Fennel is one of those plants that has been used by mankind, for a very long time. The bulb, leaves, and seeds of this plant are used for culinary purposes. Even the flowers are useful as fennel pollen is highly prized, due to its potency. Fennel bulbs are crispy and hardy with a fresh flavor, and is used as a root vegetable. The foliage, which is similar to that of dill, is used for enhancing the flavor of dishes. Fennel seeds, the most widely used part of the plant, is an indispensable ingredient in various food recipes. Apart from the culinary uses, these seeds are also used as a herbal remedy for certain health problems.
What are the Health Benefits of Fennel Seeds?
As mentioned above, these seeds are widely for both culinary as well as medicinal purposes. They have a flavor that resembles licorice and anise seeds, and are mainly used as a flavoring agent. Studies show that the active ingredient in fennel, called anethole, is responsible for most of its health benefits. It is said that anethole acts like phytoestrogens. Fennel seeds are mainly used as a remedy for gastrointestinal problems, like bloating, stomach pain, and indigestion. These seeds are also used for stimulating appetite and relieving colic in babies. It is said that, consumption of fennel seeds is beneficial for improving eyesight. Fennel seed tea is also used as an eyewash.
Fennel seeds is one of the age-old remedies for improving lactation in nursing mothers. It is also said to be effective in lowering high blood pressure, and for treating cough and respiratory infections. These seeds are used for loosening accumulated phlegm. Intake of fennel seeds may cause increased menstrual flow. Nowadays, fennel seed tea is used in some weight loss programs too.
Side Effects of Fennel Seeds
These seeds are safe for humans, if used in nominal amounts. However, fennel (seeds, oil, or extract) may sometimes cause side effects; if used in excessive amounts, that too for a long term. If you are using it for medicinal purposes, make sure that you stick to the dosage and treatment duration, as prescribed by a qualified herbal practitioner.
- Fennel seeds may trigger allergic reactions in some people. Such reactions may include photodermatitis, a skin rash that develops as a result of sunlight exposure, after consuming the seeds. Those who are allergic to carrots and dill, develop such reactions.
- Some people, especially those with a sensitive skin, may develop contact dermatitis, as they come in contact with fennel essential oil. Fennel oil should never be ingested, as it can cause nausea, vomiting, and even seizures.
- Another possible side effect is thelarche or premature breast development in babies. This is said to be caused by excessive use of fennel tea or other preparations with fennel seeds.
- Excess use of fennel is not at all advisable during pregnancy, as it is a uterine stimulant. However, it is used for increasing lactation; in nursing mothers.
- Fennel seeds may also interact with certain drugs, like those which are used for treating epilepsy. Even those with epilepsy may sometimes develop seizures, after using these seeds.
- There are speculations that excessive use of fennel, along with certain other herbs and spices, like anise, star anise, basil, tarragon, lemon grass, Jamaica pepper, and nutmeg; may increase the risk of certain forms of cancer.