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Top 11 Fennel Benefits (Plus Nutrition Facts, Recipes & More)

By Christine Ruggeri, CHHC

April 1, 2022

Original article and page source found here.

You may know of it as a flavoring agent in sambuca and absinthe, or maybe your grandmother sliced fennel bulb for you as a remedy for gassiness and indigestion. It turns out fennel has actually been used for its nutritious properties since ancient times, and it plays an important role in traditional medicine.

In the ancient world, the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians used fennel as part of their ceremonies. It served as a symbol of wellness and pleasure.

It has also been valued for its ability to soothe digestive complaints for thousands of years.

Today, this popular vegetable continues to be one of the most widely used herbal plants. Fennel essential oil and all parts of the plant are used for cooking, baking and as medicine for more than 40 types of disorders.

With its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-tumor and antispasmodic properties, just to name a few, it’s obvious why fennel has been viewed as a valuable plant for thousands of years.

What Is Fennel?

Fennel is a celery-like winter vegetable with an interesting licorice-like flavor. Although the taste may take some getting used to at first, fennel provides an enormous amount of health benefits.

The plant originated in the Souther Mediterranean region and through cultivation began to grow wild throughout the Northern, Eastern and Western hemispheres. The scientific name for fennel is Foeniculum vulgare.

It’s an ancient perennial herb that has feathery leaves and yellow flowers, looking a bit like dill weed. Fresh fennel is known for its highly aromatic properties, smelling a bit like anise, but with warm and woody undertones. The peak growing season for fennel is autumn and winter.

Fennel is recognized by its white bulb and long green stalks. It is related to other stalk vegetables, such as celery and parsnips. The entire fennel plant is edible, including the bulb, seeds, stalk and leaves.

The bulb can be chopped and added to salads, slaws, pasta dishes and more. It adds a crisp and crunchy texture to any dish and a sweet flavor.

The bulb contains a number of phenolic compounds, including bioflavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, coumarins and hydroxycinnamic acids.

Fennel seeds are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, and they contain a concentrated source of micronutrients. The seeds are also used to make fennel essential oil, first by crushing them and then using a process called steam distillation.

Fennel has been used in many cultures for its medicinal properties. Since the time of Hippocrates, it was used as medicine.

The Romans thought of fennel as a sacred ritual object, and they used it as a digestive stimulant. The Greeks used fennel during their ceremonies because it symbolized pleasure and prosperity, and the ancient Chinese and Egyptians used the vegetable as food and medicine.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to help with a variety of ailments from congestion to helping increase the flow of breast milk. It can also help with stomach upset, insect bites and soothe a sore throat.

In Ayurvedic medicine, it’s used because of its warming properties. It’s thought to help balance all of the body types, including vata, pitta and kapha. It’s considered nourishing to the eyes and brain and known to relieve digestive complaints, like gassiness.

The herbal plant is also used in other traditional systems of medicine, including Unani, Siddha, Indian and Iranian systems. Reports indicate that in traditional medicine, fennel is used to treat a range of ailments, from simple issues like the common cold and cough to more complicated conditions, like cancer, arthritis, colic, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, liver pain and kidney issues.

Nutrition Facts

One average, raw fennel bulb (about 234 grams) contains approximately:

  • 72.5 calories

  • 17.1 grams carbohydrates

  • 2.9 grams protein

  • 0.5 grams fat

  • 7.3 grams fiber

  • 28.1 milligrams vitamin C (47 percent DV)

  • 969 milligrams potassium (28 percent DV)

  • 0.4 milligrams manganese (22 percent DV)

  • 63.2 micrograms folate (16 percent DV)

  • 117 milligrams phosphorus (12 percent DV)

  • 115 milligrams calcium (11 percent DV)

  • 39.8 milligrams magnesium (10 percent DV)

  • 1.7 milligrams iron (9 percent DV)

  • 0.2 milligrams copper (8 percent DV)

  • 1.5 milligrams niacin (7 percent Dv)

  • 314 international units vitamin A (6 percent DV)

  • 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)

  • 0.5 milligrams pantothenic acid (5 percent DV)

  • 0.1 milligrams riboflavin (4 percent DV)

Fennel Benefits

1. Boosts Bone Health

Due to the calcium content, fennel can help maintain bone strength and health. One cup of fennel contains about 43 milligrams of calcium, which can be helpful for those who don’t cook with enough foods high in the nutrient and may have a calcium deficiency.

