Fennel - Pharmacognosy & Uses

By: Pharma Tips | Views: 20300 | Date: 02-Jan-2012

Foeniculum vulgareFamily: UlmblliferaeFennel yields both a herb and a spice. All plant parts are edible: roots, stalks and leaves, with the spice coming from the dried seeds. A native to the Mediterranean, Fennel is an ancient and common plant known to the ancient Greeks and spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome. It is also grown in India, the Orient, Australia, South America and has become naturalized in the US. It has been called the “meeting’ seed” by the Puritans who would chew it during their long


Fennel : History, Pharmacognosy, Nuritional Value, Medicinal Uses, Health Benefits 



Foeniculum vulgare

Family: Ulmblliferae


Fennel yields both a herb and a spice. All plant parts are edible: roots, stalks and leaves, with the spice coming from the dried seeds. A native to the Mediterranean, Fennel is an ancient and common plant known to the ancient Greeks and spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome. It is also grown in India, the Orient, Australia, South America and has become naturalized in the US. It has been called the “meeting’ seed” by the Puritans who would chew it during their long church services. The name derives from the Latin foeniculum, meaning “little hay”.


Fennel is a versatile vegetable that plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, especially in France and Italy. Its esteemed reputation dates back to the earliest times and is reflected in its mythological traditions. Greek myths state that fennel was not only closely associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of food and wine, but that a fennel stalk carried the coal that passed down knowledge from the gods to men.

Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace. Fennel's texture is similar to that of celery, having a crunchy and striated texture.

The scientific name for fennel is Foeniculum vulgare.


Ever since ancient times, fennel has enjoyed a rich history. The ancient Greeks knew fennel by the name "marathron"; it grew in the field in which one of the great ancient battles was fought and which was subsequently named the Battle of Marathon after this revered plant. Fennel was also awarded to Pheidippides, the runner who delivered the news of the Persian invasion to Sparta. Greek myths also hold that knowledge was delivered to man by the gods at Olympus in a fennel stalk filled with coal. Fennel was revered by the Greeks and the Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties.

Fennel has been grown throughout Europe, especially areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and the Near East since ancient times. Today, the United States, France, India and Russia are among the leading cultivators of fennel.


Spice Description
Fennel seeds split into two, one sometimes remaining on the stalk. They are 4 -8 mm (1/8 - 5/16 in) long, thin and curved, with colour varying from brown to light green (the green being superior).

Bouquet: warm, sweet and aromatic
Flavour: similar to a mild anise
Hotness Scale: 1

Preparation and Storage
Seeds can be used whole or ground in a spice mill or mortar and pestle. Store away from light in airtight containers.

Culinary Uses
As a herb, fennel leaves are used in French and Italian cuisine’s in sauces for fish and in mayonnaise. In Italy fennel is also used to season pork roasts and spicy sausages, especially the Florentine salami finocchiona. It is traditionally considered one of the best herbs for fish dishes. The English use fennel seeds in almost all fish dishes, especially as a court bouillon for poaching fish and seafood. It is used to flavour breads, cakes and confectionery. It is an ingredient of Chinese Five Spices and of some curry powders. Several liquors are flavoured with fennel, including fennouillette, akvavit, gin and was used in distilling absinthe.

Attributed Medicinal Properties

In the first century, Pliny noted that after snakes had shed their skins, they ate fennel to restore their sight. It has since been used as a wash for eyestrain and irritations. Chinese and Hindus used it as a snake bite remedy. It is carminative, a weak diuretic and mild stimulant. The oil is added to purgative medication to prevent intestinal colic. Fennel was once used to stimulate lactation. It allays hunger and was thought to be a cure for obesity in Renaissance Europe. It should not be used in high dosages as it causes muscular spasms and hallucinations.

The major constituents of Fennel, which include the terpenoid anethole, are found in the volatile oil. Anethole and other terpenoids inhibit spasms in smooth muscles, such as those in the intestinal tract, and this is thought to contribute to fennel’s use as a carminative (gas-relieving and gastrointestinal tract cramp-relieving agent). Related compounds to anethole may have mild estrogenic actions, although this has not been proven in humans. Fennel is also thought to possess diuretic (increase in urine production), choleretic (increase in production of bile), pain-reducing, fever-reducing, and anti-microbial actions. The seeds are used as a flavoring agent in many herbal medicines, and to help disperse flatulence. The seeds, and roots, also help to open obstructions of the liver, spleen & gall bladder, and to ease painful swellings, in addition to helping with yellow jaundice, the gout and occasional cramps.
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Plant Description and Cultivation
Fennel is a hardy perennial related to parsley, often cultivated as an annual, reaching heights of 1.5 - 2.5 m (5 - 8 ft). It resembles dill, which it can cross-pollinate with. It should be kept at a distance from dill because the resulting seed will have a dulled flavour. The flower heads are collected before the seeds ripen and threshed out when completely dried.

