Fennel: Properties and Benefits


Fennel is a fairly common vegetable, which can be cooked in several ways. The wealth of constituents and its therapeutic properties also provide many health benefits

The fennel, scientific name Foeniculum vulgare , belongs to the Apiaceae family. It can reach one meter in height. The plant originates from the Mediterranean basin and is currently cultivated almost everywhere.

Fennel: properties and benefits
Fennel: properties and benefits

The fennel has been used since ancient times for its properties aromatic and digestive. The plant has a flavor that somehow recalls that of anise. In addition to the sweet plant, belonging to the variety intended for horticultural production, there is also the wild variety. This can reach a height of 2 meters.


The fennel plant adapts well enough to be grown on most soils. It is currently cultivated in most gardens for the production of its edible part called grumolo. This is nothing more than the set of its leaf sheaths which mature 3 months after sowing.

This vegetable has been used in ancient times in many crops to cure a variety of ailments thanks to its medicinal properties. For example, Chinese medicine uses it to increase the flow of breast milk and to treat congestion.

It is a traditional and popular herb with a long history of medicinal use. A series of studies has shown that F. vulgare effectively controls numerous infectious disorders of bacterial, fungal, viral and protozoal origin. ( 12 ) It has antioxidant, antitumor, chemopreventive, cytoprotective, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic and estrogenic activities. ( 34 ) Some publications claim that F. vulgare has a specific property that improves memory and can reduce stress. ( 5 )

In recent years, improvements in agricultural yield have been studied for this vegetable. Its therapeutic properties and essential oil content have in fact encouraged the large-scale cultivation of the plant.

Chemical Composition

Chemical composition per 100 grams of fennel
Water g 90,2
Protein g 1,2
Carbohydrates g 7,3
Fat g 0,2
Fiber g 3,1
Ashes g 1,1
Calcium mg 19
Iron mg 0,7
Magnesium mg 17
Phosphorus mg 50
Potassium mg 414
Sodium mg 52
Zinc mg 0,2
Copper mg 0,1
Manganese mg 0,2
Selenium mcg 0,7
Vitamin A IU 134
B1 mg 0,01
B2 mg 0,03
B3 mg 0,6
B5 mg 0,2
B6 mg 0,05
Vitamin C mg 12
Folate mcg 27

Source: Nutritiondata

It contains essential oil which contains the active ingredients with the most relevant properties. Noteworthy is the presence of flavonoids such as isoquercitrine, quercetin and rutin .


100 gr of edible part the fennel have caloric yield equal to 31 kcal.

Fennel: Properties and Benefits


This vegetable contains an oil called anethole which appears to have anticancer properties.  A 2012 study showed that this compound helps to reduce breast cancer cell proliferation. Anethole is thought to be helpful in reducing inflammation leading to cancer formation. However, further studies are needed to understand how anethole can be used against cancer. ( 6 )

In another study conducted in Saudi Arabia, anethole increased survival time, reduced tumor weight, and reduced volume and body weight of mice carrying Ehrlich ascites tumor. The compound also produced a significant cytotoxic effect in cancer cells and increased glutathione concentrations. ( 7 )

The fennel contains other constituents with properties anti-inflammatory, especially selenium that, according to the researchers, may help to reduce the rate of death from cancer. A study conducted on more than 8.000 people found that this mineral reduces cancer mortality and the risk of developing a tumor. ( 8 )

The efficacy that fennel seed extract has on certain types of cancer has been demonstrated in especially breast and liver. Studies have also found that seed extract, thanks to the concentration of flavonoids, alkaloids and phenols, can also have protective effects against chemotherapy.


The intake of fennel has the ability to avoid the formation of intestinal gas and is therefore useful in case of aerophagia and meteorism. In fact, fennel , due to the presence of aspartic acid which enhances its carminative properties, is a well-known remedy for fighting flatulence. Its extract can be used by the elderly and children without problems.

