Fennel Seeds (Foeniculum Vulgare Seeds) are also called SAUNF (SOUFF) in Hindi (in India). These are highly aromatic and flavorsome dried seeds of fennel plant. Fennel has medicinal as well as culinary uses. It provides marvelous flavors and is frequently used in Indian cooking.
Fennel seeds (souff) are sweet and woody in taste. It has many health benefiting nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Fennel seeds have been utilized for treating indigestion, diarrhea, colic and respiratory ailments. It is also beneficial in eye problems and menstrual disorders.
People commonly chew fennel seeds after a meal in India, as it helps to digest food and prevents the formation of gas in stomach. It is an aromatic herb, which is also used as a mouth freshener. It also relieves gum disease or toothache.
- 1 Chemical Composition
- 2 Pharmacological Actions
- 3 Therapeutic Indications
- 4 Fennel Seeds Benefits & Medicinal Uses
- 4.1 Gastritis
- 4.2 Indigestion
- 4.3 Polydipsia (Excessive Thirst)
- 4.4 Weight Loss
- 4.5 Protects against Osteoporosis
- 4.6 Hirsutism (Excessive Hairiness)
- 4.7 Protects vision
- 4.8 Prevents Anemia
- 4.9 Breast Enlargement
- 4.10 Common Cold
- 4.11 Bronchitis & Asthma
- 4.12 Sore Throat
- 4.13 Increases Breast Milk
- 4.14 Fennels Seeds in Infants
- 4.15 Snakebites
- 4.16 Heat Stroke
- 5 Fennel Water
- 6 Fennel Tea
- 7 Dosage & Administration
- 8 Safety Profile
Fennel has two varieties:
- Bitter Fennel
- Sweet Fennel
Fennel seeds contain essential oil constituted by anethole (80%), estragole (10%), and fenchone (7.5). (1)
Anethole is likely to be responsible for pharmacological properties of fennel seeds. Other phyto-chemical constituents include:
Sweet Fennel also contains coumarins and flavonoids.
Fennel seeds also contain nitrates. The ratio of nitrates to nitrites is 4:1. Nitrites are good for cardiovascular health and promote angiogenesis and vasorelaxation. The seeds contain more nitrates content as compared to Cumin, Coriander, Khus-Khus seeds and Cucumber seeds. (2)
|Constituents||Quantity (Approx. in %)|
Bitter fennel essential oil obtained by hydrodistillation contains trans-anethole, fenchone and estragole, as major active constituents.
Fennel essential oil is commonly used in Aromatherapy due to the high content of Anethole and Fenchone. These bioactive substances exert stimulatory action on the digestion and improve respiratory function.
Fennel seeds are well-known for anti-flatulent, antispasmodic and stomachic action. It relaxes the abdominal muscles, reduces spasm, eliminates intestinal gas and relieves pain.
Additionally, it has following medicinal properties: (5)
- Digestive stimulant
- Mild Antihyperglycemic
- Secretolytic – Fennel breaks up the phlegm secretions and reduces viscidity of the mucus. It clears the lungs. So, it acts like a modern secretolytic agent Ambroxol.
- Nootropic (cognitive enhancer)
- Memory enhancer
- Eye tonic and eyesight promoter
- Blood circulation booster
- Ovarian stimulant – stimulate ovulation
- Anti-vulvodynia – relieves vulvar pain in women
- Strengthening – treats general debility
|RASA (Taste)||MADHURA (Sweet), KATU (Pungent), TIKTA (Bitter)|
|GUNA (Main Quality)||LAGHU (Light), SNIGADH or SNEHA (Unctuous or Oily)|
|VIRYA (Potency)||SHEETA (Cold)|
|VIPAKA (Resultant)||MADHURA (Sweet)|
|DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors)||Mainly pacifies VATA DOSHA and PITTA DOSHA|
According to Ayurveda, use of fennel as medicines reduces all three TRIDOSHA (VATA, PITTA & KAPHA). It has a sweet, astringent-like and bitter taste. Fennel has a cooling effect on the body. Its leaves have a sweet, woody taste in the mouth. Ayurveda suggests against cooking fennel. As cooking kills its properties instead one should steep fennel. It helps in washing out toxins from the body.