Other Names
Common Fennel, Florence Fennel, Large Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Wild Fennel, Large Cumin, Sweet Cumin
French: fenouil
German: fenchel
Greek: marathon
Italian: finocchio
Spanish: hinojo
Chinese: wooi heung
Indian: barisaunf, madhurika, sonf
Indonesian: adas
Malaysian: jintan manis

Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet, adding a refreshing contribution to the ever popular Mediterranean cuisine. Most often associated with Italian cooking, be sure to add this to your selection of fresh vegetables from the autumn through early spring when it is readily available and at its best.

Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Nutritional Profile of Fennel

Nutritional Profile of Fennel


Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, and molybdenum. In addition, fennel is a good source of niacin as well as the minerals phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Fennel.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Fennel is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

1.00 cup raw
87.00 grams
26.97 calories
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin C10.44 mg17.411.6excellent
fiber2.70 g10.87.2very good
potassium360.18 mg10.36.9very good
manganese0.17 mg8.55.7very good
folate23.49 mcg5.93.9very good
molybdenum4.35 mcg5.83.9very good
phosphorus43.50 mg4.32.9good
calcium42.63 mg4.32.8good
magnesium14.79 mg3.72.5good
iron0.64 mg3.62.4good
copper0.06 mg3.02.0good
vitamin B30.56 mg2.81.9good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellentDV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very goodDV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%

DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%


 Nutrients in Fennel
1.00 cup raw (87.00 grams) Nutrient%Daily Value

 vitamin C17.4%











 vitamin B32.8%

Calories (26)1%

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Fennel provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Fennel can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Fennel, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

How to Select and Store

Good quality fennel will have bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting. The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color. The stalks should be relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb and should not splay out to the sides too much. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color. There should be no signs of flowering buds as this indicates that the vegetable is past maturity. Fresh fennel should have a fragrant aroma, smelling subtly of licorice or anise. Fennel is usually available from autumn through early spring.

Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator crisper, where it should keep fresh for about four days. Yet, it is best to consume fennel soon after purchase since as it ages, it tends to gradually lose its flavor. While fresh fennel can be frozen after first being blanched, it seems to lose much of its flavor during this process. Dried fennel seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry location where they will keep for about six months. Storing fennel seeds in the refrigerator will help to keep them fresher longer.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Fennel

The three different parts of fennel—the base, stalks and leaves—can all be used in cooking. Cut the stalks away from the bulb at the place where they meet. If you are not going to be using the intact bulb in a recipe, then first cut it in half, remove the base, and then rinse it with water before proceeding to cut it further. Fennel can be cut in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending upon the recipe and your personal preference. The best way to slice it is to do so vertically through the bulb. If your recipe requires chunked, diced or julienned fennel, it is best to first remove the harder core that resides in the center before cutting it. The stalks of the fennel can be used for soups, stocks and stews, while the leaves can be used as an herb seasoning.

How to Enjoy

  • Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish.
  • Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.
  • Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.
  • Next time you are looking for a new way to adorn your sandwiches, consider adding sliced fennel in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.
  • Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.
  • Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.

Health Benefits of Fennel

Fennel is a common herb and spice used in various culinary around the world. It belongs to apiacaea family and is known for its aroma and the unique blend of flavour it brings to various dishes. The best part about fennel is its each and every part is edible. The bulb, foliage and its seed can be consumed. The bulb of fennel is eaten raw, boiled or grilled. It is even added in various stews and curries. Fennel seeds however are used as an important spice in various vegetable dishes and hot curries. So, let us have a glance at the nutritional and health benefits of fennel.

Nutritional Benefits of Fennel

Fennel is a healthy food. It contains only 30 calories for 100 grams of its consumption and is loaded with variety of nutrients. It is high in dietary fibre, Vitamin-A and Vitamin-C.  Minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and phosphorous can also be found in it. Traces of protein and fats are also present in fennel.

Health Benefits of Fennel – Enhances Digestion

Fennels contain essential oils which help in the formation of digestive enzymes. These enzymes help in the proper disintegration of food in the body. It contains anethole which helps in absorbing the nutrients and also decreases inflammation in stomach and intestines. Consumption of fennel can help in reducing bloating and flatulence. Aspartic acid is found in fennel which has carminative properties. It also has laxative properties and can be helpful in treating constipation.

Fennel Improves Heart Health

Fennel is high in fibre. It can be used for lowering cholesterol and fats accumulated in the body. Moreover it contains negligible amount of cholesterol and fats. LDL cholesterol can be lowered by its consumption as it is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. Rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides show antioxidant properties and help in reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.  Even good HDL cholesterol is increases by fennel consumption.

Fennel contains folates which are known to suppress the actions of homocysteine molecules. These molecules can damage artery walls and can result in heart strokes. Potassium present in it is known to reduce high blood pressure. This makes fennel a heart friendly food.

