Fennel (Xiao Hui Xiang)
Botanical Name: Foeniculum vulgare
With edible leaves, bulbs, seeds (fruit), and stalks this herb has a long culinary and medicinal history. Fennel is widely cultivated and is currently naturalized and growing in many places around the world. It is most commonly used to treat a wide variety of digestive disorders.
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Below is an overview of fennel, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of fennel.
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Western Name: Fennel
Also Known As: N/A
Organs/Systems: Bladder, Kidney, Stomach, Intestines, Lungs, Uterus
Key Actions: Carminative, Purgative, Diuretic, Galactagogue, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Analgesic, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anticancer, Insecticide
Medicinal Uses: Dysmenorrhea, hypertension, chronic coughs, sore throat, anuria (obstructed urination), bronchial congestion, digestive disorders, bloating, gas, constipation, infants and children suffering from colic and dyspeptic disease, increases lactation, facilitates birth, increases libido, hot flashes, vaginal itching, memory, insomnia, cancer.
Pin Yin: Xiao Hui Xiang
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Liver, Kidney, Bladder, Spleen
Key Actions: Warms the Interior, Expels Phlegm, Spreads Liver Qi, Warms the Kidneys, Expels Cold, Alleviates Pain, Tonifies Spleen Qi, Regulates Qi, Harmonizes the Stomach, Tonifies Lung Qi, Antidote for Poisons, Clears Parasites
Medicinal Uses: Warms and encourages movement in the liver channel or Lower Burner as in cold hernial disorders, or any kind of pain in the lower abdomen due to cold, stomach cold syndromes with abdominal pain, indigestion, reduced appetite and vomiting, headache, malaise, fetid orange urine (due to uric acid or stones), gout, urinary tract infection (UTI), cough with thin white phlegm, sore throat, asthma where breathing in is difficult, infant colic, lactation, yeast infections, support immunity, antidote for poisons (including mushroom toxicity and bites), treats parasites, bruises, blemishes, rashes, loose spongy gums.
Fennel is a flowering species in the celery family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. It is the sole species in the genus Foeniculum. A perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, it is erect, glaucous green, and with hollow stems. Flowers are produced in terminal compound umbels of 5-15 cm wide, with each having 20-50 tiny yellow flowers on short pedicels. The fruit is a dry seed.
Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean but wildly naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the seacoast and on riverbanks. It also grows throughout China.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, Bulb, Seed (Fruit), Stalk, Pollen
Flavors/Temps: Aromatic, Bit Pungent, Sweet, Warm, Dry, Acrid
Caution: Considered safe.
Key Constituents: Anethole, Fenchone, A-Pinene, Rosmarinic acid, Chlorogenic acid, Quercetin, Apigenin. Camphene, Dipentene, a-Phellandrene, Phytoestrogens, Anise aldehyde, Anisic acid, Estragole, 7-hydroxycoumarin, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Potassium, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium
History/Folklore: Fennel is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan, Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm recorded in the 10th century. The Egyptians and Chinese use it strictly as a medicine. Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight with the root extract often being used in tonics to clear cloudy eyes. In 1611, Italian herbalist Pierandrea Mattioli filled several pages of his folio on herbal formula remedies based on his native plant fennel for urinary, bronchial, and digestive complaints.
In the MIddle Ages, it was believed to hold magical qualities. People hung it over their doors to protect against evil spirits.
Fennel is considered one of the four opening roots (with Asparagus, Parsley, and Celery) by herbalist Galen. In the 17th century, William Coles wrote that fennel was used “for those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldiness and cause them to grow more gaunt and lank.” This was because drinking a cup of fennel tea before a meal can take the edge off your appetite. Sipping fennel tea after a meal, aids digestion.
The fresh stems of fennel can be eaten like celery, and both the bulb and the seeds have a mild, licorice-like flavor. This flavor profile is due to the compound anethole, found in fennel and other plants, such as anise, it is a monoterpene that is 13 times sweeter than table sugar. It relaxes intestinal muscles helping to relieve constipation and gas. It is also known to have estrogenic properties. It has also been shown to have insecticide properties, inhibiting mosquitos, fungus, and molds.
Saunf, the common name for fennel seeds in India, and saunf oil, are known for their ability to counter bad breath, improve digestive health, regulate blood pressure, promote lactation, and improve skin appearance. Saunf is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat digestive issues.
Women who used 100ml of fennel oil daily for 8 weeks reported improved menopausal symptoms.
A 2020 study, looked at the pain killing effects of fennel on people with knee osteoarthritis. Those who used capsules containing powdered fennel extract twice a day for two weeks, noted a reduction in pain and stiffness compared to the control group.
Fennel has been used for centuries to promote the flow of mother’s milk and is often included in proprietary mixtures designed to improve lactation. This function is likely due to the phytoestrogens found in the plant.
Fennel helps prevent gas in both humans and animals. Rabbits also enjoy eating fennel bulbs and stalks.
Fennel is a symbol for flattery. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Ophelia dies holding a bouquet of flowers that included fennel. She also gave it to King Claudius and Queen Gertrude a message of the court’s games around flattery, false words, and intentions.
Greek name for fennel is “marathon.” The place famous for the Battle of Marathon literally translates to “plain with Fennels.”
Fennel is one of the spices used in the famous Chinese five-spice powder blend.
How to use Fennel (Xiao Hui Xiang) and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!
Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Dive deep into Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works. Includes uses, benefits, essential oils, gardening tips, and much, much more.
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