Diet & Lifestyle

Need Digestive Relief? Unlock the Remarkable Help of Fennel Seed

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Need Digestive Relief? Unlock the Remarkable Help of Fennel Seed about ComfortPro

For thousands of years, going back to ancient Rome and beyond, people have used fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) to support better health. This tiny seed has been used to relieve digestive problems like colic, bloating and constipation, stomach cramps and intestinal cramps. Folks have also tried fennel seeds for weight loss, as an aphrodisiac and for promoting better milk production for nursing mothers.

Today, modern medical research has confirmed this ancient natural remedy can in fact help relieve your digestive trouble. This is especially true for the epidemic of "hidden constipation" that plagues our modern world.

For naturopathic doctors – "alternative" doctors, if you will – a healthy colon is fundamental to a healthy life. They hark back to the famous quote from a Nobel Prize-winner, Elie Metchnikoff, "Death begins in the colon."

So, read on to discover fennel's digestive health secrets and how you can use this seed as part of your daily wellness routine in the kitchen and as a dietary supplement to help restore regularity.

Key Takeaways

  • Fennel seeds possess unique natural compounds that give it a tasty, distinct, licorice-like flavor.

  • Historically used as a traditional remedy for constipation and digestive distress, fennel seeds also promote improved kidney function and protect the liver.

  • Many of fennel's benefits derive from the natural compounds rosmarinic and chlorogenic acids along with the antioxidant flavonoid quercetin. Fennel seeds are nutritious and contain a range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, magnesium, selenium and calcium that together can support bone health.

Fennel Seed: Origins and Characteristics

The fennel plant (Foeniculum Vulgare) was believed to be so powerful among the ancient Greeks and Romans for its health-giving qualities that they used it as a symbol of victory and strength.

Fennel seed's distinctive licorice flavor is linked to the essential oil estragole, which is a versatile antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and anethole, another anti-inflammatory antioxidant flavonoid.

Other important natural compounds in fennel include fenchone, a natural pain reliever, and pentanone, which supports cellular health. These compounds are found in every part of the plant, including the bulb and leaves which are all edible and often used in cooking.

Aromatic Seeds: Understanding Fennel Seed's Unique Flavor

The distinctive flavor of fennel seeds -- a unique blend of boldness, zestiness, slight sweetness and licorice -- brightens up many recipes. These aromatic savory seeds are frequently prepared by:

  • Sauteeing in oil

  • Toasting

  • Grinding into a powder

  • Roasting

These cooking techniques release aromatic oils, intensify natural sweetness, and create a mild, sweet, subtle smoky flavor that can liven up stews, pastas, salads, vegetable and meat dishes. Really, fennel can flavor just about anything.

But perhaps more important is fennel's health benefits.

Fennel Seed as a Traditional Remedy

Fennel has an impressive history as a powerful aid for providing relief for problem digestion along with promoting better kidney, liver, and spleen function. Fennel seed's use as a traditional remedy dates back to ancient times.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical system of India, fennel is considered to be cooling and sweet while enhancing the digestive "fire." If you’ve ever dined in an Indian or Asian restaurant, you may have received a small bowl of tiny, licorice-tasting fennel seeds after your meal, a time-honored tradition to support easy, comfortable digestion.

Meanwhile, Hippocrates, the legendary father of medicine, included fennel when he said "Let thy food be your medicine."

We couldn't agree more. That's why fennel seed is one of our leading recommendations for helping solve digestive problems like constipation. Not surprisingly, the numbers of people suffering from chronic constipation have only grown in the years since the coronavirus pandemic sent the world into lockdown. There's even a term for it, "lockdown constipation"!

A Powerful, Scientifically Proven Digestive Aid

Fennel seeds have been proven scientifically to alleviate bloating and gas by relaxing stomach muscles, reducing gas formation and cramps, and helping the smooth muscles of the intestines relax so food can pass more easily.

What's more, the research shows that these tiny seeds work safely and naturally, unlike harsh, chemical laxatives that can cause side effects from memory loss to more constipation. Research has shown that fennel seed's benefits are often due to the activity of powerful antioxidant compounds rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid and quercetin. Together they can:

  • Reduce inflammation: Fennel seeds can act as antispasmodics and anti-inflammatories. In particular, studies show they help reduce inflammation in the bowels and decrease harmful bacteria from overgrowing in the intestinal tract. Their anti-inflammation power has even been shown to help with inflammation of the lungs and osteoarthritis of the knee.

