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In past years, I’ve enjoyed creating tea blends using dried fennel seeds. This year, for the first time, I’m growing fennel in my garden. The bulbs and seeds are far from harvest ready. However, the frilly green fronds, reminiscent of dill, inspired me to create another first this evening…fennel leaf tea.
Like most herbs, the health benefits of fennel are many and the plant has been used since ancient times.
What is Fennel?
Fennel, a member of the carrot and celery family, originated in the Mediterranean region. It’s now grown around the world. This ancient herb produces a white bulb. From the bulb long green stalks appear. And on those stalks grow feathery green leaves that resemble dill.
The entire plant is edible…bulb, stalks, leaves and even the seeds that appear after flowering. Fennel is aromatic, smelling a bit like anise, while the flavor is distinctly licorice-like.
The herb is rich in bioflavonoids and antioxidants and high in fiber. Other nutrients include vitamins A, C and K, potassium, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and copper.
While it’s a popular vegetable for culinary purposes, fennel is valuable for its healing properties as well.
Health Benefits of Fennel
The health benefits of fennel include:
Fennel supports a healthy digestive system. The fiber prevents constipation and cleanses toxins and debris from the large intestine. Chewing the seeds after a meal eliminates bad breath and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. Fennel relieves acid reflux, gas, cramping and bloating and balances pH levels within the stomach.
Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease
High fiber foods such as fennel reduce cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The herb’s vitamin C protects the cardio system as well.
Eases Menopausal Symptoms
Early trials, giving post menopausal women fennel, found that symptoms such as sleeping issues, night sweats, flushing and hot flashes were relieved.
Improves Eye Health
Fennel’s antioxidants help to reduce inflammation, leading to improved vision. Fennel also appears to slow the progression of macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss in the elderly.
Helps to Prevent Cancer
The herb’s anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Fennel contains an oil called anethole which acts as a natural remedy against breast cancer cells.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Another one of the health benefits of fennel is the ability to lower blood pressure. The herb’s high potassium levels and low sodium combine to lower systolic blood pressure, helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Maintains Healthy Bones
Because of its high calcium content, fennel strengthens and maintains healthy bones. The plant’s magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K all contribute toward bone health as well.
Fennel’s vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It works to reduce free radicals that can damage skin cells, leading to premature aging. Vitamin C is necessary in the formation of collagen, another vital component for youthful skin.
Fennel can be enjoyed many ways. Sliced, the bulb adds crunch and sweetness to salads. Or the slices add flavor to stir fries and sautéed vegetables.
The stalks can replace celery in recipes while the tender fennel leaves are great added to salads or steamed with other veggies. Use the leaves to create pesto or to top baked potatoes. Steep the seeds or leaves in hot water for 15 minutes, to create a soothing and healing tea.
Using herbs for tea is one of my favorite health practices. I often enjoy a delicious blend of lemon balm, fennel seeds and thyme tea. This evening I decided to try something different.
I snipped several fennel fronds from my plants in the garden and prepared a fresh fennel tea. After adding hot water to a cup containing the leaves, I covered it and let the tea steep for 15 minutes.
The resulting tea had a delicate, subtle licorice flavor combined with the earthiness of a green tea. I enjoyed it very much.
Herbs contain such amazing properties. I’m grateful for the health benefits of fennel…and the other medicinal plants in my garden.
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