Though native to Europe, especially the Mediterranean region, fennel is today cultivated in many other parts of the world, including North America, Asia, and China. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a perennial plant. The leaves, bulb, and stalk of fennel resemble white celery and are all edible. The seeds are used in herbal medicines and as a spice in cooking. Fennel is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine and has a sweet licorice taste.
Fennel has appeared in European history records for centuries. It grows wild in many parts of the world usually in dry soils upon river-banks or near the sea-coast, particularly on limestone soils. It is cultivated in the south of France, Galicia, Saxony, Russia, India and Persia. The odor of Fennel seed is pleasant and it has a warm, sweet and aromatic taste.
Fennel has a thick bright green root-stock and stout stems. The four to five feet tall plant has a certain beauty about it. The branched leaves bring forth bright golden flowers that blossom in July and early August each having thirteen to twenty rays.
Some enjoy cooking the stems in soups or eating them raw in salads. Some say that eating the peeled stalks helps them sleep.
Fennel has been used to treat digestive ailments since the time of the ancient Egyptians. The presence of terpenoid anethole in fennel is given credit for its ability to calm the gastrointestinal tract and relieve cramps. Often it is mixed with peppermint, caraway, and wormwood to treat indigestion, heartburn, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Fennel has aided many woman with health issues. It will relax the uterus and promote natural breast enhancement. Fennel is also used to treat hormonal imbalance which causes PMS, menopause, and low libido, and to stimulate menstruation and milk production in nursing mothers.
Some have used fennel as a decongestant to loosen phlegm in the bronchial passages. Fennel tea is also effective in some to reduce a persistent cough. To make this tea, crush 1 to 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds into a cup of hot water.
Some believe that fennel has some diuretic effect, and may help reduce a problem with water retention. Fennel for some reduces the appetite and is therefore effective in weight loss.
You can purchase fennel in capsules, as an oil, as seeds, in a tincture, or as a liquid seed extract. Of course, you can also grow it yourself. If you do, don’t plant it in the vicinity of tomatoes or caraway for this will hinder their production. Use 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of the seeds, 2 to 12 drops of the oil, or .5 teaspoons of the liquid daily.
Note these cautions. Pregnant or nursing mothers should not take fennel. Neither give it to small children, or take it for extended time yourself. A few cases of asthmatic and allergic reactions have been reported as well.