Throughout history, fennel has been used as an effective cure for various kinds of illnesses. It goes back to ancient times where it is easily found in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The Ancient Roman soldiers consume fennel as part of their diet to make them strong. The Greek believes in fennels’ ability to suppress appetite. They named it marathon, which means “grow thin”. Charlemagne had it grown in his imperial garden because of its great healing properties. In 812 AD, he declared that every garden in his kingdom must grow them. Today, fennel with its interesting flavor has become a very popular spice especially in Europe. It is also one of Germany’s valuable medicinal plants. Among the foremost cultivators of fennel are the United States, France, Russia and India.
Its scientific name is foeniculum vulgare. They are hardy perennial herbs of the umbellifereae family that can grow to a height of 3 feet. Able to thrive in dry, moist soil as well as tolerate drought and strong winds. They are characterized by a white or green bulb consisting of hollow and segmented stems with feathery leaves that also display umbels of tiny yellow flowers. Its fruit has a slightly sweet and spicy taste. The fennel seed is oval in shape which exhibits a rather strong scent.
The nutritional content of this superfood consists of a remarkable number of essential compounds, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers and antioxidants.
This superfood has a rich amount of flavonoids, an antioxidant that helps minimize oxidative stress to the cardiovascular system. Their flavonoid content includes kaempferol and quercitin that are highly effective in eliminating free radicals in the body and thus protecting it from infections, degenerative neurological diseases and more importantly, cancer. Its abundant source of dietary fiber helps increase bulk of the food and decrease the re-absorption of bile salts in the colon to lower down LDL cholesterol level. Fennel seeds contain an assortment of powerful essential oil compounds like limonene, pinene, anisic aldehyde and cineole that are known to possess antioxidant, anti-flatulent and carminative properties. A test research on antibacterial effects of essential oil discovered fennel oil as a strong deterrent against foodborne pathogens like salmonella typhimurium and escherichia coli. Fennel seeds also exhibit some other distinctive medicinal benefits like relieving heartburn, upset stomach, and gas. Gargling can relieve sore throat. Mixed with hot water and used as compress can alliviate swollen breasts. Chewing the seeds can also sweeten your breath.
Fennel does not contain a significant amount of oxalates or purines and is not considered as an allergenic food. Pregnant women are better off avoiding fennel seeds as it contains a high concentration of estrogenic compounds.
Fennel fun fact: The Puritans nibble on fennel seeds in church to keep their stomach from rumbling during long services. They even named them “meeting seeds”.
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