The fennel is a vegetable to say the least valuable is good, has few calories, purifies the body of excess toxins, remove the air from the stomach and dall’intestin or. Rich in vitamins, it also helps regulate the level of female hormones.
Its typical fresh flavor is given by the presence of anethole , the essence used for the preparation of famous liqueurs, such as sambuca or pastis .
Fennel: what it is
This vegetable, Foeniculum vulgare Mill is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Umbrelliferae or Apiaceae family .
It is cultivated for fresh consumption and is an annual or biennial plant . It prefers mild climate with temperatures between 7 and 30 degrees.
It can rise with leafy branches up to about 80 centimeters . At the base there are very broad, fleshy and overlapping sheathed leaves, forming the characteristic white lump used for food.
The flowers are yellow .
The picking of the wild fennel flower takes place as soon as the flower opens, that is normally from mid-August until late September. The flower can be used fresh or dried (in the shade).
The collection of lumps takes place in all seasons , according to the production areas: generally 90/120 days from sowing.
The fruit (also called seed) is oblong or ellipsoid and has a characteristic aroma highly appreciated in the kitchen. The fruits are diakenes , that is, composed of two achenes welded together, which separate only when ripe.
Male and female
It is erroneously believed that “male” and “female” plants exist in fennel .
In reality it is only a common way to call the lumps: those with a rounded shape are considered “male” and those with a substantially flattened shape are considered “female” .
The different conformation essentially depends on the variety.
The history of fennel
Native to the Asia Minor area and the Mediterranean area, the fennel plant was known and used by man since ancient times thanks to its flavor and aromatic properties: it was already well known to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Indians and Chinese .
The Romans cultivated fennel mainly for its seeds and fleshy sprouts. Since the time of Emperor Charlemagne, who had encouraged its cultivation in Central Europe, it has been an indispensable ingredient in modern French and Italian cuisine .
Currently, it is grown in almost all countries of the world and, thanks to greenhouse cultivation, its availability covers the entire annual span.
A curiosity: do you know why they say “do not be fooled” to mean “do not let yourself be buggered”? This is the answer: in ancient times the cellarmen offered a clove of this vegetable to those who went to buy the wine kept in the barrels.
The aromas and fragrances of this vegetable were able to make even the poorest quality wine that was sold tasty … “nibbling” the buyer!
The most evident nutritional characteristics of fennel are its very low caloric value (only 15 calories per 100 grams), the absence of fats and the richness of insoluble fiber .
These are the qualities that make fennel a perfect snack or an exceptional ” hunger drive “!
It is also rich in minerals such as potassium, copper, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
Not only that, it also contains a good amount of vitamin C and folate and is also fairly rich in flavonoids .
Fennel: the health benefits
Used by folk and alternative medicine, modern medicine has also started to be interested in its beneficial properties and the plant as a whole.
A number of studies have shown that it effectively controls numerous ailments:
- abdominal pain
- colon irritation
But let’s see specifically what are the beneficial properties of fennel.
Antimicrobial and antiviral
Its antimicrobial activity would depend on a group of monoterpenes (the main components of essential oils) which could be the basis of new antibacterial agents.
Other research has instead shown the antiviral activity of fennel, which has also proved effective against the Herpes simplex and parainfluenza virus .
This vegetable has also shown significant antifungal activity against the fungi responsible for altering the properties and quality of food (such as Aspergillus niger and Fusarium oxysporum ).
Also as an antifungal, it has also proven useful against Candida albicans .
In addition to human candidiasis, it would be effective in curing inflammations of the skin and mucous membranes of the reproductive system or oral cavity.
Effective against inflammation
Laboratory research has shown that some components of fennel have strong inhibitory effects against acute and subacute inflammatory diseases .
Fennel seeds seem to have chemopreventive potential against different tumor forms thanks to a substance: anethole .
This substance appears to reduce the weight and size of the tumor, increase survival time and reduce body weight, based on laboratory experiments with a particular type of tumor called Ehrlich’s ascites.
It has an important diuretic effect.
By stimulating diuresis, it also promotes the expulsion of urinary sodium and helps to reduce the volume of blood circulating in the cardiovascular system.
For this reason, fennel could be a good ally in case of high blood pressure .
It protects the cardiovascular system
Some studies have found that some substances found in fennel can be used to ward off platelet aggregation .
In the studies conducted, the consumption of leaves of this vegetable produced a significant reduction in blood pressure.
Antithrombotic effects are also attributed to the consumption of fennel .
It has been observed that the aqueous extract of fennel causes a significant reduction in “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides and an increase in good cholesterol (HDL).
It protects the liver
The essential oils derived from seeds show a powerful response hepatoprotective.
It helps digestion and is a remedy for colic
It has a very effective digestive action .
Fennel essential oils also reduce the production of intestinal gas as they prevent the fermentation of some sugars.
Taken alone, but also in association with other medicinal plants, it is indicated in the treatment of spastic gastrointestinal disorders , in some forms of chronic colitis that resist other treatments and in dyspepsias that give the sensation of heaviness in the stomach .
The addition of fennel to galenic preparations containing anthraquinones helps reduce abdominal pain often associated with the use of laxatives .
