Fennel seed is commonly used in cooking and as an alternative medicine remedy. It has a distinct flavor and, nutritionally, is a good source of potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamins B and C. Therapeutically, one of its most common applications is to relieve gastrointestinal distress. Fennel seed has powerful antioxidant properties and fights free radicals, inflammation, and inflammatory conditions, such as symptoms of allergies.  Fennel also has several noted traits that have lead to its distinction as a beneficial addition to weight loss efforts.
Weight Loss Benefits
Fennel seed essential oil may have a positive role in supporting weight loss as both a metabolic enhancer and an appetite suppressant. Increased metabolic output burns more energy and can accelerate fat loss. Fennel has the added benefit with regard to fat reduction in that it helps “break up” fat deposits in the bloodstream to be used as energy. Using energy sources the body already has stored can reduce the cravings for food. A study conducted at the Thuringian State Institute of Agriculture in Germany, found that diets supplemented with fennel seed oil had decreased food consumption.
Fennel also contains melatonin. In 2011, Researchers at the University of Granada performed a study that showed melatonin, which is a natural hormone that regulates healthy sleep patterns, also helps helps control weight gain. 
Fennel is an anti-spasmodic and chewing the seeds can help to relieve hunger pangs.
A research group at the School of Nursing, Eulji University, in Korea, found that inhaling fennel essential oil promoted food digestion and lowered caloric intake in rats. 
Fennel is also a natural diuretic, which can increase frequency of urination and reduce water weight. Diuretics don’t have an effect on fat stores and are not regarded as effective weight loss measures alone. However, their role in a comprehensive weight loss plan may be beneficial specifically when retained water causes bloating. The increased urination also encourages the removal of toxins.
Fennel Seed Essential Oil Within A Weight Loss Strategy
Fennel works best when used as part of an overall weight loss plan that includes a balanced diet of healthy organic foods and other supportive herbs such as green coffee bean, uva-ursi, gymnema, damiana, and hoodia gordonii. Evidence suggests that when taken as a supplement as part of a comprehensive weight loss strategy, fennel can be beneficial in stimulating your metabolism and promoting weight loss.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
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3.Hur MH, Kim C, Kim CH, Ahn HC, Ahn HY. The effects of inhalation of essential oils on the body weight, food efficiency rate and serum leptin of growing SD rats. PubMed PMID: .
Fennel is native to Southern Europe and grown extensively all over Europe, Middle-Eastern, China, India, and Turkey. This herbaceous plant reaches up to 2 meters (about 6 feet) in height with deep green feathery (lacy) leaves and bears golden-yellow flowers in umbels. In general, fennel seeds are harvested when the seed heads turn light-brown. The seeds, which resemble to anise seeds in appearance, feature oblong or curved (comma) shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown-color with fine vertical stripes over their surface.
In general, seeds are harvested during early hours of the day to avoid spilling of seeds on the ground. As in caraway, the cut plants staked until they were dry; then threshed, processed and packed to be sold.
Fennel bulb (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum), used as a vegetable, is closely related to seeding fennel. It has grown for its anise flavored sweet taste fronds in many parts of Mediterranean region.
Health benefits of fennel seeds
Fennel symbolizes longevity, courage, and strength. In addition to its use as medicinal values, fennel has much health benefiting nutrients, essential compounds, anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Fennel seeds indeed contain numerous flavonoid anti-oxidants like kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds function as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
Like in caraway, fennel seeds too are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 39.8 g of fiber. Much of this roughage is metabolically inert insoluble fiber, which helps increase bulk of the food by absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing constipation condition.
In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, thus help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with flavonoid anti-oxidants, fiber composition of fennel helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers.
Fennel seeds compose of health benefiting volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, and cineole. These active principles in the fennel are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
Fennel seeds are concentrated source of minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Furthermore, the seeds indeed are the storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and niacin particularly are concentrated in these seeds.
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare),
Nutritional value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Percentage of RDA
Selection and storage
Fennel seeds are available year around in the markets either in the form of seeds or in processed powder form. In the store, buy whole fennel seeds instead of powder since, oftentimes it may contain adulterated spicy powders.
Store dry fennel seeds as you do in case of other seeds like caraway, dill, etc. Place whole seeds in a clean air-seal container and store in cool, humid free and dark place. Ground and powdered fennel should be stored inside the refrigerator in airtight containers and should be used sooner since it loses flavor quickly due to evaporation of its essential oils.
Fennel has long been used as a remedy for flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicines.
Fennel seed decoction or added as spice in food has been found to increase breast milk secretion in nursing mothers.
Fennel water is used in newborn babies to relieve colic pain and help aid digestion.
Fennel seed oil is used to relieve coughs, bronchitis and as massage oil to cure joint pains.
Light rye sourdough bread with fennel, sesame, and poppy seeds.
Photo courtesy: matthewfugel
Fennel seeds with sugar pellets used as chewing condiment after food.
Fennel seeds exude anise like sweet fruity-aroma when rubbed between fingers. Its herb parts, including tender growing tops, root-bulb, dried stalks, and seeds are used extensively in a wide variety of cuisines all over the world.
In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, fennel is generally ground just before preparing dishes or whole seeds are lightly roasted before using them in a recipe.
Here are some serving tips:
Fennel seed is widely used as a savory spice. It is principally added in cooking as a condiment and flavoring base.
Its seeds are widely used in fish, cheese spreads, and vegetable dishes.
In India, its seeds are being used as part of curry powder (Bengali paanch pooran). In addition, sugarcoated fenel seeds (saunf) have been used as a condiment after food to improve digestion in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
As in caraway, fennel seeds are used to flavor breads, dough, cakes, biscuits, and cheese.
Fennel seed should be avoided in large doses. Compounds in fennel may be neuro-toxic in higher concentrations and may cause hallucinations and seizures. It may exacerbate estrogen receptor-linked cancer conditions like endometrial, breast, ovarian... etc., due to high concentration of estrogenic compounds in it. Pregnant women may be advised to avoid eating fennel in large amounts.
(Medical disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications