Fennel seeds are used all over the world for their distinctive taste, but they have a solid history of medicinal use. Seen as a symbol of courage and strength, they were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to encourage athletic performance and promote digestive health. In India, these seeds were used after meals to freshen the breath and this still continues today. Chinese Traditional Medicine recognized their digestive benefits and used them to treat hiccups, hernias, and other stomach issues.
Modern research has uncovered some of the underlying mechanisms behind these powerful healing herbs. Fennel seeds are rich in volatile oils like anethole, fenchone, and estragole which are responsible for both the distinctive aroma and health benefits. These compounds are also powerful antioxidants and anethole in particular has received a lot of research attention for this property as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. Oxidative stress and inflammation are the main culprit when it comes to chronic health issues like heart disease and arthritis, so it is important to include antioxidants and anti-inflammatory herbs in your diet. Fennel seeds provide a tasty way to do this!
Modern diets are often lacking in fibre, but fennel seeds are packed with it so they are great for relieving constipation and encouraging regular bowel movements. Anethole helps to relax the muscles in the stomachs, which reduces symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and cramps.
Fennel seeds also make a great natural mineral supplement since they are packed with copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. They have also shown to possess anti-microbe and even anti-viral properties, working in harmony with the immune system – so this may help to understand why they were used to treat stomach infections.