What is Fennel?
Most of us just know the fennel as an additional kitchen ingredient.
However, the value of fennel goes beyond just adding some flavor to your dish.
Considering the fact that we live in the age of lifestyle diseases, the nutritional benefits of fennel may just be what you require to add some value to your health.
The increase of lifestyle-related diseases in this age has been associated with the neglect of traditional foods and medication.
Fennel is one of the foods that were used from early ages both as food and medication.
Before we get into the details of what fennel can do for you and what it cannot, let’s look what the fennel is and where it originated from.
Fennel has a bulb that has a mild distinctive licorice flavor.
Most of us know it by name and appearance since it is easily available in the market and is popularly referred to as fennel.
It has a bulbous bottom with a white stalk and green leaves.
Fennel originated in South Europe but gained wide usage in Asia especially India due to its medicinal value.
The fennel still grows as a wild crop in some parts of the world especially Europe and the Mediterranean.
However, it is grown on commercial scale in India, France, Russia and the U.S. Its appearance is similar to that of carrot tops but the root is bulbous and fairly pale green in color.
Over the years, the uses of fennel have been explored in different areas leading to the discovery of many benefits of the herb.
Today, fennel is used to make fennel essential oil that carries most of the herb’s health benefits.
Fennel is also served as food, used to cook and used to make fennel tea.
Fennel oil helps in providing relief to stomach upsets and fennel tea is believed to be useful for countering snake bites.
It is also used to soothe sore throats and treat food poisoning.
Fennel is now a popular culinary additive in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines.
It is used mainly to serve alongside meat and potatoes in different recipes.
A simple recipe you can try at home is to chop fennel into matchstick-size slices.
Mix the slices with vegetable salad and steam. Add the salad to soup or casseroles.
You can also combine the leaves with rice or pasta.
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Fennel Nutritional Content
The nutritional value of fennel goes beyond your normal kitchen additive.
Being a natural herb, fennel has been found to hold some of the key nutritional components required by the human body.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one raw fennel should weigh approximately 234 grams.
Further distribution of the nutritional content reveals that of the 234 grams, 73 grams are calories, 0.47 grams are fats, 2.9 grams are proteins, 17 grams are carbohydrates, and 73 grams is dietary fiber.
This means that the herb does not hold any cholesterol hence giving the fennel oil a clean bill of right.
The components contained in a cup of fennel include; 360 mg of potassium, 45 mg of sodium, 838 units of Vitamin A, 43 mg of calcium, 10.4 mg of vitamin C, 0.64 mg of iron, 0.042 mg of Vitamin B-6 and 15 mg of magnesium.
The other minerals of importance contained within fennel include zinc, copper, phosphorous, choline, niacin, selenium, carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, and manganese.
It is also a natural source of estrogen and dietary nitrates.
Fennel Dietary Tips
All the parts of fennel can be eaten.The root holds a crunchy texture with a sweet flavor making it an excellent addition to any meal.
It can be eaten in both cooked and raw forms. Its seeds can be eaten directly or used as a condiment in some recipes.
When shopping for fennel, always look for bulbs that are firm and pale green to white in color.
Any spotted or bruised fennel may be rotten or infested by pests.
The stalks should be green and the leaves should look healthy in deep green.
Fennel usually gets spoiled very fast. They will lose their flavor over time if not well stored.
You can store your fresh fennel in the fridge to last for an up to 4 days while fresh.
On the other hand, the fennel seeds can last up to a half a year under normal room temperature when dried.
Please note that the seeds should only be kept after drying, otherwise they may grow mold.
They should also be kept in a cool dry place where they are not in contact with moisture.
If exposed to moisture, they may start germinating.
To prepare your fennel, simply cut off the stalks at the base where they sprout so that you are left with the bulb.
Slice the bulb either vertically or horizontally. Use the stalks and the leave cut off to make soup stock.
For the sliced fennel bulb, you can serve alongside your favorite dish or eat them as a snack.
They are best when served alongside vegetables to form a tasty salad.
Fennel is actually known to add taste to vegetable salads.
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Fennel tea is one of the most popular ways of consuming fennel. It is loved among weight loss enthusiasts because of its fat burning properties.
It is also loved because it is efficient in warming the body on a cold day.
Fennel tea holds all the nutritional value of fennel when prepared in the right manner.
The tea is easy to prepare and can be done in just a few minutes.
You can make fennel tea either by using fennel leaves, stalks, leaves or the fennel bulb.
Here are some of the ways you can brew fennel tea.
How To Make Fennel Tea
Using Fennel Seeds
Crush approximately one teaspoon of the seeds using a motor and pestle.
This will help release the herb’s aroma and most of the essential oils.
Scoop the crushed seeds and place them in a tea strainer and pour a cup hot water over them.
Let them steep in the water for about 7 minutes and then remove the strainer.
Top up with little water and add any sweetener to your tea.