Fennel seeds are therapeutically indicated in following symptoms and diseases:
- Excessive thirst
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Intestinal gas
- Abdominal pain or colic or cramps
- Infantile colic
- Bloating or abdominal distension
- Intestinal gas
Brain, Nerves & Sense Organs
- Nervine Weakness
- Weak eyesight
Heart & Blood
- Cardiac weakness
- Blood disorders
Lungs & Airways
- Productive cough
- Sore throat
Mouth, Teeth & Gums
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Persistent bad breath
Kidney & Urinary Bladder
- Spasmodic dysmenorrhea
- Vulvodynia – vulvar pain
- Low breast milk supply
- Bad odor in breast milk
Fennel Seeds Benefits & Medicinal Uses
Fennel seeds are mainly used for problems related to the digestive system. Secretolytic property helps in respiratory diseases. Antispasmodic action relieves cramps and abdominal pain. Its beneficial effects appear on stomach, intestines, liver, brain, heart, kidneys and uterus. Health Benefits of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) include its ability to preclude abdominal diseases, prevent gas formation and to help in weight loss, indigestion, cancer, and aging. It improves strength and promotes longevity.
Fennel seeds are one of the important medicines used for treating inflammation of the stomach. Fennel seed powder is commonly used to treat gastritis symptoms. It modulates the secretions of gastric acid and soothes the mucosal lining of the stomach. According to ayurveda, it actually does not reduce gastric secretions, but it reduces the TIKSHNA GUNA of PITTA (abnormal sharpness of gastric acid that causes inflammation in the stomach). Therefore, it does not likely to reduce appetite. Instead, it is likely to increase appetite. Many patients with gastritis, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux or GERD have loss of appetite. In such cases, it also works to improve appetite due to modulation action on gastric secretions.
For best results in gastritis or heartburn, it can be used along with licorice root powder (Mulethi Churna), amla powder (Indian Gooseberry), and coriander seed. All these herbs should be mixed in equal proportion. The dosage is 1 teaspoon twice daily in between the food.
Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a condition related to GERD, ulcer and other underlying diseases. Fennel exerts similar action to reduce burning sensation in the abdomen. The carminative action helps to relieve belching and gas. The antispasmodic action helps to alleviate abdominal pain. Its antiemetic action helps to cure nausea and vomiting. It has gastric secretion modulation action, which helps to reduce acidic taste and sour taste in the mouth.
Polydipsia (Excessive Thirst)
Like cardamom seeds, Fennel seeds are also beneficial for reducing excessive thirst. It is commonly used for this purpose in ayurveda. For reducing excessive thirst, its seed powder can be mixed with brown sugar (Shakkar) or rock sugar (Misri) in equal proportion and taken with water. Alternatively, Fennel seed distillate (Saunf Arq) or fennel water in a dosage of 60 ml thrice daily can also be used.
The Greek name of fennel is ‘marathon’ derived from ‘Marino’, which means to grow thin. Fennel seeds are a metabolic enhancer. Fennel boosts fat metabolism and prevents excess fat accumulation. It helps one to reduce weight.
Fennel Seeds for weight loss
However, fennel seed is wrongly stated as an appetite suppressant. It does not reduce or suppress your appetite. According to ayurveda, it normalizes appetite and improves digestion. If you suffer from loss of appetite, then it will increase your appetite. We have a huge experience on this using it in many of our patients to improve their appetite. Actually, it keeps your appetite as natural as it should be and helps you to have a good appetite. If you have loss of appetite, then it will help to modulate gastric secretion and improve liver functions, which ultimately normalizes your appetite. In fact, it acts as a gastric modulator, so it balances the secretion, as discussed under heading ‘Gastritis’.
