All you need to know about Fennel Seeds
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is called saunf in Hindi, Perumjeerakam in Malayalam and used as refreshments/condiment all over India. We Indians eat fennel seeds after meals which helps in digesting food, bad odour and in many ways. It simply has become a habit to put a pinch of ‘saunf’ post meals.
Not only post meals; but it’s an integral part of every household’s spice-box. Fennel seeds enhance the flavour and aroma of many dishes be it sweet, savoury or spicy.
Fennel seeds contain healing essential oils that release the moment you grind, chew, or crush them. These oils can have a positive impact on your digestive system. This has to do with the fact that the seeds contain. Just like anise – the essential oil anethole, plus another compound known as fenchone.
We can grow them ourselves. Seeds are always a better option as proper chewing excretes the juice and extract well.
Fennel is grown from seed. Directly sow Fennel seeds into your garden as early in the season as the ground can be worked. Sow seeds early in the season and cover with 1/4″ of soil. Space seedlings or thin plants to 10-12″ apart, in rows 18-24 inches apart. Start a new planting in mid-summer to harvest in the Autumn.
A brief history of Fennel seeds:
Fennel’s history dates back to Pliny (AD 23-79), the Roman author of The Naturalis Historie. He believed that serpents ate and rubbed against fennel because it was able to improve their eyesight after shedding their skins.
Fennel is an ancient seasonal herb. The fennel plant originated in the southern Mediterranean region and through naturalization and cultivation, it grew wild throughout the Northern, Eastern, and Western hemispheres, specifically in Asia, North America, and Europe. It is cultivated in fields and also grows wild. Of course, the wild Fennel; which is grown on its own, is considered better. Generally, most herbs or fruits/vegetables are naturally packed with lots of nutrients, minerals and fibres.
Fennel is another herb with a history of medicinal, magical and culinary uses. Fennel was used by the ancient
Egyptians as a food and medicine, and was considered a snake bite remedy in ancient China. During the Middle ages, it was hung over doorways to drive away evil spirits.
Fennel is also associated with the origin of the marathon. Ancient Athenian Pheidippides carried a fennel stalk on his 150 miles, 2 days run to Sparta to gather soldiers for the battle of Marathon with Persia in 490 B.C. The battle itself was also reportedly waged on a field of fennel.
But do you know how even the pinch of Fennel is useful and medicinal?
- These cute little seeds taste similar to liquorice and are packed with nutrients. A tablespoon of (around 6 gms) Fennel seeds has 19.8 calories, 2.3 grams fibre, 3 gms of carbohydrates, 0.9 grams of protein, 0.6 grams of fat and 0 grams of cholesterol!
- Chewing Fennel seeds help in increasing the level of nitrite in saliva which keeps an eye on blood pressure levels. They’re also rich in potassium which helps in balancing the blood pressure and the heart-rate.
- Regular consumption of Fennel seeds provides an abundant source of minerals naturally which include zinc, calcium and selenium. These minerals help in regulating hormones and maintain the oxygen balance in the bloodstream. They also help in purifying blood and are used in the skin-care regime. Applying the paste of Fennel seeds on your skin makes it clear, moisturised and healthy.
- Fennel seeds are also helpful in weight-loss preventing water retention and lowering the appetite. It works wonders in bloating, IBS and constipation as well.
- These tiny seeds are high in antioxidants and contain powerful, free radical scavenging properties. They help in neutralising the free radicals that are responsible for developing cancer.
- Fennel seeds have antibacterial properties. Studies show that fennel extracts help in preventing the growth of potentially harmful bacterias and yeasts like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.
- Fennel seeds/extracts also help in ageing-related memory deficits.
Although, overconsumption of Fennel seeds can lead to seizures and due to the estrogenic effect, can be toxic for pregnant women.
Fennel may interact with certain medications, including estrogen pills and certain cancer medications, so consulting a healthcare provider before using high doses in supplement, essential oil, or extract form would be better.