Fennel is native to the Mediterranean where it was cultivated by the ancient Romans and is now one of the most important herb crops in Europe. It was also well known to the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese for its aromatic fruits and succulent, edible shoots & root. In medieval times, Fennel was used with St. John’s Wort to protect one from witchcraft as bundles were hung over doors on Midsummer’s Eve to warn off evil spirits. The young shoots and root were eaten as a vegetable and the seeds used as a condiment. The tea made from the seed was given for respiratory and digestive complaints and applied as a wash for the skin and the eyes.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare in Latin means “little hay”) is a beautiful, graceful, perennial popular in herb gardens and often used as an ornamental . Easy to grow by seed, fennel will thrive most anywhere. It has a thick, edible root-stock, stout stems growing to 4 to 5 feet or more with finely cut delicate leaves. Bright golden flowers, produced in umbels bloom in July and August are followed by seeds in early fall.
Fennel is used today much as it has been for thousands of years. As a respiratory tonic, it acts as an antispasmodic having a calming effect on asthma, coughs and bronchitis. Great for colds and flu Fennel reduces fevers and eases sore throats, aches & pains. Fennel has a mild estrogenic effect helping to promote menstruation and stimulates breast milk production for mothers. Great for the digestion system, Fennel relaxes the smooth muscles of the stomach reducing inflammation and strengthening the appetite. It is used for reducing flatulence (gas)and calming Colic, Crohn’s disease, indigestion, vomiting, motion sickness and food poisoning. For the eyes and skin, a wash can be made from the tea and applied as compresses to reduce inflammation for dermatitis and conjunctivitis.
Fennel seed is used as a tasty licorice-flavored tea, as a wash and in cooking to flavor meats and baked goods. The essential oil is also used , but not undiluted, use in a carrier oil (olive, almond, grape seed oil, etc.). This herb should be used for a short period of time, around 2 weeks at a time and not for intended long term use. Large quantities should be avoided, especially by pregnant woman and woman with estrogenic-sensitive disorders (breast or uterine cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts). Anyone with a history of liver disease, hepatitis, alcoholism and diabetics should avoid the use of Fennel. Fennel may interfere with some antibiotics, and strengthen the effects of others.
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