Research shows that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources increases your bone mineral density.

Calcium isn’t the only bone-strengthening nutrient found in the bulb. Fennel also contains magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K, which all play a role in maintaining bone strength.

2. Improves Skin Health

Fennel is high in vitamin C, providing almost half of the recommended daily allowance in just one bulb. This nutrient is a potent antioxidant that may help reduce the free radical damage that can lead to premature aging.

Research suggests that ascorbic acid is also necessary for the formation of collagen and a powerful tool in protecting skin’s appearance, making it an excellent choice to naturally slow aging. A deficiency in it is called scurvy, which manifests in the inability to properly form collagen, leading to bleeding gums and bleeding below the skin.

Due to these functions, adequate intakes of ascorbic acid are critical for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and maintaining healthy skin. The RDA is 60 milligrams per day, and consuming more of it from whole food sources, like fresh fennel, will help keep your skin healthy from the inside out.

3. Lowers Blood Pressure

Fennel can help lower blood pressure and inflammation due to its high potassium content and low sodium content. Potassium works against sodium, helping fight high blood pressure in the body.

Eating a diet that includes healthy potassium foods can reduce systolic blood pressure significantly when compared to a high-sodium diet. However, don’t expect lower blood pressure overnight. It takes about four weeks of consuming a high-potassium diet to see a drop in blood pressure.

4. Aids Digestion

Fennel is included in the GAPS diet because of its ability to ease digestion. Since fennel contains seven grams of dietary fiber, it can help maintain a healthy digestive system.

The muscles in the digestive system need foods like fennel to provide bulk for the gastrointestinal muscles to push against and increase motility or movement. Because digestive problems like constipation and IBS are so common in adults, fennel makes a great addition to any diet.

Additionally, fiber acts like a small brush as it moves through the digestive system, clearing the colon of toxins that could potentially cause colon cancer. Fennel itself can act like a laxative, helping with elimination of toxins.

Research published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition indicates that fennel has a substantial body of data to support its digestion-enhancing activities. Researchers also point out ginger, peppermint, citrus fruits, dandelion and chamomile for their ability to aid digestion as well.

It is also common in certain cultures to chew fennel seeds after meals to help digestion and eliminate bad breath. Some of the oils found in fennel help stimulate the secretion of digestive juices.

Fennel may also be beneficial for people with acid reflux. Adding it to your diet can help balance the pH level within your body, especially within your stomach, and can reduce reflux after meals.

5. Increases Satiety

Fiber contains no calories but provides bulk, thereby increasing satiety. Humans do not have the enzymes required to break down fibrous foods — therefore it cannot be absorbed as calories.

Studies show that diets high in fiber can help people effectively lose weight. A 2001 study found that participants who added 14 grams per day to their diets, without changing anything else, ate approximately 10 percent fewer calories per day and lost about four pounds over a period of four months.

Adding fennel to your diet may be a simple way to effortlessly feel more satisfied and possibly experience weight loss.

6. Improves Colic

Infant colic, although a relatively benign medical condition, can have a significant impact on new parents.

Fennel oil has been shown to reduce pain and increase motility in the small intestine, making it can excellent natural remedy for colic. It also helps calm the infant and reduce abdominal distension.

In a 2003 study, researchers compared fennel oil with a placebo in 125 infants. The group treated with fennel was reported to have 65 percent less colic, measured by crying episodes, than those in the control group with no side effects.

Although this research may be promising and many desperate parents may want to run out and get some fennel, there is not an established safe dose for infants at this time. The safest way to use it to treat infant colic is for a breastfeeding mother to drink fennel tea.

7. Helps Prevent Cancer

Fennel has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to help treat inflammatory conditions such as insect bites or sore throat. Its ability to decrease inflammation led researchers to