Medicinal plants

Fennel - application and effects

Fennel - application and effects

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The tuber with spicy healing power

With fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) we are given a useful plant that fulfills an important role as a spice and food, as well as in the field of medicinal herbs. The spicy tuber was used in ancient times to combat indigestion such as bloating, diarrhea or heartburn. Why the herb plant has such an incredibly good universal effect for a wide variety of health complaints is covered in our herbal guide on the subject.

Fennel: A brief overview

In the Middle Ages, fennel was one of Hildegard von Bingen's favorite herbs, an important figure in the history of naturopathy. She also recommended the bulbous vegetables for bad breath and eye pain. In addition, fennel was also used for depression and classic women's diseases. Here is a brief overview:

  • Word origin: The botanical technical name of the fennel 'Foeniculum' is derived from the Latin word foenum for "hay". The term refers to the herb of the plant, which, when dried, is strongly reminiscent of hay bales.
  • Botanical name: Foeniculum vulgare; Plant family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae).
  • Popular names: Medicinal fennel, bread seeds, Enis, Femis, Fenikl, Fenis, Fenkel, Finchel, Frauenfenchel, Köppernickel, Marathron.
  • origin: Africa, Asia, Europe.
  • application areas: Respiratory diseases, eye infections, depression, convulsions, headache, menstrual pain, migraines, pregnancy and breastfeeding help, digestive problems, menopausal symptoms.
  • Parts of plants used: Fruit seeds, tuber, root.

Application and dosage

The right time to collect fennel is in early autumn, when the tuber and fruit of the plant are sufficiently mature. The tuber and roots are usually eaten raw or used as a spice, side salad or soup vegetable.

The medicinally valuable seeds are obtained from the fruits of the fennel. Their possible uses are extremely diverse and range from the tried and tested fennel tea to the production of extracts such as fennel syrup or fennel oil. In addition, fennel is extremely popular as a mixed ingredient for medicinal plant combination recipes, which is mainly due to its easily digestible nature and its gentle effect. “The seed is particularly useful for health. Also as an addition to other means, ”recommended Hildegard von Bingen.

Fennel tea

Internal complaints, such as digestive problems, slow milk flow or headaches and melancholy, are traditionally treated with fennel tea. According to Hildegard von Bingen, tea is also able to strengthen skin and hair. One liter of fennel tea a day is the best for health. And the recommendation of the monastery woman can actually be passed on unchanged. The dosing guidelines are:

  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) of fennel seeds for 1 cup of tea
  • 4 tsp fennel seeds for a 1 liter pot of tea

Let the tea steep for about five to ten minutes before sifting the fennel seeds and enjoying the tea in small sips. Further details on the use of fennel tea can be found in our special article on: Fennel tea - application, preparation and effects.

Fennel seed liqueur

Fennel bitters to aid digestion after eating is also an option. You can mix the fennel seeds here, for example, with plums and peppercorns, both of which also have a laxative effect.

Recipe for fennel and plum liqueur:

  • 250 g fennel seeds
  • 250 g plums
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 1 l alcohol (e.g. vodka or brandy)
  • 1 large screw jar


  1. Wash the plums thoroughly and then pierce the fruit with a fork or toothpick. This ensures. that the liqueur can better absorb the plum aroma.
  2. Put fennel seeds and peppercorns in a mortar and roughly crush them. Here, too, the opening of the seeds serves to better release active ingredients and aroma.
  3. Now pour plums, fennel seeds and pepper into a large screw-top jar. Also add the sugar and then pour the alcohol on the glass. The screw-top jar should now be kept tightly closed for about two to four weeks, but stored warm and shaken vigorously every day.
  4. After the ripening period, filter the liqueur through a clean linen cloth and fill it into a dark bottle. The light bitter bitters can now be served as digestive aids in liqueur glasses after eating.

Please note: This is an alcoholic drink that is not suitable for children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and other risk groups.

