The wild perennial has yellow flowers and fragrant leaves. Oil is made from the fragrant seeds. The seeds have a licorice taste and flavor.
Appetite suppressing characteristic
The Greeks called the herb marathron, from maraino, which translates “to grow thin.” Many people will be interested in this herb for this reason. The seeds act as an appetite suppressant.
Later, Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth-century herbalist, would write about fennel stating that it is “much used in drink or broth to make people lean that are too fat.” [Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician Enlarged, Glenwood, IL: Meyerbooks, Publisher, 1990.] Historically, the seeds were often eaten for the opposite reason, not for the well-fed to lose weight, but by the poor to diminish the pain of hunger. Fennel was often an asset in rituals for days of fasting.
Like most herbs that have been around for a long time, there is an esoteric meaning for fennel. In medieval times, fennel was hung over doors to ward off evil spirits. There also are many references to fennel in poetry. In Paradise Lost, Milton speaks of the aroma of the plant: “A savoury odour blown, grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense than smell of sweetest fennel.”
Fennel’s many uses
The Italians love to use fennel in cooking. Throughout history, fennel was widely used with fish and meat, not only because of the culinary advantages, but because it aids in digestion. And it could make unsavory food edible. In fact, the tea was known to relieve vegetable poison caused by mushrooms and other plants. Perhaps this could be because fennel is anti-bacterial.
Fennel was even known to be good for serpent bites. A powder made from the plant is reputed to be effective in keeping fleas away from animals. Poultices of fennel were made to reduce swelling and inflammation of the breasts of nursing mothers. Fennel was taken internally to increase the flow of milk.
A poultice of fennel decoctions is wonderful for the eye area. I like honey masks with powdered fennel to help combat wrinkles.
It is said to stimulate estrogen production and is valuable for painful menstrual periods and cramps.
Historically, fennel has been used to scent soaps and perfumes. I have found fennel seed to be useful and anti-inflammatory in cleansers, shampoos, toners, and astringents. I find it works best in conjunction with other herbs having the same anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Chemical constituents: The seed contains volatile oil, partly comprised of anethole, fenchone, estragole, sulfur, organic sodium, limonene, camphene, and pinene, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and flavonoids, including rutin and vitamins, plus calcium and potassium.
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