Fennels seeds are a must have spice in your pantry that can add flavor and aroma to your dishes. Fennel has been mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon herbal manuscript called the Lacnunga as one of the nine herbs that have powerful health benefits. Having a sweet taste similar to that of anise, fennel seeds are an important spice used extensively in Mediterranean cooking. Although a native to southern Europe, fennel is also grown widely in other parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and Turkey. Fennel seeds or saunf (hindi) are generally used in cooking to impart a lovely aroma and taste but they also have dense nutritional value that makes them an extremely healthy and medicinal herb.
Nutritional value of fennel seeds
In addition to its use in cooking and as a medicinal herb, fennel seeds are a powerhouse of numerous health benefiting nutrients, anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, most of which is insoluble fiber that promotes digestive health. Fennel seeds are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and are a good source of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and B group vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. They also contain high amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. Fennel seeds contain several flavonoid antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol, and numerous essential oil compounds like anethole, anisic aldehyde, chavicol, and pinene, that have strong antioxidant and medicinal properties.
Health benefits of fennel seeds
Fennel seeds play a very important role in Ayurvedic medicine as they have numerous health benefits. Although popularly known as a culinary herb, these seeds have many medicinal properties that make it an effective remedy for several health problems.
Benefits of fennel seeds for your skin
Fennels seeds have been found to have antiseptic properties which help in preventing acne and other skin infections. The powerful antioxidants in them help in preventing cell damage caused by the free radicals, thereby reducing the appearance of aging signs like wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. They are also capable of toning your skin and making it firm, thereby increasing its elasticity and softness. Fennel seeds stimulate blood circulation and also keep your skin supple and well hydrated.
Hair benefits of fennel seeds
Fennel seeds promote the strengthening of hair, thus preventing hair loss. They are also effective in preventing the graying of hair. Fennel seeds tea has been found to be good in hair care. For making this tea, take three teaspoons of fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and crush them. Add the crushed seeds to two cups of boiling water and allow the fennel seeds to steep for about 10 to 15 minutes. To use this tea on your hair, first shampoo and condition your hair. Then wash your scalp and hair with the fennel tea. This is an excellent remedy to prevent hair fall and also to get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp.
Fennels seeds and cancer
As mentioned above, fennel seeds contain good amounts of flavonoid anti-oxidants that help in protecting your body from many kinds of diseases including the deadly cancer. These antioxidants can help in lowering your risk of cancers by destroying the free radicals and thus preventing the oxidative damage to cells and DNA. A tissue culture study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in September 2011, suggested that the antioxidants and other compounds found in fennel seeds may have the power to protect you from certain types of cancer.
Fennel seeds reduce high blood pressure
According to a study published in December 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Science, fennel seeds contain naturally occurring nitrite compounds that are helpful in promoting healthy blood circulation. They also help in dilating your blood vessels, thereby reducing your chances of high blood pressure. Another reason for the anti-hypertensive effect of fennel seeds is the presence of high amounts of potassium that balances the effects of sodium in your body.
Fennel seeds are heart healthy
Fennels seeds are low cholesterol, low fat food that contains plenty of fiber. This dietary fiber along with the high content of antioxidants helps in lowering the bad cholesterol or LDL levels. It has also been found that fennel helps in increasing the good or HDL cholesterol as well. Fennel seeds also contain folates which are found to be effective in suppressing the effects of homocysteine molecules that can cause damage to your artery walls, which in turn can lead to heart attacks and strokes. These qualities along with their anti-hypertensive properties make fennel seeds a heart healthy food.
Fennel seeds are anti-inflammatory
Fennel seeds have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that are very helpful in relieving pain associated with inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
Fennels seeds improve bone health
The minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium found in fennel seeds contribute to improving the strength and development of bones. According to scientists, fennels seeds have the ability to slow down the production of cells that destroy bones. A study conducted in animals suggested that fennel seeds can prevent bone breakdown and hence is effective in preventing conditions like osteoporosis.
