust mites
According to one study, fennel was effective at collecting free radicals, which cause disease. This suggested fennel extracts could be used to help individuals ward off the effects of many chronic diseases and dangerous health conditions, including cancer, hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, and inflammation.
While even the most committed natural care providers are not claiming that drinking a cup of fennel tea could be like taking a dip in the Fountain of Youth, this research suggests that the compounds found in fennel could help buffer the effects of aging.
Fennel is considered fairly mild, although some people may be allergic to it. It is also possible to overdose on the extracted oils found in fennel.
Some studies have found that fennel has an estrogenic effect, which means that it mimics the effects of estrogen. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should not drink fennel tea. People with cancers that are sensitive to estrogen should also avoid the use of fennel.
Estragole, a key element in fennel, has been identified as a potential carcinogen, so individuals with cancer, or at a high-risk for the disease, are urged to limit their use of fennel tea, or avoid it altogether.
Native to the Mediterranean region, fennel is now found all over the world, and its uses are as numerous as the places in which it grows.
Flavorful and fragrant, fennel is used in the following ways:
- as a spice
- eaten raw
It has a distinctive licorice-like flavor and is used in salads, sausages, ice cream, cookies, alcoholic beverages, pasta dishes, and more.