Fennel seeds (Sompu) have been used a flavoring all over the world from ancient times and it is widely cultivated in India. There are two types of fennel plants, one is regarded as a herb and the other which is called florence fennel produces thick bulbs and is regarded as a vegetable. Fennel bulbs are rich vitamin B, potassium, vitamin C and is also a good source of fiber. The herb variety of fennel produces yellow flowers and the stem, the leaves and the seeds of the herb variety are used in cooking. Here in India we use only the fennel seeds in cooking. I have never been without fennel seeds at home, though we don't use it to season almost every dish like mustard, we do use it a lot. We call it sombu in Tamil, Saunf in Hindi & Marathi, Somph in Telugu, Sompu in Kannada, Variari in Gujrati, Mouri in Bengali, Perum Jeerakam in Malayalam and it's botanical name is Foeniculum Vulgare. We use fennel seeds often as a remedy in the form of fennel tea and I can confidently say it is one of the best remedies for treating flatulence at home. Fennel seeds have anti spasmodic, anti inflammatory, analgesic, carminative, warming, antioxidant and diuretic properties. One of the main phyto nutrients of fennel seeds is anethole and the essential oil derived from fennel almost contains 71.5 % of it and is used for relieving anxiety and depression. Anethole has been proven to have anti inflammatory properties and also cancer preventing properties.In my opinion the best way to consume fennel seeds for digestion is in the form of fennel mouth freshener. It is so very tasty and can be made easily at home, if I feel like having a sweet I munch on this mouth freshner. For medicinal uses, I would suggest taking fennel in the form of tea. To make this tea, dry roast fennel seeds in an empty pan for a few seconds. Add a cup of water to it and boil till it reduces in volume and the color of the water changes. This tea has a strong aromatic smell and we usually don't add any sweetener to it. But if the children make a fuss to drink ithoney can be added. This tea is supposed to be taken as a medicine and please don't use it on a daily basis. For adults use around 5 grams of fennel seeds for making the tea. For children use around 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds to make the tea and give 2 teaspoons at a time.
1. Fennel As a Breath Freshener :
Fennel is an amazing breath freshener, it is a very common practice in India to be offered saunf after heavy meal. You will also find fried saunf being offered after every meal in most of the Indian hotels too. I love mouth fresheners and make it at home often, you can find the recipe for it here. This recipe is easy to make and tastes delicious, in our home it gets over very very quickly.
2. Fennel For Water Retention & Weight Loss:
Fennel seeds are mildly diuretic and drinking fennel tea will help get rid of water retention very effectively. Since it is always in our pantry, fennel seeds are a good handy remedy for people who are suffering from water retention. Like barley water it also flushes out the toxins. Chewing on fennel seeds is also good for weight loss as it suppresses appetite which in turn reduces the overall caloric intake resulting in weight loss.
3. Fennel Seeds For Digestion, Bloating & Acidity:
Fennel seeds are great for digestion, this is also another reason that fennel seeds are offered after very heavy meals. Just chewing on the seeds will reduce flatulence and aid in digestion. We can also give fennel seed tea for babies for treating colic pain in babies. Another important use of fennel seeds is it's use in reducing the withdrawal symptoms when we stop heart burn medications, I would suggest using fennel seed tea for treating heart burn and if you are continuously on heart burn medications slowly reduce them overtime replacing it with fennel tea and then you can slowly decrease fennel tea too.
4. Fennel Seeds For Cold, Sore Throat & Congestion:
Fennel seeds can help with all the above mentioned three problems. For treating congestion, add fennel seeds to 2 cups of water and once it comes a boil, switch off. Place the bowl on a flat surface, bend close to the water, cover with a thick blanket and and inhale the steam. For treating sore throat, make a double strength fennel tea and add 1/2 tsp of salt and gargle with it. For cold & cough make a cup of fennel tea and sip on it.
5. Fennel For Increasing Breast Milk & Regulating Menstruation:
Fennel seeds have an active compound called anethole which has estrogen properties and this is the compound that is responsible for regulating menstruation and for the growth of lobule in the breasts which in turn increases breast milk supply. Fennel seeds have always been believed to increase breast milk supply and it is nice to see this traditional belief backed through research, you can read the research.
6. Fennel Seeds For PCOS:
Anethole present in fennel seeds is also another reason that fennel seeds have been recommended for women suffering from PCOS. The problem with PCOS is it bring along with it whole lot of other problems like high cholesterol, acne, sleep problems along with kidney problems. One best thing about fennel seeds is it has a protective effect on the kidneys of PCOS patients, you can read the research that proves this use here
7. Fennel Seeds For Hair & Skin:
Fennel seeds infusion when applied externally on the skin can help cleanse and tone the skin and is also very very soothing. I would suggest this simple homemade cleanser uing fennel seeds and neem leaves. To make the cleanser, take around a handful of neem leaves and 2 tsps of fennel seeds and gently crush them in a mortar and pestle and take them in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of boiling water and let it infuse. Once cool add 1 tsp of lemon juice and then strain and use it for cleansing the skin. Fennel seed extract when applied topically on the skin helps women who are suffering from male pattern hair growth, you can read the research that proves it here.
8.Fennel For Eyes:
Fennel tea can also be used as an eyewash to treat eye inflammations very effectively. To make fennel eyewash, make fennel tea as usual. Now dilute the tea with equal quantity of boiled and cooled water. Add a tiny pinch of salt and strain through a thin muslin cloth to get a clear liquid and use it as an eyewash. This eyewash can be used everyday once for treating eye inflammations .