Fennel seeds for relieving respiratory disorders
Fennel seeds act as a natural expectorant, making it an excellent remedy for cough and mucus builds up. They contain two compounds called alpha-pinene and creosol that help in reducing phlegm and mucous, thus providing relief from cold, cough, nasal congestion, asthma bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.
Fennel seeds improve digestive health
Fennels seeds contain volatile essential oil compounds that promote digestion by stimulating the secretion of gastric and digestive juices. These compounds aid in the better absorption of nutrients by your body. Fennels seeds have been found to be a great remedy for flatulence, gas and bloating too. Furthermore the fibers in these seeds add volume to your stools and regularize your bowel movements, thus preventing constipation.
Fennel seeds increase red blood cell production
The high amounts of copper and iron in fennel seeds promote the increased production of red blood cells. Hence these seeds are beneficial for treating anemia.
Benefits of fennel seeds for women
Fennel seeds are beneficial to women in many ways. Women who suffer from menstrual cramps and other premenstrual symptoms can find relief with the help of these seeds. Fennel seeds are extremely helpful for lactating mothers as they help in the increased secretion of milk. Fennel seeds have anti-flatulent properties and are also used in the treatment of colic and indigestion. These problems can be remedied by drinking the water that is boiled with two tablespoons of fennel seeds powder.
Fennel seeds prevent fluid retention
Fennel seeds happen to be a natural diuretic that helps in the removal of excess water from your body by increasing the production of urine.
Fennel seeds aid in weight loss
Fennel seeds promote weight loss by increasing metabolism of sugars and fats in addition to breaking up the fat deposits from your body. The diuretic properties of this herb help in preventing water retention. The high amount of fiber helps in controlling your appetite by making you feel fuller for long hours and preventing overeating. All these features make fennel seeds a great addition to a weight loss diet.
Fennels seeds improve brain health
The consumption of fennel seeds has been found to improve cognitive functions and increase memory. This herb is an excellent source of potassium, which is helpful in improving blood circulation to the nerves and brain cells, thus making them very active. According to scientists, fennel seeds are beneficial for certain diseases related to the brain such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Fennels seeds for good eye health
According to research, fennel seeds contain certain compounds that can help in improving your eyesight and in preventing loss of vision. Studies also reveal that fennel can reduce eye pressure or ocular pressure. These studies suggest that fennels seeds may be used as a potential remedy for treating or preventing glaucoma, a vision-impairing disease which is associated with increased pressure in the eyes.
Fennel seed as mouth freshener
Fennel seed or saunf is long eaten in India as mouth freshner. Consuming some fennel seeds after lunch or dinner is considered a good and healthy habit. It not only helps improve digestive system but also works as mouth freshner removing any spicy or left over flavour in mouth.
Fennel seeds for GERD
Chewing fennel seed is good way to keep Gastro Esophageal Reflux disorder at bay. It helps in two ways. Chewing fennel seeds helps secrete saliva which helps in increasing pH in stomach. Phytonutrients on other hand helps reduce hyperacidity.
Other uses of fennel seeds
Fennel seeds impart great flavor and aroma to cooking. They are used in making cakes, biscuits, bread etc. Dried fennel seeds or their powder is used as a spice in many cuisines of the world. These seeds constitute one of the many ingredients used for making curry powder. In some countries, fennel seeds are eaten after meals because they serve as a digestive aid and also as a wonderful mouth freshener. Because of its mouth freshening properties, fennel seeds are used in some toothpastes too. Fennel seeds are used in making an alcoholic beverage called absinthe. In addition to its uses in the culinary field, fennel seeds sometimes used to get rid of fleas and ticks.
Side effects of fennel seeds
Fennel seeds are safe for consumption when used in the right amounts. However, too much and prolonged use may trigger side effects. It may cause allergic reactions in some people. Pregnant women are advised not to use excess amounts of fennel seeds as they are uterine stimulants.
Fennel seeds have been considered to represent strength, courage and longevity. They are available in supermarkets all year around either in the form of seeds or in the form of processed powder. Because of their healing and medicinal properties, the use of these seeds has become increasingly popular.