FENNEL

Foeniculum vulgare 

Part/s Used:  Seeds + Flowers + Foliage 
Energetics:  Warming, sweet, pungent, bitter 
Actions: Carminative, aromatic, antispasmodic, stimulant, galactagogue, rubefacient, expectorant
Element: Fire
Planet: Mercury
Gender: Masculine and Feminine qualities 
Folklore: Hang around the home or above the windows on midsummer's eve to ward off evil. 

Medicinal Preparations:

Tincture: Fresh 1:2 or 1:3    Dry (ratio & % alcohol): 1:5 60 %
Drops: 15-60   Times a day: 4x

Glycerite: Fresh: 1:5  Glycerin: 50%  Water 50%
Dry: 1:5  Glycerin: 40%  Alcohol: 30%  Water: 30%

Tea:  Hot/cold infusions or strong decoction   Ounces: 8-12   Times a day: 4x 

Spirits: essential oil to alcohol: 1:10

Habitat:

Fennel is a licorice scented perennial that can grow up to 6 feet tall.  The roots large, white and thick and produce a stout, pithy stem.  The feathery like leaves are finely dissected and threadlike (similar to dill).  The bright golden flowers are produced in large, flat terminal umbels with thirteen to twenty rays.  Wild fennel has followed civilization and can often be found in roadsides, pastures, along the edge of wild habitat, rocky shore and hills forming in dense colonies. Wild fennel has naturalized throughout most of the US and in places that have Mediterranean climate, it grows so prolifically that it is often considered and invasive weed.

Medicinal Uses:

Wild fennel is a pleasant tasting medicinal herb.  Its rich, aromatic scent is anise like.  It is often used as a harmonizing agent in tea blends for people who enjoy the taste of fennel.

Fennel is a digestive aid carminative and stomachic.  A smooth muscle antispasmodic that soothes gas and bloating by stimulating the mucous membranes and intestinal motility in the small and large intestine.  Fennel numbs the nerves in the digestive tract and through the GI for issues like ulcers, hernia and indigestion.  It can be chewed after meals or included in curries and soups for extra digestive support.

Fennel is a galactagogue and may increase the quality and volume of breastmilk in lactating mothers and can be carried through the breast milk and offer relief to the infant for colic and indigestion.  In pregnancy the tea can be used for morning sickness and heartburn (blends well with peppermint)

Eye wash can be prepared for blood shot eyes, allergies, pink eye (use with other pink eye herbs like calendula and goldenseal and other disinfectant herbs).  To make an eyewash, prepare a cup of tea, cool, add to eye cup and treat both eyes.  

Harvesting:

Harvest young fennels feathery fronds in the early summer by clipping from the stems, before the bulb has matured.  Add to soups, salads and tea. In the summer when the flower is in full bloom you can harvest the pollen.  Fennel pollen tastes lighter than the seeds and some describe pollen taste as a hint of licorice, honey, and marshmallows.  Fennel pollen is a flavorful addition to breads, pesto, roasted meats, and fish.  Harvest by clipping the entire flower head and shake upside down into a bag.  Hang the bag in a cool, dry place where the flowers can dry, and the pollen can drop to the bottom of the bag.  Harvest the seeds in the fall on a warm afternoon by clipping off the mature flower heads when the when seeds are turning from green to brown.  The wild seeds are small, dark, and irregular than the seeds from the cultivated variety.  Bundle and hang them upside down in bunches to dry.  Shake or comb the seeds off.  Keep the seeds to sow in spring or use as a spice to afternoon digestive tea. Unlike garden fennel, wild fennel has an unpalatable root and does not produce a bulb. As always when wildcrafting be sure to harvest wild fennel in a clean area, away from roadsides or construction sites.

External Use: 

Fennel seed powder can be used as a poultice for insect bites and poison oak or as a mask to soothe irritated skin.  A fennel facial steam is soothing, cleansing and detoxifying.

Contraindications:

Seeds are gentle but sometimes irritating.  Can cause allergic reaction to some individuals in the GI tract or skin dermatitis.  Avoid during pregnancy with individuals that have estrogen issues as fennel can cause an estrogen like hormones.  High doses or overdose of essential oil are toxic and can cause vomiting, edema, seizures. 

 

Sources:

Northwest School for Botanical Studies by Christa Sinadinos
Evolutionary Herbalism by Sajah Popham
The Complete Herb Sourcebook by David Hoffman