Fennel is a perennial herb belonging to the parsley (Umbelliferae) family; a broad family of herbs and spices which also includes some of other common members such as caraway, dill, anise, cumin…etc. Scientific name of fennel is Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce.
Fennel is native to Southern Europe and grown extensively all over Europe, Middle-East, China, India, and Turkey. This herbaceous plant reaches up to 2 meters (about 6 feet) in height with deep green feathery (lacy) leaves and bears golden-yellow flowers in umbels. In general, fennel seeds are harvested when their seed heads turn light-brown. The seeds, which closely resemble that of anise seeds in appearance, feature oblong or curved (comma) shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown-color with fine vertical stripes over their surface.
In general, fennels are harvested during early hours of the day to avoid loss of seeds in the field. As in caraway, its stems are staked until they were dry and then threshed, processed and dispatch to the markets.
Fennel bulb (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum), used as a vegetable, is closely related to seeding fennel. It has grown for its anise flavored sweet taste fronds in many parts of Mediterranean region.
Health benefits of fennel seeds
- Fennel symbolizes longevity, courage, and strength. In addition to its use as medicinal values, fennel has many health benefiting nutrients, essential compounds, anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
- Fennel seeds indeed contain numerous flavonoid anti-oxidants like kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds function as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus offer protection from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
- Like in caraway, fennel seeds too are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 39.8 g of fiber. Much of this roughage is metabolically inert insoluble fiber, which helps increase bulk of the food by absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing constipation prolems.
- In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon. It thus helps lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with flavonoid anti-oxidants, fiber composition of fennel helps protect the colon mucusa from cancers.
- Fennel seeds compose of health benefiting volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, and cineole. These active principles in the fennel are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
- Fennel seeds are concentrated source of minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- Furthermore, fennel seeds indeed are the storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and niacin particularly are concentrated in these seeds.