Finally, the fennel fruit protects the moss of the stomach from injuries induced by ethanol (therefore from the use or abuse of alcoholic substances).
essential oil of fennel shows a potential business hypoglycemic and antioxidant in diabetes cases (in experiments on laboratory animals), thus confirming its effect antidiabetic .
Remedy for amenorrhea
One study analyzed the effects of fennel on the menstrual cycle.
Some women treated with herbal tea containing fennel have shown a regular cycle compared to other women treated with progesterone.
Not only that, side effects such as dysmenorrhea, acne and hirsutism were reduced in the group of women treated with fennel-based formulation, while they increased in the group treated with progesterone.
Relieves menopausal symptoms
Among the estrogenic effects of fennel, the ability to relieve the classic symptoms of menopause already after only 10 days of administration of fennel-based extracts should also be mentioned .
Promotes milk production
Fennel has been used for centuries to increase the production of breast milk: it can therefore be included among the galactogogic substances.
The responsible for this potential is anethole , a substance that acts by inhibiting the secretion of the hormone responsible for milk production, prolactin.
Idiopathic hirsutism is the overgrowth of male hair in women who however exhibit a normal ovarian cycle and normal male hormone levels such as testosterone.
Some scientists have exploited the properties of fennel (which acts as a pro-estrogenic agent) by preparing creams containing 1 and 2% of fennel extract to combat female hyperirsutism.
Fennel seeds stimulate the ciliary motility of the respiratory system thus promoting the transport of foreign corpuscles to the outside .
This suggests a possible use of seeds for the treatment of bronchial or bronchopulmonary pathologies , especially in particularly polluted countries.
Even the fennel oils seem to favor the expectoration of mucus, bacteria and other foreign bodies.
The fennel extract showed good antipyretic activity .
Calms anxiety and depression
It has a significant anxiolytic activity : it could therefore represent, in the form of oils or concentrated extracts, a natural alternative as a calming or for anxiety-related disorders. Among the neurological effects of fennel there is also its antidepressant activity , well documented in the so-called ethnomedicine.
It improves memory and prevents Alzheimer’s
A mixture of fennel (ayurvedic rasayana) would seem to have multiple neuropharmacological activities, including mnemonic increase.
But fennel also has an important nootropic activity , that is, it would be able to increase the cognitive abilities of the human being (ability and functionality of the brain). There is evidence for the use of fennel to treat cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
It reduces pain
Fennel reduces sensitivity to painful stimuli, an activity already found in ancient medicines.
Fennel: side effects
The use even in large doses of fennel is in no way harmful .
Some hypersensitive individuals may exhibit signs of allergy with irritation and itching of the mouth, tongue and gums.
It is easier for this kind of sensitivity to occur in the presence of essential oil or by those who are allergic to apples .
The use of fennel essential oil is not indicated in children.
Fennel: how to use
Of the vegetable, in addition to the bud, fruits, flowers and leaves are used. The essential oil is obtained from the fruits.
It can be consumed daily, in the form of salads and snacks , stewed, boiled or grilled .
Also perfect for preparing herbal teas or spirits .
How to choose the right fennel
At the time of purchase, it is preferable to choose smooth fennel, which are bright white. Instead, it is better to avoid those with evident brown marks on the surface.
The sheaths that surround the fennel must be tight and crunchy . The consistency must not be rubbery or soft: the fennel must break if subjected to pressure.
Round-shaped fennel is preferred for raw consumption . The others , with a substantially flattened shape, are recommended above all for cooking.
This vegetable can be kept whole in the refrigerator in the vegetable drawer for several days, but it is better not to make them wrinkle and consume them in a short time to taste them at best.
Fennel: alternative uses
All parts of the plant are aromatic and can be used in many ways.
Since ancient times fennel seeds have been used as an ingredient to remove any bad mouth odor.
The natural dye obtained from the leaves is used in cosmetics , for coloring fabrics and wooden materials, but also as a food coloring . The yellow and brown colors are obtained by combining fennel flowers and leaves.
It can also be used to solve annoying problems such as the presence of mosquitoes or other insects .
The use of fennel extracts and its biologically active compounds is currently being studied for their agricultural use thanks to their insecticidal , repellent, acaricidal and larvicidal activity.
Mask for dark circles
The surprises of fennel really seem to never end and those who have fought with dark circles for a lifetime will be truly delighted. Try to believe a very simple fennel and yogurt mask .
Do-it-yourself mask with fennel: the recipe
Just mix two tablespoons of plain yogurt with a teaspoon of fennel seeds and another of chopped fennel leaves.
Apply the mask on the face. After 20 minutes rinse with warm water and massage.
If you suffer from allergies or sensitive skin, before using this mask, even if natural, ask your beautician or dermatologist for advice.
Fennel in the kitchen
Used both cooked and raw, fennel can be the protagonist of various dishes.
All parts can be used :
- the grumolo can be eaten raw in salads or boiled and baked with bechamel. It can also be added to many preparations, from fish first courses, to soups and stews
- the flowers are used to flavor boiled chestnuts, mushrooms in the oven or in a pan, pickled olives and pork
- the ” seeds ” can be used to flavor donuts or other homemade desserts and to spice hot wine or herbal teas
- the fresh and chopped leaves flavor soups, fish dishes, salads and cheeses.