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Traditional medicine across the globe represents an essential and inexhaustible source of knowledge about the properties and benefits of medicinal plants. In addition to this, many of the plants in question can be added to our diet, allowing us to enjoy an abundance of nutrients.
One of these herbs valued both for its curative properties as well as for its taste is fennel. We will examine the definition of this plant, its uses, and main properties.
Fennel, also known as Foeniculum vulgare, is a highly esteemed medicinal plant valued for its health benefits and culinary uses. It possesses a similar aroma to licorice, and it's one of the primary ingredients in the famous drink absinthe.
This type of plant from the carrot family has a unique white bulb and long, green stalks with light, feathery leaves and yellow flowers. Its popularity is because fennel can be grown in virtually any type of soil and climate as well as being entirely edible - the seeds, the bulb, and the stalk can be consumed.
Originally grown in Mediterranean soil, fennel is one of the main ingredients in Greek and Italian cuisine and nowadays it has reached all the corners of the world, both due to its gastronomical uses but also because of its medicinal properties.
There are various medicinal uses and benefits associated with fennel. This medicinal plant can be found in essential oils extracted from the seeds, the stalk, the leaves, or bulb of fennel.
Moreover, because of its unique aroma, it is also used as a breath freshener and added to toothpaste as well as in culinary diets.
Among the main health properties of fennel we can list preventing anemia, indigestion, bloating, constipation, colics, diarrhea, airway diseases, and alleviates menstrual pain.
Fennel is rich in iron and histidine, a mineral and an amino acid that are vital in anemia treatment.
While iron is the main ingredient of hemoglobin, histidine stimulates its production; hemoglobin's role is to carry oxygen from the tissues back to the lungs.
Aside from iron, fennel also contains phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, which contribute to the health of our bone structure.
The potassium component of this medicinal plant plays a crucial role in regulating blood pressure because it favors blood vessel dilation and contraction.
The nitrates offered by a diet rich in fennel and other vascular protective food help reduce blood pressure and protect the heart.
As mentioned earlier, fennel is rich in potassium which supports heart health but also contains significant amounts of fiber that reduce cholesterol and with it, the chances of cardiac diseases.
Fennel properties include anti-cancer qualities that are, however, still being investigated by scientists across the world. Studies so far revealed that fennel produces a mineral called selenium which boosts the function of the liver enzyme and helps detox certain compounds that are potentially carcinogenic.
Another important component of fennel is folate, one of the B vitamins that hold an important role in DNA synthesizing and repairing - which can prevent cancer cells from forming because of DNA mutations.
Specific components present in fennel essential oil stimulate the secretion of gastric acid which reduces stomach inflammation as well as promotes correct assimilation of nutrients.
This medicinal plant can cure constipation and protects the body from an array of intestinal issues that blockages can cause. Finally, fennel possesses antiacid properties that lead to better digestion and help avoid gastric reflux.
The antiflatulent properties of this medicinal plant are extremely known across the world. Fennel has carminative properties which help relieve flatulence due to aspartic acid.
The high amount of potassium fennel contains, especially in the seeds and bulb, increases electrical conduction throughout the body, which also includes cerebral connections.
Potassium improves brain function and increases cognitive abilities. Moreso, because it's a vasodilator it facilitates oxygen to the brain and ensures that neuronal activities run smoothly.
Fennel essential oil contains an organic compound called anethole that is rich in phytoestrogens - polymeric molecules useful in treating kidney stones.
This medicinal plant is also marked by antispasmodic properties, which helps relax the smooth muscles and reduces muscular discomfort associated with colics.
The fennel bulb is so incredibly rich in vitamin C that only one cup of fennel infusion will ensure 20% of your daily vitamin C intake.
Vitamin C is popular because of its many health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system, repairing skin tissue, boosting collagen production and protecting blood vessels due to its antioxidant ability.
Some of the fennel's benefits are associated with menstruation due to the plant's properties as an emmenagogue, which means that it stimulates the menstrual flow, alleviates the pain associated with menstruation and regulates the body's hormones.
Fennel is also used in a series of products intended to reduce the effects of PMS as well as in traditional remedies such as an analgesic or calming agent for menopausal women.
Fennel magical properties include the treatment of respiratory conditions such as congestion, bronchitis, and coughing. This is because of the high amounts of anethol and eucalyptol, which act as natural expectorants.
Fennel seeds and powder can help treat phlegm and release toxins from the throat and nostrils, ensuring a speedy recovery of the airways.
Finally, due to the profuseness of antioxidants, detoxing agents, stimulants and anti-inflammatory properties of fennel, the herb is commonly used in eye protection and to reduce premature aging and macular degeneration.
Fennel leaf juice can be applied externally to the eyes to reduce inflammation, irritation, and eye strain.
Díaz-Maroto, M. C., Sánchez-Palomo, E. & Pérez-Coello, M. S. (2005). Volatile components and key odorants of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) oil extracts obtained by simultaneous distillation-extraction and supercritical fluid extraction. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53(13): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15969523