Botanical Name: Foeniculum vulgare

Common Name: Fennel

Family: Umbelliferae

Ayurvedic/TCM Name: Saunph/Xiao Hui Xiang

Parts Used: Seeds, Leaves, Roots

Native Region:
Indigenous to shores of Mediterranean, spreading east to India

Geographic Distribution: It followed civilization, especially where Italians colonized, and may be found growing in many parts of the world upon dry soils near sea-coast and upon river banks. [1]

Botanical Description: Has a thick, perennial root-stock, stout stems, 4-5 feet or more in height, erect and cylindrical, bright green and cylindrical or copper-bronze leaves. Leaves very finely dissected into very finest of segment, the petioles are broad, clasping. The bright golden flowers, produced in large, flat terminal umbels with 13-20 rays, are in bloom in July to September. Seeds 6 mm long, oblong or ellipsoid, greenish yellow and 5-ribbed, anise flavored. [1]

Cultivation: Prefers well-drained, poor to medium rich soil and full sun. Can be grown from seeds, planted after danger of frost has passed. Seeds usually germinate within 14 days. Once your plants grow to seed, you will never need to replant.[1]

Harvesting Guidelines: Harvest once seeds begin to dry. Strip off umbels and store in cool, dry place.

Constituents: Volatile oils: Anethnole (chief constituent of Anise oil) and Fenchone. Fenchone is a colorless liquid possessing a pungent, camphoraceous odor and taste, and when present gives the disagreeable bitter taste to many of the commercial products. Fenchone contributes to the medicinal properties of the oil. [2]

Uses: Reminiscent of anise and licorice, fennel is one of those versatile herbs unfamiliar to many Americans, but found to be delightful upon experimentation. One reason for its versatility is that every part can be used: the bulb root, the tender, wispy leaves, and the seeds.

Fennel adds a sweetly musky flavor in combination with vegetables such as beets, carrots and sweet potatoes, with savory roast meats and fish, pasta dishes, and even raw in salads. Used for centuries in Asian medicine, even the essential oil made from fennel is used for upset stomach relief. Clinical trials have found fennel to have skin-softening and anti-aging properties, and extracts have been found to ease colic in infants. Vitamin C is by far its most important nutritional attribute, but other minerals and phytonutrients combine to help prevent cholesterol build-up, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. [3]

Fennel has been in use since the days of Dioscorides, Greek physician, 50-70 AD.  The health benefits include presence of  Vitamins C & A, potassium, calcium, iron and folate. Dietary fiber limits cholesterol build-up, absorbs water in the digestive system, and helps eliminate carcinogens from the colon.

Materia Medica-Fennel


Culinary Uses: Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel’s aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace. Fennel’s texture is similar to that of celery, having a crunchy and striated texture. [4]

WHFoods recommends these quick service ideas: 

  • Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish.
  • Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.
  • Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.
  • Next time you are looking for a new way to adorn your sandwiches, consider adding sliced fennel in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.
  • Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.
  • Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.

15 Minute Sautéed Fennel Salmon 

This is a great way to enjoy fennel. The flavor of the fennel wonderfully complements the rich taste of salmon for a complete meal that takes only 15 minutes to prepare!


1-½ lbs salmon fillet, cut into 8 pieces, skin and bones removed

1 TBS + ¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 large fennel bulb sliced thin, save 1 TBS chopped green tops to use for garnish

2 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Season salmon with a little salt and white pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 TBS broth in 10-12 inch stainless steel skillet. Healthy Sauté fennel bulb in broth over medium heat for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  3. Add 1/4 cup broth, lemon juice, pinch salt and pepper, and place salmon on top.
  4. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes. Do not overcook fennel, or it will lose its flavor. Sprinkle with chopped green fennel tops. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Serves 4

Grape and Arugula Salad

This easy to prepare salad recipe makes a wonderful accompaniment to almost any meal. Prep and cook time: 10 minutes


1 cup seedless green grapes

4 cups arugula

3 oz gorgonzola cheese

2 TBS thinly sliced fresh fennel

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash and dry grapes, arugula, and fennel in a salad spinner or dry on paper towels.

2. Arrange on plate with cheese and drizzle with dressing. Finish off with cracked black pepper.

Serves 4

Beets with Fennel Yogurt SauceMateria Medica-Fennel

Beets don’t have to take long to cook. The fennel and yogurt in this recipe are a great compliment to the flavor of beets making it a great addition to a healthy way of eating. Prep and cook time: 20 minutes.