  • Soothe irritation: Fennel seeds may help soothe irritation in the intestines. Research shows that these tiny seeds are so powerful they can fight painful digestive symptoms.

  • Relieve constipation: By relaxing the muscles of the intestinal walls, they can allow a faster flow of food and waste products out of the body.

  • Relieve gassiness: Soothing muscles in the stomach and intestines can help relieve gassiness that's linked to constipation. Along these lines, studies, including a research review in Australia, show that fennel can be used to relieve colic in infants.

  • Improve digestive disorders: Laboratory research at the University of California, San Diego, has shown fennel may help ease chronic inflammation of the bowels by reducing inflammation and supporting the integrity of the intestinal walls. 

For many people, fennel seeds and fennel seed supplements can offer a safe, natural solution to common digestive discomforts. And if you're suffering from digestive trouble you don't want to wait. The latest research shows that enjoying easy, comfortable, regular digestion isn't just important to your emotional wellbeing, but solving chronic constipation can also help protect your brain against memory loss.

Using Fennel Seed Supplements To Improve Your Digestion

Historically, fennel seeds have been ingested whole, utilized in the preparation of fennel tea, or integrated as a seasoning in culinary dishes to aid in the management of digestive issues.

To maximize digestive benefits, incorporate a teaspoon to one tablespoon of dried, whole fennel seeds into your recipes-- at least the recipes where fennel can enhance flavor. You can also improve your digestion by consuming fennel seeds with water after you eat.

Fennel seed supplements are also available. These can help mitigate inflammation in the bowels, reducing bacteria that cause gassiness, and delivering antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial benefits. Fennel seed may also help maintain better blood flow to the brain and support healthy blood pressure.

The optimal dosage for fennel seed supplements is five to seven grams daily -- and for best results, you should also eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and get regular daily exercise.

Green Valley Natural's Colon Ultra Cleanse Supplement

If you’re seeking a product that harnesses the power of fennel seeds, consider Green Valley Natural’s Colon Ultra Cleanse supplement. Formulated to provide fast relief for constipation and irregularity, this supplement works by supporting optimal colon function. Fennel seeds are only one of its secrets, Colon Ultra Cleanse also contains:

  • Ginger root powder- Ginger and ginger root promote healthy inflammation levels and possess impressive antioxidant abilities. Because ginger improves motility in your bowels, herbal experts recommend ginger as an effective natural treatment for colon problems — especially for the elimination of toxins and digestive wastes that get stuck in the bowel.

  • Goldenseal root extract- Used for centuries in Native American medicine and by European physicians, goldenseal contains a powerful compound called berberine which promotes a healthy inflammatory response, to help soothe and restore your colon walls to a healthy state.

  • Psyllium seed husk- This type of soluble fiber, meaning it dissolves in water, acts as a safe, gentle, bulk-forming laxative to flush out your bowels.

  • Senna leaf- The very best natural laxative for common, run-of-the-mill constipation is FDA-approved senna, which is made from the leaves and fruit of the senna plant (Senna alexandrina). This is an herb which contains natural laxative compounds (called sennosides) and has been used safely for centuries.

  • N-Acetyl Cysteine, commonly referred to as NAC- Supplementing with the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine increases your levels of glutathione. Glutathione is your body’s most important antioxidant which protects your cells from toxins, carcinogens and other harmful substances.

Green Valley Natural’s Colon Ultra Cleanse supplement contributes to digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and alleviating digestive discomfort, including constipation, indigestion and bloating. This is primarily attributed to the presence of fennel seed and other ingredients that enhance digestive health.

The best part about using fennel seed in any form is that there are no harsh side effects. In fact, the latest research shows that fennel seed is actually good for your body.

Promotes Kidney, Liver and Spleen Function

The natural compounds in fennel can also improve renal or kidney function. That's because their power as antioxidants make them helpful for managing kidney and bladder disorders. A test in the Middle East confirms that fennel seed can exert a positive influence on renal function and act as a diuretic.

Eating fennel seeds may also bolster spleen function. The spleen, by the way, is an important center of immune cell activity. The consumption of fennel seeds supports better spleen health by influencing immune cells that regulate inflammation. This anti-inflammatory action can also support the health of your liver. Fennel seeds offer a number of benefits to liver health which include:

  • Protecting against liver damage: Research demonstrates that fennel seeds protect the liver against oxidative stress.