Health Benefits of Fennel – Prevents Cancer

Fennel is high in anti-carcinogenic compounds like antioxidants, flavonoids, alkaloids and phenols. Fennel seeds extract are known to be have these properties. Fennel contains anethole which has anti-inflammatory properties and is considered to inhibit the development of cancer. Quercetin is a flavonoid which inhibits the action of nitric oxide and can trigger the metabolism of cancer cells. Limonene is also a phytochemical which is known to restrict the onset of breast cancer.

Thus, fennel is extremely beneficial in restricting cancer and we must add this food to our diet.

Fennel improves Brain Activities

Fennel is known to improve cognitive functions in a person. Potassium found in it can help in maintaining the electrical conduction of the body. It is also helpful in the proper circulation of oxygen to the brain cells and nerves which make them active. Memory is enhanced by its consumption.



Other Health Benefits Of Fennel

  • Diarrhea can be prevented by its consumption. It contains amino acid known as histidine that is beneficial in proper digestion and can prevent such diseases.
  • Immunity of the body can be significantly increased as it is high in Vitamin-C, antioxidants, minerals and phytonutrients.
  • Fennel is known to prevent respiratory problems. It contains various essential oils like cineol and anetol which helps in providing heat to the body. Bronchitis, cough and cold can be kept at bay by its consumption. It helps in providing a soothing effect to the throat and nasal passage.
  • Fennel is diuretic and thus can be helpful in flushing out the toxins from the body and providing healthy body.
  • Fennel is helpful for lactating mother as it promotes the production of milk. Moreover it also helps in proper regulation of menstruation cycle by regulation of hormones. Effects of PMS can also be reduced by this food.
  • Antioxidant properties of fennel make it beneficial for skin. It can protect from free radical damages and can prevent early aging and wrinkles.

Unique Phytonutrients with Antioxidant and Health-Promoting Effects

Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel extracts compare favorably in research studies to BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. This mechanism involves the shutting down of a intercellular signaling system called tumor necrosis factor (or TNF)-mediated signaling. By shutting down this signaling process, the anethole in fennel prevents activation of a potentially strong gene-altering and inflammation-triggering molecule called NF-kappaB. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.

Antioxidant Protection and Immune Support from Vitamin C

In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body. If left unchecked, these free radicals cause cellular damage that results in the pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.

Fiber, Folate and Potassium for Cardiovascular and Colon Health

As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. At high levels, homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls, is considered a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack. In a cup of fennel, you'll receive 10.8% of the daily value for fiber, 5.9% of the DV for folate, and 10.3% of the DV for potassium.


The Health Benefits of Fennel Seeds

The Health Benefits of Fennel Seeds 3.50/5 (70.00%) 4 votes

The Health Benefits of Fennel Seeds



Fennel is used as an herb and spice to add a hint of sweetness to many dishes, both sweet and savory. Every part of this plant can be used in cooking and alternative medicine, but the seeds are often the easiest to find and put to use in your life. They can be picked up at the spice aisle of any grocery store. Add them to dishes, chew them after meals, or steep them in water for a pleasant and soothing tea.

Fennel seeds have a similar flavor to licorice and anise and are naturally sweet. These seeds are rich in flavonoids that act as antioxidants to protect against free radical damage, combat cancer, slow degenerative diseases, and reduce oxidative stress to the cardiovascular system. Fennel seeds also have anti-inflammatory properties to reduce pain, especially associated with the symptoms of arthritis. They are rich in fiber that helps to reduce cholesterol, aid digestion, detoxify the body, and balance blood sugar. Fennel seeds are a very good source of the minerals calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and copper with essential vitamins like C, A, and several of the B vitamins.

Digestion – The fiber in fennel seeds acts as a cleanser in the digestive system and aids in the formation of bile. Essential oils in these seeds help ease muscle spasms, reduce inflammation, ease gas, and even destroy bad bacteria to keep everything moving smoothly.

Sight – Fennel was considered an herb for eyesight in ancient India and Rome. Extracts have shown some promise in improving the symptoms of glaucoma. They also contain vitamin A, which is important to eyesight.

Brain – Fennel has beneficial effects on memory and cognitive function.

PMS – Fennel seeds are anti-spasmodic and help reduce pain, cramping, bloating, and gas. They also contain phytoestrogens that can help balance hormones.

Breast Feeding – Fennel promotes the production and secretion of milk. This milk will also reduce gas for the baby, especially helpful with colic. Fennel seeds should not be taken in large amounts during pregnancy, though they are considered safe in regular recipes.

Lungs – Fennel seeds and their phytonutrients reduce asthma symptoms and help clear the sinuses. They make a great tea to aid with bronchitis, congestion, and cough as they have expectorant properties.

Blood – The fiber and essential oils in fennel seeds helps the body remove toxins. It is considered a blood cleanser.

Breath – Fennel seeds are consumed after meals in many counties to aid digestion and improve breath. Fennel sweetens breath, kills bacteria, and fights halitosis naturally.

*Fennel and fennel seeds are considered safe in the amounts used in food and tea. Very large doses have been linked to hallucinations and seizures. It is inadvisable to consume fennel if you have epilepsy or any other seizure disorder.

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