The effect on obesity is due to its effects on metabolism and on the usability of the fats. It also induces burning of the accumulated fat. However, its effects as fat burner are not comparable with most of the ayurvedic medicines used for weight loss.
Fresh Fennel for losing weight
Fresh fennel is a low calorie, low fat, and a high fiber vegetable. 100 grams of raw fennel contains 30 to 35 calories and approximately 3 to 4 grams of dietary fiber. Such a composition adds bulk to the diet without increasing the overall calorie intake.
When fresh fennel is consumed, dietary fiber enters into the stomach, absorbs water and becomes viscous. Thus, it provides satiety and makes one feel full. This further reduces overall food intake and entry of calories into the system. Hence, consuming a big bowl of fennel salad before meals can be a great strategy for weight loss. (6)
Protects against Osteoporosis
Fennel is an anti-osteoporotic and osteoprotective plant because of its estrogenic property. Estrogen plays a vital role in the regeneration of bones. A low level of estrogens in the blood is associated with increased risk of osteoporosis. As fennel mimics the effect of estrogen, it protects the bones against fracture and strengthens them. Thus, fennel enhances overall bone health and lowers the substances that cause breakdown of bone tissue. (7)
Hirsutism (Excessive Hairiness)
Presence of male pattern hair in women is known as hirsutism. Such a condition is due to rise in the level of testosterone (male hormone) in females. Fennel contains Anethole, a compound that possesses estrogenic activity. It inhibits the conversion of testosterone into its active form. Thus, it weakens the action of testosterone in females and reduces hirsutism too. (8)
Studies have found that fennel protects vision loss. It helps in reducing eye pressure which otherwise increases the risk of cataract and blindness. Diabetic retinopathy (vision loss in diabetes) is a complication of hyperglycemia.
Anethole, an active compound present in fennel helps in normalizing blood glucose level and thus reduces the risk of vision loss. Furthermore, Anethole increases soluble lens protein and slows down the onset of cataract.
The antioxidant potential of fennel protects the eyes against free radical damage and thus enhances overall vision. In addition to this, healthy compounds present in fennel inhibit the action of aldose reductase and hence, it prevents damage to the eyes and nerves. (9)
Fennel is a strong antioxidant agent. It scavenges the free radicals and protects the red blood cells (RBCs) against free radical attack. It further enhances overall kidney health and promotes the formation of erythropoietin, an important factor required for the production of red blood cells. Low red blood cell count and low hemoglobin in the blood leads to anemia. As fennel enhances the production of RBCs, it helps in the prevention of anemia. (10)
Anethole, a main constituent of fennel seeds, acts phytoestrogen. It stimulates breast development. 3 months therapy with fennel seeds can help to increase the size of breast. However, when one stops its consumption, breast may regress to the size of that was before starting therapy. (11)
For getting better results, fennel seeds can be combined with Ashwagandha and Shatavari Powder. The mixing ratio of these three herbs should be equal. The result achieved with this combination has a fewer chance of regression.
Fennel seeds (saunf) eliminate cold. Fennel seeds contain alpha-pinene and creosol, which helps in loosening congestion and make coughs productive.
Bronchitis & Asthma
Boiling fennel seeds and leaves and inhaling them provides relief from asthma and bronchitis.
Fennel seeds are also good for pharyngitis and sore throat or sinus problems.
Increases Breast Milk
Fennel seeds (souff) help lactating mothers by improving the milk production.
Fennels Seeds in Infants
Fennel seeds help to relieve gastrointestinal issues. Fennel oil relieves colic in infants.
Fennel powder can be used as a poultice for snakebites.
In the case of heat stroke, one can soak a handful of fennel in water overnight. Have the strained water in the morning with a pinch of salt.
Prevent Aging and Cancer: Fennel seeds (souff) contain antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol. These anti-oxidants remove toxic radicals in the body and prevent cancers, neurological diseases, and aging. The body skin tells the age of a person. The anti-oxidants in fennel seeds help in keeping the skin fair and young. The fiber in fennel seed protects the colon mucous membrane from cancer. Fennel oil can be used in an oil blend. It can be massaged in the face and neck overnight to tone the skin and prevent wrinkles. Fennel seeds, soaked in water made into a paste mixed with oatmeal and honey, are a great face pack to prevent aging of the skin. It is a very effective scrub to cleanse, firm and freshens the skin.