  • Fighting liver inflammation: Studies show that fennel may reduce inflammation caused by destructive, malfunctioning immune cells and can block liver damage caused by high blood sugar.

  • Helping the liver detoxify: Fennel's relatively high levels of selenium support better detoxification of the liver.

As we mentioned earlier, fennel seeds are also packed with nutrition.

Fennel Seed Nutrition: Vitamins, Minerals, and More

Fennel seeds may be tiny, but they're a rich source of nutrients. They contain a diverse range of nutrients, including:

These nutrients offer a host of health benefits, including supporting bone health. The calcium and phosphate content present in fennel seeds have the potential to prevent bone loss, thereby supporting the overall strength of your bones.

Bone Health Support

Fennel seeds are a potent source of essential minerals including calcium and manganese, both critical to maintaining bone strength. Manganese plays an important role in forming enzymes that reinforce bone while calcium is a key structural component of bone. It is estimated that 99 percent of the calcium in your body is contained in your bones.

Not much research has been done on how consuming fennel seeds may affect your chances of getting osteoporosis if you're an older woman, so no one is sure how much good it can do for that condition. But lab tests do indicate that fennel supports better function of the stem cells that help to keep bones stronger. So there's a good chance that including fennel seeds in your diet or taking a supplement containing fennel seed extract can help keep your bones stronger as you age.

To maximize fennel seed's benefits for bone health, studies suggest that you incorporate two to three grams of fennel seeds into your daily diet.

Infant Weight Gain and Lactation

Fennel seeds can also play a role in promoting healthy weight gain in infants and increasing milk production in lactating mothers. Studies have shown that eating fennel seeds improves how much milk a nursing mother produces and may improve the nutritious quality of her milk.

Experts say that youngsters can eat fennel seed puree after about six months of age -- after they have started eating solid food.

Culinary Uses

In the kitchen, fennel seeds are versatile and flavorful elements that you can use to enhance the flavor of soups, salads and stews. And since they offer numerous health benefits, such as improving digestion, promoting kidney and liver function, and supporting bone health, they're a tasty way to eat something that is good for you!

Fennel seeds can be ground up and combined with oil for flavorful salad dressings. Soups that are great with fennel include Potato Bacon Fennel Soup, Creamy White Bean and Fennel Soup and Carrot Fennel Soup.

Raw Fennel Bulb: An Underutilized Ingredient

The raw fennel bulb, often overlooked by some cooks, is a great way to bump up the appealing flavor of many recipes. It's very popular in Italian cuisine due to its crunchy consistency and mildly sweet, anise-like taste. Use thin slices in fennel salads paired with Parmesan cheese, or braised with pomegranate to create a flavorful side dish.

The raw fennel bulb is a versatile ingredient, providing a refreshing crunch and a subtle licorice flavor to salads and other dishes. It can be added to salads or roasted to bring out its sweetness.

Storing and Buying Tips for Fennel Seeds

To maximize the benefits of your fresh fennel seeds, proper selection and storage methods are key.

When you buy fennel seeds make sure:

  • They have a uniform appearance.

  • The aren't discolored or moldy.

  • The have a light color and a fresh, aromatic scent (smaller seeds are usually better).

To maintain the freshness and flavor of fennel seeds, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark location, away from heat, light, or moisture. Proper storage can extend their shelf life to about three to four years, ensuring that you can enjoy their unique flavor for a long time.

Whole Seeds vs. Ground Fennel: Which to Choose?

When it comes to choosing between whole and ground fennel seeds, there are a few factors to consider. Whole fennel seeds have a notably longer shelf life of approximately three to four years, in contrast to ground fennel which maintains its freshness for about six months to one year.

Whole fennel seeds provide nutritional advantages since their vitamin and mineral content stay higher longer.

Whole fennel seeds also exhibit a more pronounced flavor in comparison to ground fennel, whose intensity may diminish over time. To ensure the freshness of both whole fennel seeds and ground fennel store them in an airtight container, such as a plastic storage container with a lid, a spice bottle or a glass mason jar.

Summary

We’ve journeyed through the world of fennel seeds, exploring their origins, unique flavor and numerous health benefits. Versatile and flavorful, these seeds are a boon in the kitchen and a potent tool in promoting good health, especially when it comes to relieving constipation and promoting healthy, regular digestion and elimination. Whether you’re spicing up your meals, seeking natural fennel supplements, or exploring new flavors, fennel seeds offer a world of possibilities. So, why not invite this humble seed into your kitchen and experience its impressive benefits firsthand?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is fennel seed good for?

