With its distinctive aroma and licorice-like taste, fennel is a popular spice used in cooking, teas, and also for medicinal purposes.
It can be added to dozens of foods, like breads, sauteed vegetables, or salads, and chewed after meals as a breath-freshener.
But its usefulness doesn’t end there – according to numerous studies, fennel has many health benefits as well.
The use of fennel dates back to ancient times, according to wellness advocates, and is now used for soothing digestive troubles, and easing the symptoms of PMS.
Here are some of the lesser known therapeutic functions of this common spice:
1. Anti-Aging Properties
Fennel, as a natural source of B vitamins, is a natural skin care aid. B vitamins, along with vitamin C, are necessary for maintaining great skin, promoting collagen synthesis and keeping the skin tight and firm as you age.
A 2012 study published in the German journal Die Pharmazie examined the in vivo anti-aging effects that cream containing fennel could have on the skin.
“The formulation and base were evaluated for effect on skin moisture and transepidermal water loss, or TEWL,” the study authors explained.
“The formulation showed significant effects on skin moisture and TEWL… The texture parameter energy showed a significant increase proving that the formulation possesses potential anti-aging effects.”(1)
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
Fennel contains a natural anti-inflammatory phytonutrient called anethole, which is known to have anti-cancer properties. A 2012 study in the journal Nutrition And Cancer found that anethole as shown to reduce gene-altering inflammation and control cancer-signalling molecules known as tumour necrosis factor, or TNF(2).
The study was positive about the potential for these so-called “neutraceuticals” and their cancer-fighting abilities:
“Although they have always been used to improve taste and colour and as a preservative, they are now also used for prevention and treatment of a wide variety of chronic inflammatory diseases, including cancer,” the study authors wrote.
In addition to this, diets rich in fibre are associated with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer, making fennel a smart choice to add extra fibre to your diet.
3. Soothing Colicky Babies
There is evidence that fennel may act as a carminative – a substance that prevents the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. Because fennel is so safe to eat, even in large amounts, and is gentle on the digestive system, fennel tea may be used to help sooth colicky babies who just can’t seem to get to sleep.
In 2003, a study in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health And Medicine found that fennel oil emulsion was effective in eliminating colic in 65 percent of the infants in the study’s treatment group(3).
4. Relieving Menstrual Cramps
While most women manage menstrual cramps with over-the-counter medication, diet, and exercise, studies show that they may be overlooking a potentially important tool in the struggle with more severe menstrual symptoms – fennel.
A 2012 study published in the journal Ayurveda found that fennel extract capsules, when administered four times a day, could alleviate menstrual pain(4).
However, fennel for menstrual cramps should be handled with care – it works because it’s an antispasmodic, which causes muscle relaxation and can also significantly increase your menstrual flow. If you have a history of excessive menstrual bleeding, it’s important to consult your doctor before taking fennel supplements – just as you would before beginning a course of any medication.
5. Helps With Weight Management
Fennel can be used as a natural appetite suppressant – it’s a great source of dietary fibre, and boosts your metabolism while reducing water retention, all of which is a perfect recipe for weight loss.
According to a 2006 study from the Journal Of Animal Physiology And Animal Nutrition, fennel helps dissolve fat deposits in the bloodstream, allowing them to be used as an energy source instead of stored in the body(5).
6. Preventing Osteoporosis
Eating fennel seeds can have a beneficial effect on bone density, according to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine(6).
It works by reducing the number of cells that can break down weakened bones, protecting bones from the damaging effects of age.
The next time you’re in the supermarket looking to spice up your meals, consider grabbing a bottle of fennel – their distinctive flavor makes them a great addition to baked foods like bread and cakes, and now you know that they can also have a real impact on your health as well!