Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Other common names: Anethum piperitum (syn.), carosella, sweet fennel, shatapuspha, fenkel

* There are several other varieties of fennel, including ones called Florence fennel (Foeniculum  vulgare var. azoricum) and common garden fennel (F. Capillaceum or officinale) – these plants have broad bulbs, stockier structure and similar medicinal properties.

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Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Carminitive, stomachic, galactagogue, appetite stimulant, aromatic, antitussive, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, mild laxative, estrogenic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, febrifuge, soothing expectorant.


Late summer, as soon as the seeds turn from green to brown.

Part used: Seeds, roots, leaves.

Diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé

Diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé


Anethole, fenchone, limonene, d-pinene, phellandrine, anisic acid, anisic aldehyde, and others.


Indigestion, gas, bloating, fever, nausea/vomiting, insufficient breast milk, poor appetite, heartburn, respiratory infections, coughs, abdominal cramps, PMS, irregular menstruation, headaches, childbirth, constipation, colic, glaucoma, eye health, hypertension, low libido, oral health, fluid retention.

Medicinal preparations:


Fennel (all parts) can be used in tea, tincture, capsules, syrups, and in culinary dishes. It is one of few herbs considered safe for most pregnant women and children, however prolonged regular use (such as in gripe water) in babies may cause premature development due to the phytoestrogens in fennel. It is best used as an occasional remedy when giving it to children. If a nursing mother is guided to take fennel by a midwife or doctor, she should do so in moderation.


Garden fennel variety. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Garden fennel variety. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fennel tea makes an excellent wash for eyes and skin complaints, and the powdered seed can also be used in a poultice. A decoction of fennel can be added to salves and creams.


Do not use while pregnant unless advised by a qualified doctor or midwife. While fennel is a common remedy for breastfeeding mothers, you should ask your midwife/doctor before using it for this, and take it in moderation. If you are allergic to carrots, celery or others in the apiaceae family, you may also be allergic to fennel. Fennel interferes with the absorption of some antibiotics (such as Ciprofloxacin) and Tamoxifen, and may interact with hormonal medications, including birth control pills, which may have reduced efficacy. If you suffer from a medical condition made worse by estrogen (such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids or estrogen-sensitive cancers), talk to a doctor before using fennel. As a topical remedy, fennel can cause slight photosensitivity – if you are prone to sunburn you may need to use a higher SPF sunscreen than usual. In children, do not use fennel for longer than a week on a daily basis.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fennel was considered valuable as a protective herb, hung over the doorways to ward off evil beings. It was also used in ancient Greece and Rome to manage weight, boost courage, improve eyesight and prolong one’s lifespan. It was sprinkled around animal enclosures to repel fleas. There were stories about it being used to tame horses, and about snakes using it to help them shed their skins. The seeds have been thrown at newlywed couples instead of rice, to encourage fertility and passion. It was considered a herb of Mercury, and was sometimes given to those suffering from strokes or memory loss in order to clear their minds and restore mental function. It’s also been used by some cultures to keep the law, government, or invasive people away, allowing people to interact or do business in private. Puritans used to chew them during long church services to help them stay awake. It was also used as a poison antidote (for snake venom and toxic mushrooms).

Fennel has been ground and used in ritual incense, to promote energetic development.  It’s all about purification, clarity, repelling the negative and protecting privacy and boundaries. It has a warm, sweet constitution.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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