Fennel seeds are good for aiding digestion, reducing constipation and bloating, freshening breath, improving heart health, lowering blood pressure and providing anticancer effects. They can be added to various dishes, eaten alone or taken as a supplement to reap their many health benefits.

Who should not eat fennel seeds?

Pregnant individuals and those with allergies to carrots, celery, and mugwort, as well as hormone-sensitive conditions (fennel contains phytoestrogens), should avoid consuming fennel seeds. Additionally, people with asthma and other allergies could be sensitive to fennel so use with caution. If you think you are experiencing an uncomfortable reaction to fennel or fennel seeds, consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

What do fennel seeds taste like?

Fennel seeds have a slightly sweet and licorice-like taste, which can lend an earthy, sweet flavor to dishes. They are harvested from the fennel plant's flowers and then dried.

Is it safe to eat fennel seeds every day?

It is safe to eat fennel seeds every day in moderation. They are a rich source of essential nutrients and can aid in weight loss. Just be mindful of the quantity consumed and don't overdo your consumption.

How can fennel seeds aid digestion?

Fennel seeds can aid digestion by reducing gas, aiding in nutrient absorption, and improving overall digestion due to the presence of active compounds such as rosmarinic acid (a phenolic compound that can ease stomach cramps), chlorogenic acid (a phenolic compound that lowers the risk of heart disease) and quercetin (a flavonoid that improves your absorption of protein).

Harb T, Et al "Infant Colic-What works: A Systematic Review of Interventions for Breast-fed Infants" J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr .2016 May;62(5):668-86. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26655941/

Zhang S et al "Fennel main constituent, trans-anethole treatment against LPS-induced acute lung injury by regulation of Th17/Treg function" Mol Med Rep. 2018 Aug; 18(2): 1369–1376. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mmr.2018.9149

Moradi J. et al. "Anethole, a Medicinal Plant Compound, Decreases the Production of Pro-Inflammatory TNF-α and IL-1β in a Rat Model of LPS-Induced Periodontitis" Iran J Pharm Res. 2014 Autumn; 13(4): 1319–1325. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25587321/

Keskin I, et al. "Effects of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil compounds, fenchone and limonene, on experimental wound healing" Biotech Histochem. 2017;92(4):274-282. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28426256/

Sayed S et al. "Immune defense of rats immunized with fennel honey, propolis, and bee venom against induced staphylococcal infection" J Med Food.2009 Jun;12(3):569-75. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19627205/

Mahendra MY et al, "Estragole: A review of its pharmacology, effect on animal health and performance, toxicology, and market regulatory issues" IJ Vet Sci Volume 37, Issue 2, 2023, Pages 537-546 https://www.mosuljournals.com/article_177457.html

Schreiber, S. et al "Activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 1 in human chronic inflammatory bowel disease" Gut. 2002 Sep;51(3):379-85.doi: 10.1136/gut.51.3.379. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12171960/

Badgujar S, et al "Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology" Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 842674. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/842674/

Sadrefozalayi, S "Effect of the aqueous extract of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) on the kidney in experimental PCOS female rats" Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Mar-Apr; 4(2): 110–117. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25050308/

Das, B et al. "The effect of a fennel seed extract on the STAT signaling and intestinal barrier function" PLoS One. 2022; 17(7): e0271045. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35802574/

Alazadeh M, et al "Effect of sweet fennel seed extract capsule on knee pain in women with knee osteoarthritis" Complement Ther Clin Pract.2020 Aug:40:101219 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32835919/

Barakat, H "Phenolics and Volatile Compounds of Fennel ( Foeniculum vulgare) Seeds and Their Sprouts Prevent Oxidative DNA Damage and Ameliorates CCl4-Induced Hepatotoxicity and Oxidative Stress in Rats" Antioxidants (Basel).2022 Nov 23;11(12):2318 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36552526/

Noor S et al. " Biomedical features and therapeutic potential of rosmarinic acid" Arch Pharm Res. 2022; 45(4): 205–228. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35391712/

Mahmoudi C, et al "Effects of Foeniculum vulgare ethanol extract on osteogenesis in human mecenchymal stem cells" Avicenna J Phytomed. 2013 Spring; 3(2): 135–142. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25050267/

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