Herb: Sweet Fennel


Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare dulce


Synonyms: Foeniculum dulce


Family: Umbelliferae



Medicinal use of Sweet 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:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
150 cm
(5 feet)

Flovering:
August to
October


Scent:
Scented
Perennial

Habitat of the herb:

Not found in the wild.

Edible parts of Sweet Fennel:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A delicious aniseed flavour, the young leaves are best since older ones soon become tough. They are often used as a garnish on raw or cooked dishes or added to salads. The leaves are difficult to store dried. Leaf stalks and flower heads - raw or cooked. An aniseed flavour. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavouring in cakes, bread, stuffings etc. The sprouted seeds can be added to salads. An essential oil from the seed is used as a food flavouring in similar ways to the whole seed. Root - cooked. The flavour is somewhat parsnip-like. The leaves or the seeds can be used to make a herb tea.

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 Sweet 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 dulce:

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.