In a recent column, you stated that fennel tea is good for gas and bloating. I’ve seen it as a vegetable in my grocery store, but how do I make it into a tea, and what else is it good for?”
–H.S., Crystal River, Florida
Answer: I believe that fennel can ease gas, stomach cramping, spasms, bloating and other irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, although eliminating food allergies may be the ultimate cure. One reason fennel works so well is because it stimulates the production of bile which helps you digest food, particularly fats.
Fennel is nutritionally packed. It contains calcium, iron, B vitamins and lots of vitamin C, folic acid and carotenes. It should not surprise you with this type of make-up, fennel can do so much more than soothe your tummy.
A compound in fennel called “anethole” suppresses high levels of an inflammatory chemical called “TNF alpha” and this means that it could relieve pain if consumed regularly; Maybe it could help you with arthritis, fibromyalgia or any TNF-driven pain syndrome.
Carotenoids, anetholes, vitamin C and rutin are a few powerful antioxidants in fennel; these may support your immune system and reduce your risk of cancer and dangerous infections. Fennel may also reduce the frequency of asthma attacks or allergic reactions.
Fennel contains some antioxidants including “caffeoylquinic acids” which according to studies may prevent or reduce the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
The active compounds in fennel have a mild estrogen-like activity and it may promote milk production (lactation) or improve libido. Do not use if pregnant.
Fennel has mild diuretic properties so it may be able to lower blood pressure; it is also a mild appetite suppressant. That combo is a slam dunk if you want to lose a little weight.
Fennel is available in the produce section of most grocery stores. Fennel belongs to the same class of vegetables as celery, and looks very similar with its big white bulb at the bottom and long green stalks. It imparts the flavor of anise, and is the basis for licorice. Fennel herb is often added to soups and vegetable recipes. You just chop it and use it in your soup, or stir-fry. You can also buy ready-made tea bags of fennel, or steep your own. To do that, buy fennel seeds and steep them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Strain and add honey if desired. This is morning tea because it makes you more alert and in many people, it acts as a mild diuretic.
Like many potent herbs (and medications) there are safety considerations. Don’t supplement with excessive amounts of fennel because it may cause bizarre psychiatric problems (even hallucinations) and also, it can injure muscle tissue. Fennel should be avoided in pregnancy because it can stimulate uterine contractions.
Did You Know?
Supplements of vitamin K2 may be helpful if you have osteoporosis but ask your doctor because it affects your blood thinning capabilities.