Improve Digestion: Fennel seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber. Our body needs the insoluble fiber for better functioning of the stomach relieving one of a condition such as constipation. The dietary fibers bind with the bile salts and prevent it from getting absorbed into the system. The bile salts produced by cholesterol are harmful to the body and raises cholesterol levels. Consuming fennel seeds can help keep the cholesterol under control. It is an anti-emetic, purgative and a hepatic herb.
Good source of Minerals, vitamins, and Oils: It is a good source of Iron, Copper, Potassium, Manganese, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium. Each of the nutrients is needed for proper functioning of the human body.
Fennel is a storehouse of vitamins A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. All these vitamins are in a concentrated form in these seeds. It consists of essential oils, which have great health benefits. These oils are carminative in nature and help in better functioning of the stomach. Oil of fennel relieves muscular pains. Hence, it is used in massage blends, especially in ayurveda. It calms the nerves and promotes mental clarity.
Acts as a coolant: Fennel seeds have properties, which cools the body. During the scorching summers, generally, people consume Fennel seeds drink to relieve the heat.
Fennel Oil massage: Fennel oils used in massage oil blend helps detoxify the body. Due to this massage, there are fewer toxins in the body to flare up the conditions like arthritis, immune disorders, and allergies.
Fennel water can be prepared following the below method:
- Soak 5 teaspoonful of fennel seeds in a cup of water for two hours
- Strain fennel seeds and keep the fennel water aside for further use.
- The fennel seeds should be ground into a fine paste.
- Add the strained water to the fennel paste. Then leave it further for 3 hours, so all active constituents can be absorbed into water.
- Strain the mixture again and separate the fennel water.
- If you are using fennel water for therapeutic purposes, it should be taken warm and without sugar. For this purpose, you should always prepare it fresh every day and don’t store it in the refrigerator.
Note: You should not add sugar in fennel water especially when you are using it for getting rid of abdominal colic, gas, bloating or other abdominal conditions. Sugar might negate the anti-colic and anti-flatulent effects of fennel water.
Consuming fennel tea will relieve one of the sore throat and gastrointestinal issues. Drinking fennel tea regularly helps detoxifying the body.
The fennel tea can be prepared with the below instructions:
- Grind the fennel seeds to a coarse powder.
- Boil water and add the fennel powder.
- Place a lid over the vessel and turn off the heat.
- Strain the fennel tea after 5 minutes.
- Add honey or jaggery syrup and consume warm.
Dosage & Administration
The dosage of fennel and its preparations is as follows.
Fennel Seed Powder Dosage
One can chew fennel seeds or take the powder of fennel seeds, as the dosage recommended in the table.