4 small whole beets, cut into quarters

½ cup plain yogurt

1 TBS dijon mustard

3 medium cloves garlic, pressedmateria

1 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

2 TBS ground sunflower seeds

2 TBS olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Fill the bottom of steamer wit 2 inches of water
  2. While water is coming to boil, wash beets, leaving 2 inches of tap root and 1 inch of the stem on the beets. Cut into quarters. Do not peel.
  3. Steam covered for 15 minutes. Beets are cooked when you can easily insert a fork of the tip of a knife into the beet. 
  4. While beets are cooking, press or chop garlic and let sit 5 minutes to bring out the health promoting properties.
  5. Put all sauce ingredients except olive oil in blender. While blending drizzle olive oil slowly to emulsify.
  6. Set beets aside to cool enough to handle. Peel and cut into bite size pieces. Toss beets with dressing and serve. Garnish with some of fennel leaves finely chopped.

Fennel Apple Soup

Prep time = 30 minutes, Serves 2-4


2 TBS coconut oil

1 onion, chopped

2 (medium to large) fennel bulbs, stems removed and diced

2 large apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 quart chicken broth

2-3 sprigs thyme

1.  Heat coconut oil in a large pot.

2.  Sauté onion over low or medium heat for 10-15 minutes until soft and almost browned.

3.  Add fennel and apples and cook 5-10 minutes until they start to soften or brown. 

4.  Add chicken stock and thyme.

5.  Puree soup in high powered blender until smooth and creamy.

Medicinal Uses: The seeds are the medicine. Make a tea or tincture or just chew the seeds.

Fennel relieves muscle spasms throughout the body and is useful for colic, cramps and uterine pain. This same property makes it a good cough suppressant for chronic coughs. It is also a good expectorant for getting phlegm out of the lungs. Fennel seeds are a carminative, that aids in digestion and relaxing muscles in the digestive tract. Chewing fennel seeds to improve the breath is common in India. Historically fennel was used as a lactagogue, or herb that can increase breast milk production. They also make an excellent gargle for sore throats. Cooled and strained fennel tea makes an excellent eye wash for mild eye irritations and infections. Take ginger and a few fennel seeds and add to a half glass of boiling water and allow to cool. Drink this water from time to time to suppress nausea and vomiting.

Due to its high calcium content, fennel can help maintain bone strength and health. Its high Vitamin C content is a potent antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage that leads to premature aging, as it is necessary for the formation of collagen which protects the skin’s appearance. Fennel also can help lower blood pressure and inflammation due to its high potassium content.

Making a Tea

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over ½  – 1 tsp crushed seeds and steep for 10 minutes. Strain. You can add a teaspoon of raw honey if needed. Note that you can use fennel leaves, fronds, or fennel bulb to make tea also. Chop it into pieces and increase the steeping time to 15-20 minutes for flavor development. [8]

Using Fennel Essential Oil

If you don’t like the licorice flavor of fennel, you can get fennel benefits by using fennel essential oil. Simply rub two drops of fennel oil combined with a carrier oil onto your tummy or the bottom of your feet for quick relief. Place one drop on your toothbrush when brushing to help fight sweet tooth cravings and provide antimicrobial benefits for the gums. For relaxation, combine one drop of fennel essential oil with one or two drops of lavender oil and a carrier oil (like sweet almond or refined coconut) and rub on your neck, chest and cup your hands over your mouth while taking slow, deep breaths. [7]

Possible Fennel Side Effects

Although for most people fennel is a great, healthy vegetable choice, people with certain medical conditions may have to limit or avoid the consumption of fennel. Some people may be allergic to certain spices, therefore should avoid consuming fennel seeds. Pregnant women and young children should avoid using the essential oil as it can affect estrogen levels.

Due to the high potassium content, those with kidney disease should limit the amount of fennel they eat. People taking beta-blockers, which is typically prescribed to help control blood pressure, can also have elevated potassium levels and may need to avoid fennel. (6)

Materia Medica-Fennel


Attention Gardeners

Plant fennel to use as the sacrificial plant for swallowtail butterflies. It will reduce the number of caterpillars you have on parsley, carrots and dill plants.













Billie Nicholson, Editor
March 2019

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