Herb: Florence Fennel

Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare azoricum

Synonyms: Foeniculum azoricum

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Florence Fennel:

Fennel is a commonly used household remedy, being useful in the treatment of a variety of complaints, especially those of the digestive system. The seeds, leaves and roots can be used, but the seeds are most active medicinally and are the part normally used. An essential oil is often extracted from the seed for medicinal use, though it should not be given to pregnant women. The plant is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, galactogogue, hallucinogenic, laxative, stimulant and stomachic. Fennel is often added to purgatives in order to allay their tendency to cause gripe, and also to improve the flavour. An infusion of the root is used to treat urinary disorders. An essential oil obtained from the seed is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Normalising". The essential oil is bactericidal, carminative and stimulant. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

August to


Habitat of the herb:

Not found in the wild.

Edible parts of Florence Fennel:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A delicious aniseed flavour, the young leaves are best since older ones become tough. They make a very nice addition to mixed salads. Leaf stalks and stem base - raw, cooked or used as a flavouring in soups etc. A strong, aniseed flavour. They are often blanched before being eaten. Very low in carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Seeds raw or cooked. They have a delicious aniseed flavour and are used as a flavouring in cakes, bread etc. Root - cooked. The flavour is somewhat parsnip-like. A herb tea can be made from the seeds or the leaves.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed yields up to 5% of an essential oil. This is used medicinally, as a food flavouring, in toothpastes, soaps, perfumery, air fresheners etc. The flavour of fennel oil depends upon its two main constituents. "Fenchone" is a bitter tasting element whilst "anethole" has a sweet anise-like flavour. The proportions of these two ingredients varies according to strain and region. Plants growing in the Mediterranean and southern Europe usually have a sweet oil whilst plants growing in central and northern Europe usually produce a more bitter oil. The quality of the oil also depends upon how well the seed has been dried - the oil from fully ripened and dried seeds being much sweeter and more fragrant. The dried plant is an insect repellent, the crushed leaves are effective for keeping dogs free of fleas. The plant was formerly used as a strewing herb. Yellow and brown dyes are obtained from the flowers and leaves combined.

Propagation of Florence Fennel:

Seed - best sown in early spring in situ. Division in March as the new growth appears.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not found in the wild.

Known hazards of Foeniculum vulgare azoricum:

Skin contact with the sap or essential oil is said to cause photo-sensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people. Ingestion of the oil can cause vomiting, seizures and pulmonary oedema.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.