November has come, and with it, ever darkening days, and more time spent within the home, either in the home of our bodies, as we nurture our inner worlds, or our physical homes, where we are likely to dedicate more time to craft, cooking, and general coziness.
This time of years also marks a time of celebration of the holidays, the seasons, and of community. Whether you'll be attending family gatherings, or potlucks with chosen family, general merriment and overindulgence tends to follow. For times when a second helping of delicious, comforting foods is medicine for the soul, Fennel can offer medicine for the belly.
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, is an excellent example of food-as-medicine at work. The same Fennel plant that provides a delectable, tender bulb found in the produce aisles of grocery stores produces seeds that are often used in herbal medicine for their medicinal properties. As a vegetable, Fennel bulbs have a light, but defined, anise flavor. If you're not sure what anise tastes like but you've had licorice root, you know the sort of flavor that's most prominent in fennel. The aromatic oils that give the fennel bulb it's flavor are even more concentrated in the seeds of the plant, and it's these same oils that carry the warming, carminative properties of the plant that make it so useful for easing stomach upset and promoting healthy digestion.
Fennel is one of the top herbs for regulating digestion. It warms and stimulates the digestive organs without irritating sensitive tissues or aggravating acid reflux. It promotes healthy appetite, helps the body release gas, and is an excellent remedy for colic and for headaches related to improper digestion. Fennel’s antispasmodic action also benefits the respiratory system, calming a hacking or convulsive cough. It lends a delicious flavor and aromatic lift to herbal blends and cough syrups. It can be used as a mild diuretic and kidney cleanser, especially in combination with other kidney -specific herbs. Fennel also promotes the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers - it is often blended with Fenugreek and Goat’s Rue for this purpose.
Fennel's benefits for our digestion are amplified when combined with herbs soothing to the digestive system, such as Marshmallow Root or Slippery Elm Bark, and other aromatic, carminative herbs such as Ginger and Cardamom.
You can find the warming, digestive benefits of Fennel Seed in a number of The Herb Shoppe's blends: