Volume 1: Issue #99
Fennel is a popular, tasty herb that chefs all over the world use to improve their entrees. And the plant is just as popular in the medicine cabinet as it is in the kitchen.
The medicinal use of fennel goes back to ancient times. In a book written in the first century A.D., it is recommended for fevers.1
Special Message From Lee Euler, Editor
The miracle mineral that
Reduces air pollution’s health damage
In recent research, it turns out that essential oil made from fennel may help the body resist damaging inflammation caused by air pollution.
Lab tests in France indicate that the natural chemicals called phenylpropanoids, found in various plants, protect both lung and liver cells from the negative effects of tiny particles that pollution sources – like cars, trucks and power plants – send out into the atmosphere.
The particular phenylpropanoid found in fennel is called trans-anethole. The scientists established that trans-anethole can reduce inflammatory markers in the lungs and liver by between 87 and 86 percent. That’s a dramatic result.
Left unchecked, the inflammation can lead to liver or lung cancer.2
Relief for menopause symptoms
Another recent study, this one involving postmenopausal women, demonstrates that fennel can help relieve sleep difficulties, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and anxiety.
The scientists investigating fennel note that the essential oils in the herb have what are called “phytoestrogenic” properties. That means the plant contains chemicals whose structure resembles estrogen, but which can effectively control myriad menopausal and post-menopausal complaints. (Its phytoestrogen content is also the reason why it is popular for helping nursing mothers increase their milk production.3)
A study involving about 80 women between the ages of 45 and 60 analyzed the effects of taking 100 mg of a fennel extract twice a day for two months. The results demonstrated that fennel reduced problems like hot flashes, insomnia and emotional disturbances.
The researchers conclude that “fennel as a phytoestrogen is effective in reducing menopausal (and postmenopausal) symptoms with no serious side effects.”4
Boosts levels of melatonin
And if you like the taste of fennel in your food (it has a licorice-like flavor similar to anise), you’ll be glad to learn that research at the University of Granada in Spain suggests fennel’s natural melatonin content may help you keep your weight down.
According to these scientists, the natural melatonin found in fennel (as well as in almonds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, coriander, cherries and Goji berries) stimulates the body’s production of “beige” body fat. The fat cells in beige fat burn calories instead of just storing them the way the white fat that hangs over the belt does.
The researchers say this is why melatonin can also lower the risk of diabetes.
Your body makes melatonin – mostly at night where this hormone helps get your body ready to sleep. With proper self-care, your own natural production should be enough.
But the lab tests at Granada show that eating foods like fennel that contain melatonin can cause exercise sessions to burn off extra calories.5
Melatonin is a tricky supplement, so I have some concerns about how the “phyto-melatonin” in fennel might affect your psyche and sleep patterns. The tipoff to a problem would be if your sleep is disturbed or if you find yourself experiencing any mental agitation or unpleasant changes in your mood. If all those things are fine when you take fennel, go for it.
When you do, here’s a great plus: there’s research that shows fennel may help you cope better with stress and memory issues. This research indicates that compounds in fennel may boost certain neurotransmitters in the brain that improve brain function. And the scientists also believe that its antioxidants may boost your recall ability.6
Fennel as a food or a supplement?
My first choice for increasing your intake of important nutrients is to get them in food. Foods contain a wealth of natural chemicals that no lab can reproduce. But I have to say that few of my favorite recipes call for fennel.
I see nothing wrong with taking a fennel supplement if you have menopausal or post-menopausal issues – or any other condition you think it might help. The only cautions I’ve seen are for people taking antibiotics, being treated for cancer with anti-cancer drugs, or taking birth control pills. In those cases, you should consult with a knowledgeable health practitioner who understands how herbs interact with pharmaceuticals.
A conventional doctor probably will NOT know about herbs, so you would need to consult an integrative or alternative doctor.