Foeniculum vulgare

Plant family: Apiaceae aka Umbelliferae (Carrot family)

Part used: fruit (aka seed)

Taste: sweet, aromatic

Historical commentary: The ancient Greeks gave fennel to their Olympic competitors to increase their strength while preventing them from putting on weight. The Greek name for fennel is marathon, which had the connotation of promoting weight loss.


Digestive aid: relieves gas and bloating (carminative), improves appetite and alleviates gastric insufficiency and distress (stomachic), promotes the flow of bile (cholagogue; promotes digestion of fats; may help alleviate fullness and constipation). It has mild laxative action (promoting gastro-intestinal motility). Note: in Europe, fennel is mainly used as a digestive aid, often in combination with peppermint.

Phlegm-resolving: The seeds are used for cough with difficult to expectorate sputum (e.g., with common cold, bronchitis, chronic sputum production).

Antispasmodic: alleviates intestinal cramping; used for colic in infants.

Diuretic: in large doses, taken as a cool tea, fennel promotes urination; may reduce edema.

Galactagogue: increases milk production in nursing mothers.

Improves eye sight: regular use is said to improve visual acuity.

Modern findings: The herb has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions; it has antioxidant activity, promoting the production of glutathione; the oil of the seed is estrogenic.

Dosage: 5-7 grams; lesser amounts are adequate for digestive effects, full dosage suggested for other effects.

Active constituents: Anethole (with sweet taste) is the main ingredient (60% or more) of the essential oil, followed by fenchone (with bitter taste; about 15%); it also contains up to 5% estragole. The oil is deemed responsible for the medicinal effects; anethone is also the main ingredient is found in anise seed, a lose botanical relative.

Cautions: Some individuals may have an allergy reaction. Prolonged daily use (for many weeks) at the full dosage is not recommended, due to estrogenic activity; the lower dosage used for digestion promoting action (about 1 gram per day) can be used regularly without this effect.

Künzle Formulas: Tea for Digestion, Laxative Tea, Slimming Tea.