Fennel honey

Fennel honey, also known as fennel syrup, is a popular home remedy for coughs, colds and other breathing difficulties. Especially in pediatrics, the syrup is used as a mild medicine to support the mucus solution and to relieve the irritated throat. It can also be used in a similar way to fennel tea for gastrointestinal complaints and kidney problems. Whether you ultimately speak of syrup or honey depends heavily on the amount of honey that is used in the preparation. Below is a simple basic recipe that can be thickened with additional honey or supplemented with other medicinal herbs such as anise or yarrow.


  • 25 to 30 g of fennel seeds
  • 0.5 l water
  • approx. 450 g honey


  1. Put the fennel seeds in a saucepan and add 0.5 l of water.
  2. Let the whole thing boil briefly and then steep for a few minutes before straining the seeds and allowing the decoction to cool to around 45 ° C.
  3. Now add the honey and stir the syrup until the honey has completely combined with the decoction. For colds or cough, about 3 to 4 spoons of fennel syrup can be taken daily.

Our tip: You can find more interesting recipes and useful information on the use of fennel syrup here: Fennel syrup - application, preparation and effects.

Note: Honey is not suitable for use in children under the age of one due to the risk of botulism.

Fennel oil

For external use for flatulence, especially in children, a gentle abdominal massage with fennel oil is popular. For this purpose, the oil is spread over the abdomen with warmed hands and then massaged into the abdominal tissue in a clockwise circular motion. The clockwise movement has a reason, because the large intestine loops also run clockwise, which is why gas accumulations in the intestine can be guided more easily towards the intestinal exit through massages in the direction of the course. It is important that the hands do not exert too much pressure on the abdomen, which could quickly make children uncomfortable. Fennel is often combined with anise in oil production, which also helps against indigestion such as flatulence. For this reason, here is a recipe for homemade anise fennel oil:


  • 5 g fennel seeds
  • 5 g anise seeds
  • 110 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 small screw jar (e.g. jam jar)
  • 1 dark bottle


  1. Crush the anise and fennel seeds roughly in a mortar so that the oil can later better absorb the essential oils contained in the seeds.
  2. Now put the seeds together with the vegetable oil in a screw-top jar, close it well and leave the oil deposit in a bright place for about 6 weeks.
  3. After the herbal oil has matured, it is sifted through a coffee filter or a clean linen cloth. Then it can be filled with a small funnel in a dark medicine bottle for storage.

Fennel powder

Fennel powder offers some other interesting applications. Hildegard von Bingen personally recommends a few excellent recipes. The herbalist used the powder in addition to the treatment of indigestion, for example also for eye problems. Her secret recipe for diarrhea and constipation was the following recipe of a fennel mixed powder:

  • 16 g ground fennel seeds
  • 8 g galangal powder
  • 4 g dipta powder
  • 2 g hawkweed powder

In case of digestive problems, Hildegard put two or three tips of the powder mixture into a liqueur glass and poured warm wine over it before serving it for lunch. The complaints should then resolve within a very short time.

Fennel powder for eye pain

Von Bingen also used fennel powder for eye pain, dark circles and visual problems. Your approach can best be described as a fennel eye press. Her original wording: "But if someone has gray eyes and somehow sees them foggy, and it hurts, and if that pain is still new, grind fennel or its seeds and take its juice and dew, which he finds on the right grass and some fine flour. He mixed this into a tartlet, and at night he put it around his eyes and tied a cloth (over it), and he would be better. "

The best way to implement this recipe is to boil one tablespoon of ground fennel seeds in half a liter of water. For better effectiveness, add a quarter teaspoon of table salt and a teaspoon of eyebright and let the mixture steep for about ten minutes after heating. The herb porridge is then sieved, placed as a tartlet in a cloth and placed on the eye. The filtered water can also be used as an eye wash for eye rinses.

Side effects

Usually fennel does not cause any particular side effects. For safety reasons, however, it should only be used when there are specific complaints. There are also some contraindications that apply to certain groups of people:

People with pollen allergy and hay fever or an existing allergy to umbelliferae could react to fennel with appropriate irritation reactions of the skin and the respiratory tract. Cross-reactions cannot be ruled out, especially if an allergy to celery is already known.

