FENNEL, Foeniculum vulgare
My first encounter with fennel was different. At that point in my life, I had a very poor diet. I ate a lot of sweets, soft drinks and junk foods because it gave me energy and made me feel good for awhile. I had been sick for some time; I felt bad all over; I was despondent and wanted to die. I had spent a lot of time and money on doctors and drugs, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, my doctor told me that my problem was all in my head. He sent me a lot of different psychiatrists to straighten out my thinking and to get my head screwed on right. They talked to me about everything in the book and they gave me all kinds of medicines and drugs, but nothing made me feel any better.
One day I went to a chiropractor. We talked for quite a while, then he asked me for a sample of my urine and saliva. He took me out in his backyard. It was a weed patch. We looked at a funny-looking, flat-top plant. It didn’t have leaves; only fringe. He picked some seeds and ate them. He said, “Try some.” I thought, this guy has really flipped. He is crazy standing out here eating weeds. He said, “This is fennel, eat some, it’s good for you.” So I ate some of the fringed leaves. They didn’t taste too bad so I tried some of the seeds. They tasted even better. Then he told me that I had hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar. He said, “If you don’t change your diet, you’ll be dead within a year.” So I changed my diet. I also started to use herbs.
I wish he had known more about herbs like cedar berries and the other herbs in Grandma’s herbal Pancreas-Aid formula that help overcome hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. However, fennel was a start.
Almost everyone knows something about fennel. It has been used by all the greatest doctors that ever practiced medicine, including Hippocrates. Pliny had so much faith in the medical properties of fennel that he said it was the remedy for twenty two different ailment and diseases. He said he had even observed a serpent eating the fennel leaf when he shed his skin. Songs have been sung about fennel, how the serpent would rub his eyes against the plant to get his sight back. Even Longfellow wrote a poem about fennel!
The Romans used fennel to lose weight and the Greeks used it to give them courage and ensure long life. Fennel was used by the Egyptians to keep the slaves healthy. Every part of the plant is edible. The fresh stalk can be peeled and eaten like celery. The bulbous root can be cut up and put in soups, stews or salads. The seeds and leaves are used as medicines, condiments and seasonings.
Fennel is a biennial or perennial plant which grows between 4 to 9 feet high. It resembles a dill plant. The flower is yellow and grows in a flat cluster or compound umbel that blooms from June until October. The leaf looks like a bunch of strings growing out of a branch. The stalk is finely grooved. The root on some is carrot-shaped, while on the other species, it is bulb-shaped like celery. When the blossom dies, the seed or fruit is in two joined carpels.
Fennel leaves boiled in barley water increases mother’s milk and makes a child healthier. Fennel tea helps baby’s colic and is a carminative to get rid of stomach gas or flatulence. It works for adults, too. The tea is used for digestion or stomach cramps. A syrup made of fennel seeds is used to drive away fleas from stables or kennels. The pilgrims nibbled on fennel seeds in church to help them stay awake, and to help them to fast. Fennel has a licorice taste and smell. Some folks chew the seeds to sweeten their breath.
In medieval times, some folks thought fennel had special powers, so they hung it around the door to ward off evil spirits.
The leaves and root are good for serpent bites or poison stings. Why not plant some fennel seeds? You might need them sometime.
In 1650’s, a William Coles wrote, “Both the seeds, leaves and root of our garden fennel are much used in drinks and broths or those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldiness and cause them to grow more gaunt and lank.