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How Do Herbs Help

Foeniculum vulgare (Saunf, Indian sweet fennel)

Biological Name:
Foeniculum vulgare

Family:
Umbelliferae

Other Names:
Fennel, madhurika, Methica, Indian sweet fennel, badi Sunf, Badishep, Barisopha, Badi-shep, Panmouri, Mauri, Sopu, Peddajilakurra, Shombu, Sohkire, Badi-sopu, Badi-sepu, finocchio, Large fennel, Florence fennel, sweet fennel, carosella, wild fennel

Habitat:
Commonly cultivated throughout India ascending up to 2000 m; often grows wild. Fennel belongs to perennials and is indigenous to the Mediterranean countries and Asia; still it’s specially raised in Europe and the USA. The root is long and resembles a carrot. It stem is thick and covered with stripes. The leaves are complex, having several segments, with the upper ones surrounding the stem. The plant blossoms from midsummer to late autumn, and features yellow-colored flowers. The fruit is composed of two carpels, which are oblong in shape.

Additional Info:
It is snigdha (slimy), laghu (light), madhur (sweet), seeth veeryam (cold), Katu (pungent); pacifies deranged kapha; beneficial in diseases arising from deranged vata, pitta, speenomegaly and worms.

Dıpana (stimulates digestion), Pacana (digestive), Sulaprasamana (alleviates intestinal spasms and pain), Kasahara (stops coughing), Svasahara (prevents asthma), Anuloma (redirects the flow of vata downwards), Chardinigrahan (prevents nausea), Sattva (Increases clarity of consciousness).

Elements Applied:
Seeds and roots are commonly applied in herbal medicine.

Active Components:
Essential oils Anethole, estragole, fenchone; Flavonoids; Organic acids; Sterols β-sitosterol (Mills & Bone 2000). The majority of active components, including terpenoid anethole, can be taken from the volatile oil. Terpenoids like anethole are characterized by actions similar to estrogen, while being potent to reduce smooth muscle spasms (for instance, bowel spasms). It contains ascorbic acid (Vit C) and niacin (Vit B3) as its active principles. According to recent researches, fennel is known to induce urination, promote bile excretion, reduce pains, fight fevers, and treat bacterial infections.

History:
According to several historical references, it was fennel that gave immortality in the myth of Prometheus, referring to Ancient Greece. Before Christ fennel was applied as a remedy for bowel colic in infants. Later one, fennel was prescribed by Discorides for decreasing appetite, while its seeds were applied to increase lactation.

Fennel was part of 22 medicines, made by Roman herbalist Pliny. According to Pliny, fennel helped cure eye diseases, and even blindness. Moreover, fennel was believed to cure jaundice.

Some nations use fennel after meals to impede stomach complaints and constipation. Latino-American women employed fennel as a lactation-inducing remedy.

Used For:
Digestive discomfort; flatulence, borborygmus, cramps, nausea and low agni. Although as a heating herb, it benefits digestion without aggravating pitta. In fact its sweet post-digestive action leaves a residual cooling effect. It relaxes the smooth muscles and is a specific herb for lower abdominal pain from lower bowel tension. Fennel water is used for colic in babies.

It is used as an aromatic, carminative and stomachic. Fennel is employed as a gastro-intestinal relaxant, soothing spasms in the smooth muscles of intestinal tract known to treat hyperacidity, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, colic and cramps.

Useful in vata–kapha obstruction type cough. Helps to clear phlegm by reducing aggravated avalambaka kapha that congests the alveoli and bronchioles. It induces perspiration and urination and is useful in difficult urination, burning and dark yellow urine, cloudy urine. Its diuretic properties clear pitta from mutravahasrotas.

Fennel is useful when nervous tension in mamsa dhatu and contraction in the smooth muscle system restricts the flow of vata. All spasms are relieved by fennel, especially in the GIT, lungs and uterus (Bhavaprakasa). Its nourishing effect on majja dhatu tonifies the brain and nervous system. It is also useful in gout.

Pounded fennel seed employed as tea is thought to heal insect and snake bites, as well as relieve symptoms of poisoning. The herb is successfully used for obesity. It boosts urination and helps regulate weak menstrual discharge. Conventionally, fennel oil is distributed over aching joints to reduce pain. As a gargle fennel was applied for sore throat and hoarseness.

In Germany, fennel is used like anise and caraway as a treatment for indigestion, gas pains, and infant colic.

According to several researches, because of its specific effect on rasadhatu fennel is believed to imitate estrogen activity (functioning like estrogen). For this reason fennel may be applied for boosting lactation in breastfeeding women and regulating menstrual flow caused by vata and kapha obstruction in the lower abdomen with pain, cramps and a dragging sensation (Bhavaprakasa). Additionally, it can be applied to soothe menopausal pains in women.

Preparation and Intake:
Seeds can be chewed naturally or added to tea. To prepare tea, use half a teaspoon of pounded seeds for a cup of water and boil it up for 10 to 15 minutes. The boiling volume should be covered. Cool the result, filter it, and take in a quantity of three cups a day. In form of tincture the remedy is applied at a dose of 2-4 ml thrice a day.

Safety:
4 ratti to 2 masha (0.5-2 gm) per day can be taken safely (Bhavaprakasha Nighantu). Exercise care. Herbs in Ayurvedic medicine are commonly mixed with other herbal medicines to reduce the toxic effect one of them may produce on the body.

Fennel does not produce any serious side effects on the body. Nursing or pregnant women, in addition to people with estrogen-triggered cancer, should not used fennel in considerable amounts till it becomes evident the herb can be effectively used as an estrogen substitute.

Moreover, individuals who suffered from hepatitis, or any other liver condition, or consumed alcohol on a regular basis, should also use the herb with extreme care, as its effect on the liver has not yet been properly investigated.

Fennel seeds are generally safe; however, there are anecdotal reports of sensitivity to fennel oil. It was said to result in skin rashes. If used internally fennel oil can possibly lead to seizures, vomiting, and sickness.