Using Fennel Leaves
The leaves you use in this case must be fresh. Simply start by pulling some fine green leaves off the bulb and rinse them well.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the leaves in a saucepan. Let them steep for 15 minutes.
Remove the leaves and top up the water.
Using The Fennel Bulb
Cut a clean bulb into small pieces. Add them to a tea strainer and pour boiling water over the top.
Allow them to steep for about 15 minutes. Remove the strainer and top up with hot water. Add a sweetener.
Apart from the known culinary uses, fennel is loved because of their health benefits.
You can enjoy the nutritional value of fennel by simply using it in your cooking, making fennel tea or using fennel essential oil.
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Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel oil is basically made from fennel seeds. This oil holds a lot of nutritional benefits although most people do not know how to use it.
- Here are the most common uses of fennel essential oil.
- Rub it over your stomach or feet to ease menstrual discomfort.
- You can put just a drop on your tongue to fight sweet tooth craving.
- Add to deserts to obtain some sweet flavor.
- Add a drop or 2 to warm water and drink to deal with stomach upsets.
- put a drop on your palms and close it over your nose to control anxiety.
Fennel Health Benefits
Fennel Improves Digestion
Digestive problems have been there since time immemorial. The use of fennel to cure digestive problems did not start today.
The carminate effects of the herb are important in preventing the formation of stomach gas.
If you have a problem with stomach gas, you can simply make fennel apart of your daily diet.
This means that the herb can also be used to prevent bloating and cramping.
The herb holds vitamins A and E which are essential in building up worn out tissues.
Use of fennel oils or tea can help rebuild worn out tissues and hence resolving stomach injury issues.
Fennel Boosts Immunity
The human body is under constant threat of attack by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
The use of fennel has been proved as an effective way of countering various infection.
The herb holds antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial effects which make it an effective shield against infections.
It has been used to protect against flu before they attack.
Once you see people around you getting attacked flu, simply brew a cup of fennel tea to protect yourself.
You can do this every morning until there is no danger of infection.
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Fennel for Weight Loss
One of the most popular benefits of fennel is its effect on weight.
There are many ways in which fennel works to help you shed off weight.
First, the use of fennel boosts the functioning of the liver and kidney.
You will find yourself discharging more urine than normal.
Urination helps you eliminate bloating due to water retention. Secondly, fennel boosts your metabolic activities.
As a metabolism booster, the herb helps your body burn fats faster.
This will make you lose more weight during your exercise activities.
The herb also holds hormone regulating properties that make it control your appetite.
Most overweight people are simply unable to avoid eating because of hormonal imbalances.
The herb helps you get in control of your hormones and as a result, reduce your eating.
Fennel Detoxifies the Body
Detoxifying the body is a process through which all the toxins are flushed out.
This helps in boosting the body’s immunity, streamlining the digestive system and enhancing liver and kidney health.
Fennel forms one of the best detoxifying agents because they are natural.
Unlike most detox agents, the fennel does not hold synthetic chemicals.
The detoxification done by fennel is enhanced through urination.
The herb helps you clean your system by flushing out more urine than normal.
This helps flush out unwanted toxins from the body.
The fennel works as a diuretic to keep the blood clean and as a result keeping your liver, kidney, and gallbladder clean.
It reduces your chances of getting kidney stones and other toxin-induced infections.
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Fennel Anti-Spasmodic Effects
Fennel has anti-inflammatory properties that are key to soothing pain.
When you start feeling stomach grumbles, simply prepare a cup of fennel tea.
The tea has been proven to help reduce spasms due to fennel’s anti-spasm properties.
It can also bring the same soothing feeling to the gut and other parts of your body and hence reducing stress.
Fennel Balances Hormones
One of the properties of fennel is the provision of dietary estrogen.
The estrogen is very important in protecting the female menstrual health.
The herb helps in alleviating mood swings due to hormonal imbalances during menstruation.
It also alleviates other symptoms of menstruation such as cramping.
The herb is also used in increasing libido in women as well as stimulating the production of breast milk for lactating mothers.
Fennel Reduces Inflammation
Fennel just like most of the natural herbs holds anti-inflammatory compounds.
This means that it can be used to manage inflammation-induced diseases such as gout and arthritis.
You can get muscle and joint pain relief by simply rubbing a drop of funnel oil at the spot.
Even injuries obtained during physical workouts can be relieved by the use of fennel.
You can also brew fennel tea every time you feel some fatigue and muscle strain.
Fennel Protects the Eyes
In ancient China, it was believed that snakes rub their eyes on fennel after shading off their skin to regain their eyesight.
This has now been proven by the use of fennel to boost eyesight in humans.
The antibacterial properties of the fennel herb are used to protect the eyes from infections.
Secondly, the anti-inflammation properties of the fennel are used to reduce puffiness of the eyes.
The use of fennel tea is popular among ladies who what to obtain firm eyes.