|Fennel Seed Powder Dosage:|
|Children||50 to 100 mg per Kg body weight|
|Adults||3 to 6 grams (optimum dosage: 3 grams)|
|Pregnancy||1 to 2 grams|
|Geriatric (Old age)||2 to 3 grams|
|Maximum Possible Dosage||18 grams Per Day (in divided doses) *|
|Doses: 2 to 3 Doses per day|
|Best Time to Take: After meal|
|Adjuvant: Warm water|
|* The maximum dosage of Fennel seeds is a general estimate. Generally, it should not be consumed more than 9 grams per day. In some cases, it is used more frequently and dosage can be up to 18 grams per day.|
|Note: Similar dosage is applicable to Fennel Root Powder, which is commonly used for inducing purgation.|
Dosage of Fennel Seed Water, Fennel Tea & Fennel Distillate
|Infants (Age: Up to 12 Months)||1 to 5 ml|
|Children||5 to 20 ml|
|Adults||20 to 60 ml|
|Pregnancy||10 to 20 ml|
|Geriatric (Old age)||10 to 20 ml|
|Maximum Possible Dosage||180 ml Per Day (in divided doses)|
|Doses: 2 to 3 Doses per day|
|Best Time to Take: After a meal for digestive action; Before meal for appetizer action; it can be taken anytime without worrying about food, especially in the case of abdominal pain, cramps, uterine cramps and other types of spasmodic pains.|
|Adjuvant: Not required|
|Note: The dosage shown in this table is also applicable to Fennel Infusion, Fennel distillate (SAUNF ARQ), Fennel Seed Water, and Fennel Tea.|
Fennel Oil Dosage
|Fennel Seed Oil Dosage:|
|Infants (Age: Up to 12 Months)||Not recommended|
|Children (Age: up to 5 years)||Not recommended|
|Children (Age: above 5 years)||1 drop per 15 Kg body weight|
|Adults||4 to 10 drops|
|Geriatric (Old age)||3 to 5 drops|
|Maximum Possible Dosage||20 drops Per Day (in divided doses)|
|Doses: 1 to 2 Doses per day|
|Best Time to Take: After meal|
|Adjuvant: Lukewarm water|
Fennel seeds (Saunf) are Likely Safe in food amounts or less than 18 grams per day. A natural or crude form of fennel seeds is safer than fennel extracts or fennel oil. Fennel distillate, Fennel water, Fennel infusion, and fennel tea are also to be safe.
Fennel Seeds Side Effects
Fennel in natural form does not likely to cause any side effects when consumed as per recommended dosage.
The excessive use of fennel seeds can increase the sensitivity of the skin for sunlight and increased sensitivity might increase the chances of getting sunburn.
Generally, Fennel seeds and its traditional formulations are used during pregnancy for treating nausea, loss of appetite, indigestion, vertigo, belching, and abdominal pain. In all these conditions, fennel seeds are effective and useful.
Fennel seeds in low dosage (less than 6 grams per day) are likely to be safe during pregnancy. It should not be taken in higher dosage or in extract form.
Fennel actually improves menstruation by reducing cramps and menstrual pain. In higher dosage, fennel might exert emmenagogue action and promote bleeding. However, fennel seeds have very insignificant effects on inducing menstruation or promoting bleeding. This action is also entirely dose-dependent and only appears when fennel seeds are taken in higher dosage. However, this effect is still mild, but pregnant women should stay on the safer side and avoid using it in excess (should not take it more than 6 grams per day). Avoid using fennel oil, fennel extract, or any unnatural form of fennel. The similar principle applies to women trying to conceive.
Fennel water, fennel tea, fennel infusion, or fennel decoction prepared with traditional methods are also possibly safe when prepared from 6 grams or less than 6 grams fennel seeds.
However, fennel extracts derived with any method using alcohol, or supercritical CO2 and fennel seed oil should not be used during pregnancy or while trying to conceive because the safety profile of these derivatives is unknown and these forms are not traditionally used. Traditional medicines including ayurveda only recommend using fennel in its natural form.
Fennel is commonly used for its galactagogue action. It increases breast milk supply and induces milk secretions. It is also used in infants for treating common abdominal and digestive problems.
Fennel seeds are likely to be safe to consume by lactating mothers. There are no adverse effects reported with the use of Fennel in lactating mothers and breastfeeding babies.
People who are sensitive to carrots, celery, peach, and mugwort might be allergic to fennel seeds. The common symptoms of fennel allergy include:
- Itching in the mouth
- Tingling sensation in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
- Hives – itchy skin eruptions
- Skin rashes
If a person suffers from a condition that might become worse by exposure to estrogen, then fennel must not be taken, e.g. breast cancer, uterine cancer etc. Some people have allergic skin reactions to the use of fennel, so they should avoid fennel.
Fennel Oil Safety
Scientific Research has proved that fennel oil can be safely used for relieving colic of breastfed infants. Dosage should be twice a day for a week’s time. Fennel oils are also used in making soaps, toothpaste and mouth fresheners.