Benefits Of Fennel



Fennel is a versatile vegetable that plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, especially in France and Italy. Its esteemed reputation dates back to the earliest times and is reflected in its mythological traditions. Greek myths state that fennel was not only closely associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of food and wine, but that a fennel stalk carried the coal that passed down knowledge from the gods to men.

Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace. Fennel's texture is similar to that of celery, having a crunchy and striated texture.

Nutritional Benefits

Fennel provides an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber.  It is also a very good source of folic acid and phosphorous.  In addition, fennel is a good soucre of iron, calcium, magnesium, molybdenum, and manganese. Fennel is usually consumed for its medicinal effects.  Herbalists refer to fennel as an intestinal antispasmodic that relieves intestinal spasms or cramps,  a carminative that relieves or expels gas, a stomachic that tones and strengthens the stomach, and an anodyne that relieves or soothes pain.   Studies are being done to evaluate whether fennel extract is effective in the treatment of idiopathic hirsutism, which is the occurence of excessive male-pattern hair growth in women who have a normal ovulatory menstual cycle and normal levels of serum androgens.  Fennel also contains large amounts of  anticancer coumarin compounds, such as anethole, which is the primary component of its volatile oi.

Health Benefits

Unique Phytonutrients with Antioxidant and Health-Promoting Effects
Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel extracts compare favorably in research studies to BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. This mechanism involves the shutting down of a intercellular signaling system called tumor necrosis factor (or TNF)-mediated signaling. By shutting down this signaling process, the anethole in fennel prevents activation of a potentially strong gene-altering and inflammation-triggering molecule called NF-kappaB. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.

Antioxidant Protection and Immune Support from Vitamin C
In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body. If left unchecked, these free radicals cause cellular damage that results in the pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.

Fiber, Folate and Potassium for Cardiovascular and Colon Health
As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. At high levels, homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls, is considered a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack. In a cup of fennel, you'll receive 10.8% of the daily value for fiber, 5.9% of the DV for folate, and 10.3% of the DV for potassium.

Consumption Tips

Fennel bulb is used as vegetable to add flavors to various dishes, particularly in salads, stews, and soups. Its blanched bulb has a unique aroma and a light, sweet, subtle licorice taste. The bulbs are one of the favorite winter season vegetables in whole of France and Italy.

To prepare, trim off the base as you do in onions. Cut away top leafy stalks just above the bulb. Remove tough outer one to two layers, as they are stringy and unappetizing or use them to prepare vegetable stock. Then the clear white bulb may be cut into cubes, sticks, or slices to add in recipes.

Here are some serving tips:
  • Thinly sliced raw finochhio is eaten alone, served with dip, or added to vegetable salads (fenoci in salata).
  • It can be steamed, braised, or sautéing and added in variety of dishes.
  • Fenecchìjdde, is a popular Christmas eve soup in Apulia region of southern Italy.
  • Fennel bulb can be added to flavor meat, fish, pork, and poultry recipes.


Side effects have been known to be present in the use of certain fennel based herbal products, for example, contact dermatitis may be triggered in some individuals by the oil found in the fennel herb - at the same time, incidences of allergic skin reactions to the herb have not been reported in large numbers and this type of side effect rarely occurs. A peculiar type of skin condition known as photo-dermatitis, which is a form of allergic rash that appears on the skin after eating the herb and then being exposed to direct sunlight - this form of side effect is experienced by a few individuals from time to time, whenever they consume fennel based herbal products. Problems such as sudden feelings of nausea, a sudden need to vomit, seizures, and even pulmonary edema are known to be induced by the oil of the fennel; this oil must never be used in cooking or in any food preparations to avoid this potential health hazard.

The safety of the foliage and the whole seeds is guaranteed and these parts of the herb find wide usage in many culinary preparations and cuisines of different European countries. Pregnant women must avoid consuming a lot of fennel in their meal as the herb has a potential estrogenic effect-it is thought to be a phyto-estrogenic herb, or an herb that mimics the action of the hormone estrogen in the body. As far as products such as fennel honey and fennel syrup are concerned, it is suggested that any diabetics who are using such herbal products consider the sugar content in these commercial preparations before consuming them - this is not directly linked to the herb itself but excess sugar can cause problems to diabetics.
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