Words on Wellness: Wild Fennel
Rains bring plenty of greenery that waves to us cheerily along the roadsides. One of these enthusiastic spring things is feathery wild fennel, whose stalks grow quickly to three feet or more. Native to the Mediterranean, fennel has made its home here and has a lovely anise/licorice-like smell. Later in summer, its umbrella-shaped yellow flowerheads are appreciated by hummingbirds, bees and other insects. This flowering stalk is typical of the carrot family and reveals fennel’s relation to dill, coriander, and caraway. Pick a frond to nibble as you walk by it on trails and it will immediately freshen your breath, and strengthen your digestion. Like many wild herbs, fennel leaves contain high amounts of vitamin A and potassium. Vitamin A plays a key role in liver health and potassium is a vital mineral in dilation and contraction of blood vessels.
The strongly flavored, antiseptic oil of fennel is most concentrated in its seeds, which are part of culinary traditions throughout the world. Wild fennel seed can be collected after flowering in late summer and used fresh or dried in a warm oven for storage. Fennel is most famous for its digestive benefits since tea or extracts of leaves or seeds reduce stomach cramping, gas, and bloating. Fennel seed tea is still one of the safest and most effective remedies for baby’s colic and combines well with chamomile. The tea also stimulates production of breast milk in mamas with its properties passing through the milk to reduce infant colic.
Fennel seed has anti-nausea properties, useful for stomach flu, food poisoning, digestive infections, and hangovers. My favorite digestive blend is fresh fennel seed and leaves, fresh grated ginger and fresh peppermint leaves muddled together and made as a tea or tinctured for four weeks in apple cider vinegar and honey. This combination also helps any build-up of phlegm in the lungs and intestines. Seeds can be soaked in olive or sunflower oil to create a massage oil that tackles edema and cellulite. A warm compress or eyewash of fennel seed can treat conjunctivitis and eyelid inflammation. A tincture of seeds makes an excellent mouthwash for gum and tooth infections, or chew on the seeds after meals as a preventative. Have some fun with fennel this spring!