With the exception of fennel tea, highly concentrated products such as fennel oil or fennel syrup should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Otherwise, undesirable complications could arise.

Diabetics are also advised against taking sugar-containing fennel liqueur, fennel syrup and fennel honey, since the agents have a sensitive effect on blood sugar levels.

Ingredients and effects

The versatile effects of fennel can be traced back to a colorful mixture of proven medicinal ingredients and healthy nutrients. While the latter are important from a nutritional point of view and strengthen the body in a natural way, components such as the essential oil of the plant ensure the healing effect in the event of illness. The components of fennel oil have a special variety, which plays a not insignificant role in the universal healing power of the plant. Overall, the active ingredients of fennel are composed as follows:

  • essential oils,
  • Flavonoids,
  • Silica,
  • Minerals,
  • Vitamins.

Essential oils

Essential oils are additives in many medicinal plants. Such an abundance of ethereal additives, such as those found in fennel, is unusual even for very strong medicinal herbs. Some components have a taste-forming function. These include, for example

  • Camphene,
  • Cymol,
  • Estragol,
  • Lime,
  • Myrcene,
  • Ocimen,
  • Phellandren
  • Terpinol.

Many other essential essences of fennel also play a key role in its medicinal effects. Moreover, plants that are so rich in essential oils often have to be dosed very carefully and are particularly unsuitable for small children. The situation with fennel is very different, because it not only has a very gentle effect and is recommended as a gentle alternative in the area of ​​pediatric medicine, but can also be consumed in any amount in a completely safe manner.

Anethole and fenchone

Two of the most important ingredients in fennel essential oil are undoubtedly anethole and fenchone. The essences are found almost exclusively in umbelliferae, in the case of fenchon even only in fennel. Both have an antimicrobial effect and are therefore important for the effects of fennel in inflammatory infectious diseases such as conjunctivitis or bronchitis. Anethole in particular also has an expectorant and anticonvulsant effect, which is important for both respiratory diseases and indigestion.

By the way: fennel and anise are not only similar in terms of essential oils in terms of their aromatic components. The ingredient anethole is also common to both and is the reason that both plants are considered important tea herbs for breastfeeding mothers. Because Athenol has a milk-promoting effect and can therefore help all mothers who complain about a slow milk flow.

Pinene and terpinene

Pinene and terpinene in fennel have a very similar effect. They support the effects of Foeniculum vulgare in respiratory, inflammatory and infectious diseases through their antibacterial, antifungal, anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory properties.


In addition, the etheric additive myristicin is found especially in the herb of fennel, which promotes menstruation and is therefore one of the main reasons for using fennel as a medicinal herb.


The situation is similar with dillapiol, which frolics in the root of the fennel and, in addition to mild menstrual symptoms, can even remedy a complete absence of menstrual bleeding.

How exactly the properties of fennel oil, which are particularly interesting for women, has not yet been sufficiently investigated. However, in a study by the North American Menopause Society on the effects of fennel on menopausal complaints, scientists found that so-called phytoestrogens frolic among the essential components of the plant. This means secondary plant substances with an estrogen-like effect. The hormone controls gender-specific processes in the woman's body, which primarily affect fertility and pregnancy processes. During menopause, a falling estrogen level also causes the notorious menopause symptoms, against which fennel can also do a lot thanks to its phytoestrogens. It is reasonable to suspect that the local phytoestrogens are simply the substances mentioned above.


Flavonoids are often also components of essential oils, but can also occur separately in plants. They are said to have numerous effects, such as one

  • hypoallergenic,
  • antimicrobial,
  • antioxidant,
  • antiviral,
  • hypotensive,
  • relaxing,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • secretion-promoting,
  • and cardiovascular strengthening.

Again, the properties of the ingredients coincide with the areas of application of fennel that have been gathered over the centuries, with falvoinides being highly valued medicinal active ingredients, especially for heart diseases and high blood pressure. They can therefore be found in numerous cardiac medications and blood pressure medications. The antioxidative effect of flavonoids also has a supporting effect on vascular and cardiovascular health, because as radical scavengers they protect the heart and blood vessels from oxidative stress and thus from damage.


