Fennel (Xiao Hui Xiang)
Botanical Name: Foeniculum vulgare
With edible leaves, bulbs, seeds, and fruit, this herb has a long culinary and medicinal history. Fennel is wildly cultivated and is currently naturalized and growing in many places of the world.
Below is an overview of fennel, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of fennel.
Western Name: Fennel
Also Known As: N/A
Organs/Systems: Bladder, Kidney, Stomach, Intestines, Lungs, Uterus
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Carminative (for both humans and animals due to “Anethole” compound). Purgative, Diuretic, Galactogogue (improves mothers milk flow, likely due to plants phytoestrogens). Dysmenorrhea, hypertension, chronic coughs, sore throat, anuria (obstructed urination).
Pin Yin: Xiao Hui Xiang
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Liver, Kidney, Bladder, Spleen
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Warm Interior and Expel Phlegm. Spreads Liver Qi/Warms Kidneys/Expels Cold, and Alleviates Pain: warms and encourages movement in liver channel or lower burner as in cold hernial disorders, or any kind of pain in lower burner due to cold. Regulates Qi/Harmonizes the Stomach: stomach cold syndromes with abdominal pain, indigestion, reduced appetite and vomiting. Tonify Spleen Qi: headache, poor appetite, malaise, fetid orange urine (due to uric acid or stones), gout, urinary tract infection (UTI). Tonify Lung Qi: cough with thin white phlegm, asthma where breathing in is difficult. Immunity/Antidote for Poisons/Clear Parasites: mushrooms, bites, bruises, blemishes, rashes, loose spongy gums.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, Bulbs, Seeds, Fruits, Stalks
Flavors/Temps: Aromatic (similar tasting to anise), Bit Pungent, Sweet, Warm, Dry and Acrid
Caution: None noted.
History/Folklore: One of the nine plants invoked in the pagan, Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm recorded in the 10th century. Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight with root extract often 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. 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.” (As drinking a cup of fennel tea before a meal can take the edge off your appetite.) Fresh stems can be eaten like celery.
Anethole (same compound found in anise and star anise, hence the similar taste, though not as strong), Fenchone, a-Pinene, camphene, Dipentene, a-Phallandrene, Anise aldehyde, Anisic acid, estragole, 7-hydroxycoumarin, Vitamin C and Potassium.
Along with similar tasting anise, fennel is one of the key ingredients in absinthe.
Greek name for fennel is “marathon,” so the place famous for the Battle of Marathon literally translates to “plain with Fennels.”
One of the spices used in the famous Chinese five-spice powders.
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