Unless you go to a lot of Indian restaurants, or love licorice, you may not be very familiar with fennel seeds. It wasn’t until I tracked them down at the store and smelled them that I made the connection: fennel seeds are offered at Indian restaurants (in the US, at least) at the end of the meal as a breath freshener and digestif. You’d recognize them by their distinct licorice taste and smell. And after this post, you’ll know the health benefits of them too!

Chinese medicine uses of Fennel

  • Treating dysmenorrhea accompanied by cold feelings
  • Relieving colic and cold abdominal pain
  • Easing pain and distension in the abdomen, along with symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea

Ref: Chinese Materia Medica, People’s Medical Publishing House

Ayurvedic uses of Fennel

  • Noted for its ability to relieve indigestion, particularly pitta-type indigestion:  mix 1/2tsp roasted fennel seeds with cumin
  • Decreases/balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha

Ref: Course study at Greens Ayur Center, Oct-Nov 2011

Modern medicine research on Fennel

  • Found to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving moderate to severe menstrual cramps
  • Fennel seed oil relieves colic in babies
  • While the research is not as extensive, fennel may also prevent or treat:
    • Alzheimer’s, dementia
    • Colitis/IBD
    • Cancer
    • Glaucoma
    • Metabolic syndromes (high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke)

Ref: 5 Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, Experience Life magazine, Jan/Feb 2012

Ways to include Fennel in your diet

  • Drink in tea, after drying and crushing
  • Spice up Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Indian food
    • Butter Chicken
    • Cooked carrots
  • Add to pasta sauce, fruit salad, Waldorf salad, or scrambled eggs

As fennel is a bit more unusual, get creative and find ways to include it dishes that might otherwise be a bit bland, for example, chicken. And if you’re a woman who suffers from menstrual pain, dry and crush those seeds then toss them into some hot tea for relief potentially more effective than your normal pain-killer.