The silica in fennel may be more familiar to many as a component of silica. In alternative medicine, this is often used to tighten the connective tissue and to strengthen the skin, hair and nails. In fact, silica can do even more as an active ingredient. For example, it also plays a significant role in fat metabolism. The latter especially when you consider the digestive problems that can result from eating too much fat. In this context, silica is another reason for the digestive effects of fennel. In addition, silica strengthens the bone and cartilage substance and strengthens teeth and tooth enamel, which makes the structures mentioned more resistant to inflammation and signs of wear.


Speaking of bones and teeth, fennel contains large amounts of minerals that are commonly known as guarantors of bone and dental health. We are talking about

  • Potassium (494 mg per 100 g fennel),
  • Calcium (109 mg per 100 g fennel),
  • Magnesium (49 mg per 100 g fennel).

Potassium is also involved in regulating heart function, blood pressure and hormone levels. The latter is particularly important when it comes to the fertility and cycle regulating function of fennel. Menopausal symptoms can also be positively influenced by the hormone-regulating effect of potassium. Hormones also play a role in melancholy and depressive moods. Ingredients that stimulate the release of happiness hormones are very useful here.

When it comes to the prevention of muscle and nerve cramps, which occur not only with gastrointestinal colic but also with serious illnesses such as epilepsy, the calcium in the fennel is an important nutrient. The mineral has an influence on the conduction of excitation in the muscles and nervous system, which can defuse interference signals and thus prevent the development of cramps.

Magnesium also has a very similar function. The mineral not only regulates muscle and nerve function, but also protects against headaches and cardiac arrhythmias. Magnesium is also known for its defusing effects against anxiety, depression, inner restlessness, migraines and nervousness and is therefore a real mood enhancer.


The last health guarantee in fennel is its rich vitamin reserves. Above all, vitamin C, which makes up 93 mg per 100 g in the tuber and thus covers a full 116 percent of daily needs. This makes a decisive contribution to health. The positive effects of the vitamin on the body are many. This is how vitamin C works, for example

  • antioxidant,
  • strengthening connective tissue,
  • lowering cholesterol,
  • immune boosting,
  • stimulates the metabolism,
  • digestive.

And fennel is not lacking in other vitamins either. In fact, it covers almost the entire spectrum of important vitamins, because it contains (per 100g):

  • Vitamin A (583 µg)
  • Vitamin E (6 mg)
  • Vitamin K (50 µg)
  • Vitamin B1 (0.2 mg)
  • Vitamin B2 (0.1 mg)
  • Vitamin B3 (0.6 mg)
  • Vitamin B5 (0.3 mg)
  • Vitamin B6 (0.1 mg)
  • Vitamin B7 (2.5 µg)
  • Vitamin B9 (100 µg)

Vitamin B6 is particularly noteworthy because it supports the progesterone balance. The sex hormone is responsible for maintaining pregnancy in the first few weeks and can therefore increase the fertility of women.

Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid, is also extremely important for the body, as it is a guarantee of vascular and cell health. Pregnant women in particular, in whose abdomen new life is developing, have to pay attention to a regulated folic acid balance, so that no complications arise with the constant cell division of the unborn child. So here too a bonus for the function of fennel as feverfew. Since the vitamin is found in fennel at up to 100 µg per 100 g, a corresponding amount covers 50% of the daily requirement of folic acid. However, pregnant women can confidently access something more neatly.

Fennel: origin and folklore

The family of umbellifers (Apiaceae), which also includes fennel, is quite famous for its aromatic representatives. Numerous traditional aromatic herbs such as anise, dill, coriander, caraway, lovage, parsley and celery can be found here. And some delicious types of root vegetables, such as carrots or parsnips, also belong to the umbelliferous plants.