Fennel Lowers Blood Pressure
One of the major components of fennel is potassium. This mineral is essential for boosting various cardiovascular activities.
It is a vasodilator- it reduces tension on veins and arteries hence enhancing the flow of the blood.
The use of fennel can, therefore, boost the health of the heart as a whole and help prevent the occurrence of blood clots, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other cardiovascular conditions.
This also helps you reduce your chance of having a heart attack.
Fennel Eliminates Bad Breath
The fennel has the same compounds as anise seed. This makes it good for the removal of bad breath.
It also holds antibacterial properties. It is the action of bacteria in your mouth that leads to bad breath.
Simply by mixing fennel with your meal, you get rid of any bad breath.
It is advisable to use fennel rich salads when enjoying a dish that is rich in meat products.
Fish and meat have a tendency of forming a chronic smell in the mouth after the meal.
You can use fennel to get rid of that small.
Fennel Relieves Respiratory Distress
When you have congested digestive system fennel tea or oil can help.
Actually, by simply rubbing a drop of fennel oil on your belly, you get to resolve the digestive problems.
The fennel holds expectorant properties. This means that when taking fennel tea, you get to clean your digestion system of excess mucus and phlegm where the infectious pathogens reside.
Because of the anti-inflammatory properties, fennel helps in soothing the stomach and relieving the gut.
The use of fennel tea is advisable when you are experiencing stomach congestion, indigestion, constipation and stomach gas.
How to Select and Store Fennel
As already stated, fennel can be consumed in three main ways; alongside food, brewed in tea or as oil.
The use of fennel as food is the one that requires careful selection.
Fennel can be bought in almost any grocery store and some supermarkets.
When buying, only go for the firm fresh ones with a white bulb and green leaves.
The use of organically grown foods is encouraged by most doctors.
Fennel is among the few foods that are grown organically or grow naturally in the world.
If you can find a local organic grower who sells fennel it would be better.
If you are not lucky enough, just buy from a reliable grocery store or supermarket.
Always remember that the herb is only sweet while still fresh. Don’t buy fennel with dried leaves or bruised bulb.
After staying in the fridge for a long time, fennel may lose their taste. It is better to find a supplier that brings in fresh fennel each day.
Side Effects of Fennel
The fennel is a flavored herb and can be consumed alongside any food.
However, if taken in excess, you may experience side effects. When it comes to the fennel oil, it is very important to avoid direct ingestion of the oil in large quantities.
You should only do so under the instructions of a doctor. The Use of fennel tea should also be limited.
It is advisable to stick to a maximum of two cups per day.
The side effects that may be experienced are also related to various health conditions.
If you are on medication for whatever reason, avoid taking fennel tea or oil unless instructed by the doctor.
Fennel salad can be taken as usual although you need to confirm with your doctor depending on your situation.
May cause allergic Reaction
If you have certain allergies such as those for carrots or celery, you should avoid fennel tea and oil.
Fennel and carrots come from the same botanical family. Chances are that they may cause the same allergic reaction.
Some of the symptoms of fennel allergic reaction include hives, itchiness, and swelling of the skin.
If you were using fennel tea or dish and you experience such reactions, call a doctor.
May react with drugs
Any herbal product holds the risk of reacting to artificial drugs. While the fennel is not an actual drug, it holds a lot of components that may cause a drug reaction.
If you are taking medication of any kind, even painkillers, you need to talk to your doctor about the use of fennel tea or oil.
If you have suffered blood clots before, take fennel tea in small quantities.
If you are a cancer patient, it is advisable to stay away from fennel tea.
This is especially so, for estrogen-dependent patients. Although it is believed that the herb can be used to soothe stomach cramps and vomiting after chemotherapy.
If your doctor allows you to take the tea or the fennel essential oil, then you can use it in the prescribed amounts.
May harm fetus
As an expectant mother, it is for your own good and that of your baby to stay away from anything that has not been prescribed by a doctor.
Fennel is a herbal plant with many components some of which are not known.
While it is not known whether it can be toxic to a fetus, you should not use it without the permission of a doctor.
If you were taking fennel tea before you got pregnant, inform your doctor about it so that you can get the directions on the way forward.
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The fennel has been used for many years for preparing many meals as well as brewing tea.
The fennel has a long history with its origin believed to be in Europe and the Mediterranean.
It was widely used in Asia especially India and China during the early ages.
Today, the fennel is grown on a commercial scale in the U.S France and India among other countries.
It holds essential health and nutritional benefits. The fennel essential oils can be used instead of eating the fennel directly.
The fennel itself can be eaten in either raw or cooked form.
When buying fennel, ensure that you look for healthy ones that have not been bruised.
You should also buy fennel when they are fresh since their test may go away after time.
You can store your fennel in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Use fennel tea and oil in small quantities.
If you are under medication or pregnant, consult your doctor before using fennel oil or tea.