Fennel is a widely used, inexpensive, and very underrated herb. Its original form is a bulb with delicate green leaves, but it is commonly used as a seed or oil. Its aroma and flavour is similar to aniseed as it has a sweet taste reminiscent of liquorice. But don’t worry if you are not a liquorice fan, I’m sure you will still love fennel and its benefits.
Many people use fennel in their cooking, such as in salads, roasts, stews, tagines, and even in their baking goods to flavour bread, cookies, and cakes. However, fennel is not just tasty, it’s very nutritious too! It is high in fibre and contains vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and many antioxidants.
One of the main properties the simple fennel seed is famous for is its power to help digest food. You will often see a small bowl of fennel seeds in many Indian restaurants by the till as it is customary to chew a teaspoon of these to aid digestion and help break down food after a heavy meal. It helps to relieve flatulence, indigestion, and tummy pains. As soon as you chew a small handful of seeds your mouth feels clean and refreshed; it is often eaten after meals to freshen the breath too!
I often have fennel tea in Ramadhan and, on occasions where I am prone to having a big meal like weddings and Eid, I just can’t resist this delicious, blessed food. If you can’t find fennel tea in your local supermarket, you can make your own by steeping 1 teaspoon of the seeds in 1 cup of water for a few minutes, strain and enjoy! Some mothers may even give their infants a little fennel water to help relieve colic and soothe the tummies of crying babies.
Fennel is good for the heart too, as it raises high density lipoprotein, also known as “good” cholesterol. The fibre found in fennel seeds decreases reabsorption of cholesterol, promoting a healthy heart.
All these benefits put together can also help one lose weight. You will find fennel in many “weight loss” teas and tablets. This is because of its high fibre content, its ability to lower “bad” cholesterol and how it aids digestion of food, reducing that uncomfortable bloated feeling.
Fennel is great for the skin – the strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties makes it an excellent detoxifier. It is known to purify, heal and soothe problematic skin, especially acne-prone skin, by reducing the production of sebum. It is mild enough to use as part of a regular treatment regime. You can have it daily as a tea, or mix some fennel oil with rosewater and apply to skin every night as a toner.
Fennel is now added to many skincare products, even anti-ageing creams. It firms the skin by stimulating estrogen receptors, which help to tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
So if you want to flatten that stomach, reduce bloatedness or clear up your skin, try having a cup of fennel water every day. A good time to have it is after dinner or after a big meal, and soon you will feel better and lighter (insha Allah, by getting rid of excess air and fat from your body.