With fennel in particular, even the seeds have a spicy aroma. They arise from the yellow umbelliferous flowers that develop in summer on the plant, which is up to two meters high and whose shape is characteristic of umbelliferous plants. Similar to the conspicuously grooved tuber roots of the fennel, the seeds are also used as herbs and medicinal herbs. There are subtle differences in taste between the three main variants of the Foeniculum vulgare:

  • Vegetable fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. Azoricum) - tastes slightly onion-like to anise-like and is also known as bulbous or onion fennel.
  • Spice fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. Dulce) - has a sweetish note, hence the nickname sweet fennel.
  • Wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. Vulgare) - has a slightly bitter aftertaste and is therefore also called bitter fennel.

Regardless of the taste, all three variants of fennel are used in the kitchen and naturopathy. The first medical mentions go back to ancient Egypt, where it was used for flatulence. The Greek doctor Dioskurides and his Roman contemporary, Plinius, also recommended Foeniculum vulgare around 100 AD against digestive problems, and above all against stomach problems. Pliny also certified that fennel has a special healing power against male impotence.

"When drunk with water, it soothes the unwillingness and the heat of the stomach," emphasized the Greek doctor and pharmacologist Dioskurides. "Desire to eat, strengthens the physical spirits and increases the natural seed / straightens the hanging man's rods again," recommended the Roman scholar Pliny. The West German botanist and poet Walahfrid Strabo knew only good things to say about fennel. In his hortulus he wrote about the plant: “The honor of fennel should not be left out here either: it rises vigorously in the sprout and it stretches the arms of the branches to one side. Pretty sweet in taste and smell as well. It should be of use to the eyes when shadows afflict them. And his seed, drunk with milk from a mother goat, loosens, it is said, the flatulence of the stomach and immediately promotes the hesitant course of the long blocked constipation. Furthermore, the root of the fennel, mixed with the wine, the potion of Laeneus, and so enjoyed, dispels the wheezing cough. ”

Hildegard von Bingen shaped today's use

However, fennel was particularly impressed by a legendary herbalist from the Middle Ages. Hildegard von Bingen held large pieces on the fennel and researched its diverse healing effects like hardly any other naturopath at the time. It is thanks to your efforts in studying the plant and the written transmission of your herbal knowledge that we can now use fennel against a whole range of health problems. Overall, these are the following areas of application:

  • Respiratory complaints such as asthma, bronchitis, cold, sore throat and cough,
  • Eye infections such as conjunctivitis or inflammation of the eyelid,
  • Women suffering from menstrual pain, milk retention during breastfeeding and menopausal symptoms,
  • Heart and vascular problems such as angina pectoris, high blood pressure and heart failure,
  • Head and mental complaints such as anxiety, epilepsy, depression, melancholy, migraines and sleep disorders,
  • Indigestion such as bloating, diarrhea, colic, stomach pain, heartburn and constipation,
  • other complaints such as gout, insect bites and bad breath.

Why fennel is called feverfew

Above all, the good effect of fennel as a herb gave rise to the custom in ancient times to give fennel to a mother after giving birth. The herb is not known as feverfew for nothing, because it stimulates the milk production of breastfeeding women and, as a gentle medicinal herb, also helps with the so-called three-month colic, which many infants experience when their digestive tract has yet to get used to eating. Fennel can also alleviate the dreaded postpartum depression that many women suffer from after giving birth. In addition, the medieval superstition assumed that fennel kept flies and mosquitoes away from the child's bed. The insects were considered a sign of death or the devil, which tried to seize the child's soul.

"However fennel is eaten, it makes people happy and gives them a pleasant warmth and good sweat, and it causes good digestion. Its seeds are also of a warm nature and are beneficial to human health when added to other herbs in medicinal products. Because whoever eats fennel or its seeds on a daily basis, reduces the bad phlegm or putrefaction in it and suppresses the bad smell of their breath. He brings his eyes to a clear sight, of good warmth and of good powers. "

Hildegard von Bingen, German monastery woman and herbalist

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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  • Rahimikian, Fatemeh et al .: "Effect of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (Fennel) on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial", in: Menopause. 24 (9), September 2017, Ovid
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Video: 5 Incredible Health Benefits Of Fennel (October 2022).