Antimicrobial and Antiviral Activities

The fennel was used as an ethnic remedy to cure a number of infectious diseases of bacterial, fungal, viral and mycobacterial. In the past several studies have validated its properties antimicrobial and antiviral.

These properties have also been confirmed by more recent studies which suggest that fennel has effective constituents against a wide range of bacteria such as E. coli , Bacillus pumilusStaphylococcus aureusAspergillus flavusCandida albicans  and others. ( 91011 )

According to other studies, oils extracted from F. vulgare have various levels of antifungal effects on the mycelial growth of Alternaria alternata, Fusarium oxysporum and Rhizoctonia solani. ( 12 )

Essential oil of fennel showed appreciable antifungal activity against strains of pathogenic fungi, as Aspergillus niger, Fusarium solani  and  Rhizopus solani. ( 13 )

Cough cure

Its intake brings benefits even in case of cough. To reduce the nuisances, the preparation of a decoction made from leaves and seeds is recommended. These will be boiled for 3/4 minutes in 3 quarts of water and then sugared with honey.


A South Korean study in mice found that oral administration of F. vulgare methanol extract  has inhibitory effects against acute inflammatory diseases. The activity anti-inflammatory methanol extract was assessed using three screening protocols. Carrageenan-induced edema, arachidonic acid-induced auricular edema and formaldehyde-induced arthritis. ( 14 )

Benefits to Memory

There are a number of plants whose consumption is believed to be effective for improving memory and cognitive function. In Ayurvedic medicine, many pharmacological properties are attributed to the plant, including one that brings benefits to the brain.

An animal study found the memory-enhancing effect in rats with scopolamine-induced amnesia. The study was published in the Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. ( 15 )

There is also evidence for the use of fennel to treat cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In an Indian study, methanol extract administered for eight consecutive days improved the amnesic effect of scopolamine and the memory deficits induced by aging in mice. ( 16 )

Respiratory Disorders

It is useful for treating certain respiratory ailments such as congestion and bronchitis. These benefits are due to ethanol and cineol, 2 compounds with expectorant properties. The seeds can help dissolve phlegm and eliminate toxins present in the throat and respiratory tract for faster healing.


The fennel has been used for millennia to increase the production of breast milk. ( 17 ) According to studies, anethole can influence milk secretion by competing with dopamine at the appropriate receptor sites, thereby inhibiting the antisecretory action of dopamine on prolactin. ( 18 )

However, further research suggests that the actual pharmacologically active agents responsible for galactogenic activity are anethol polymers rather than anol or anethol itself. ( 19 , 20 )

The plant is also used by women to relieve the typical symptoms of menopause and beyond. Its intake is useful to soothe the pain and (if any) nausea deriving from the menstrual cycle.

Lower Your Blood Pressure

As can be seen from the chemical composition, fennel is rich in potassium. This mineral is useful for lowering blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. A potassium-rich diet can reduce blood pressure by 5,5 points compared to a sodium-rich diet.

According to studies, 4 weeks of potassium-rich diet is needed to see a drop in blood pressure. ( 2122

Fennel seed properties


Although studies on raw vegetables have not yet been completed, there is positive feedback on the properties of fennel extract. According to the latest research, it appears to be able to inhibit the growth of tumors.

An Indian study shows results indicative of the chemopreventive potential of fennel against carcinogenesis. ( 23 )

At the same time, the extract also appears to have chemo-protective properties. That is, it seems to be able to protect the body from the harmful effects of chemotherapy.


Studies confirm that natural antioxidants can be used to protect beings humans from oxidative stress damage. 24 ) Fennel is already known as an excellent source of natural antioxidants and contributes to the daily antioxidant diet. ( 25 )

In studies, ethanol and fennel water extracts showed less antioxidant activity than essential oil. ( 26 )


As we have seen, this vegetable is an excellent source of fiber. In addition to helping digestion and fighting free radicals, it proves to be an excellent aid for keeping blood cholesterol levels under control. In this case the benefits are for the heart and for the prevention of pathologies such as arteriosclerosis and stroke. ( 2728 )

This property of dietary fiber is supported by several scientific studies. High fiber diets are associated with improved lipid profiles. In particular, evidence from controlled studies and observational studies show that dietary fiber lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. ( 282930 )

Bone Benefits

Thanks to its good calcium content, this vegetable can help keep bones strong and healthy. Those who do not consume enough calcium with food can think of introducing this vegetable into their diet.

