Health Benefits of Fennel

Like most herbs and many vegetables, fennel has strong antioxidant properties. These come from the volatile oil found in fennel, the primary ingredient of which is anethole. Anethole has been found to reduce inflammation and may even inhibit the occurrence of cancer. It is thought that this substance shuts down tumor necrosis factor mediated signaling - which is the way cancer spreads. The volatile oil may also protect the liver.1

Fennel Bulb

The bulb of fennel contains much vitamin C, which is an anti-oxidant and also helps the immune system. It also contains fiber for good digestion and reduced cholesterol levels. Fiber can reduce carcinogens in the colon and help prevent colon cancer.

Fennel is also an excellent source of folic acid or folate. Folate, a B vitamin, helps to reduce chances of heart attack and stroke, and is also beneficial in brain function. It helps reduce incidents of brain and spine defects when consumed by pregnant mothers. Considered a good source of potassium, fennel can also help reduce blood pressure.2

Histidine is an amino acid that is found in fennel that helps in the formation and maintenance of blood cells.

In India and many other places around the world fennel is chewed after meals as a way to freshen the breath and to improve digestion. Fennel reduces inflammation in the colon, and at the same time stimulates gastric juices to handle the food consumed. Meanwhile, the aspartic acid in fennel may reduce flatulence. Anethol and cineole, contained in fennel, have antibacterial properties that could help prevent diarrhea. These substances also are reported to be expectorants which can provide comfort to those with respiratory problems.3

Historically, the ancients believed that fennel was good for the eyes. It is true that fennel contains substances that help prevent macular degeneration. Juice from fennel has even been applied externally to help reduce inflammation around the eyes.

Powdered fennel can be used to repel fleas around kennels and stables.4

Like any good thing too much fennel can create problems. Its strong anti-microbial properties can be carried too far in the digestive system, killing beneficial organisms. It can also over-stimulate the heart creating palpitations.

Absinthe is distilled from fennel, anise, and wormwood. It contains a substance called thujone which is thought to have psychotropic properties. However, most studies have found the quantities of thujone to be small in absinthe, and in any case, thujone is derived from the wormwood and not fennel.

<< Fennel History | Growing Fennel >>


  1. Nature on Anethole
  2. WHFoods on Fennel
  3. Organic Facts
  4. Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, by Editors of Organic Gardening Magazine (1978) (p 359)

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Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs

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