For the benefit of the bones, however, fennel does not only contain calcium. In fact, among its constituents we also find magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K. All these compounds play an important role in maintaining bone strength. ( 31 )

Sense of Satiety

Always thanks to the good fiber content, the intake of this vegetable increases the sense of satiety. Our organism does not have the enzymes necessary to digest the fibers so they cannot supply calories to the organism.

There are several studies which confirm that a high fiber diet can promote weight loss. A 2001 study  looked at subjects who included 14 grams of fiber in their diet. The results they were good. These people took 10% of calories per day and lost 4 pounds in 4 months. ( 32 )

Eye Health

The macular degeneration is one of the main diseases of the eye linked to old age. The exact cause of this disease is not yet known. What is certain, however, is that antioxidants are useful for protecting cells from inflammation and other damage.

Vitamin C, zinc, flavonoids can therefore help improve vision and slow progress of degenerative disease. ( 33 )


menopause study suggests that a phytoestrogen present in the vegetable may reduce its symptoms. In the study, 90 women aged between 45 and 60 were analyzed. The women had all been in menopause for at least a year.

Some of these women were given a placebo, while the rest took fennel extract capsules. The test lasted 8 days. Those who took the extract had a tangible drop in symptoms while those who took the placebo did not. ( 34 )


The seed fennel stimulate the motility of the respiratory ciliary and improve the external transport of extraneous corpuscles. This action suggests the use of fennel in the treatment of bronchial and bronchopulmonary disease. 35 )

The volatile oil of F. vulgare stimulates the contraction of the smooth muscles of the trachea, an action that could facilitate the expectoration of mucus, bacteria and other corpuscles foreign to the respiratory tract. ( 36 )

The Varieties

Fennel plants  lend themselves to be grown as annuals or biennials, at your choice. The varieties grown in our country are Il gigante di Napoli , Il grosso di Sicilia , The white from Florence , The fennel from Parma , The fennel from Fracchia and The white perfection.


The intake of essential oil of fennel  is not recommended during the first years of a child’s life. Some individuals may have an allergy to this itchy vegetable in the mouth gums or on the tongue. It is always better not to eat fennel based foods for long periods.

Due to the high potassium content, people with kidney problems should limit their intake.


Fennel: Properties and BenefitsIts use has very ancient origins, so much so that it can be seen in the parchments dating back to ancient Egypt. Romans and Greeks also venerated this vegetable thanks to its aromatic and therapeutic properties. The Greeks called it marathron and as this plant grew in a field where one of the greatest ancient battles was fought, the battle took the name of battle of Marathon.

To stimulate digestionfennel is often taken in herbal teas or seeds.

The fennel, suitably pounded and shredded, was used for the preparation of a natural toothpaste. It was combined in equal parts with green clay.

The raw fennel somehow alters the functionality of the taste buds. Thanks to this characteristic, once, dishonest hosts, used to offer raw fennel to their customers just before serving them with bad quality wine. From this custom comes the term infinocchiare.

Maybe not Everyone Knows That

Foeniculum vulgare is officially recognized in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia as an important part of the polyherbal formulations in the treatment of various diseases and ailments. A number of biological pharmacological studies have been undertaken to evaluate the indigenous uses of fennel.

In Chinese medicine it is used to increase breast milk in new mothers.

The fennel is also called finocchina or fennel.

The word fennel is used in a derogatory term by Dante in a document dating back to the fourth century with the meaning of traitor.

In the past, fennel has been considered a symbol of renewal. It was thought that this vegetable helped snakes to change their skin.

Fennel: Properties and Benefits

Italian language version


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