It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. Fennel is used as a spice, a medicine and food preservative from a very long period of time. Fennel seeds are the ripe, dried, gray-green striped to yellowish brown schizocarpic fruits of the fennel bush. As a thumb rule, a bright green color seeds indicates a good quality.
Obtained from an aromatic and medicinal plant, the seeds emit a pleasant odor, are highly aromatic and have a pungent flavor. It contains essential oil 1 to 6% which is rich in anethole. It has about 15% fatty oil. Generally fennel has less penetrative smell than cumin.
Fennel is used as a condiment and as culinary spice for meat dishes, fishes and seafood, pickles, bread giving a special flavor. It is crunchy and slightly sweet, adding a refreshing contribution to the ever popular Mediterranean cuisine. In India, these aromatic seeds are routinely chewed upon after meals to aid in digestion after a rich meal while acting as an herbal mouth freshener. Fennel is widely used Asian, European, Italian and Mediterranean dishes. In India Fennel is used in meat and seafood dishes and also with pickles and vinegar for a special flavor.
For medicinal uses, fennel is used to improve eyesight, aid digestion and cure obesity besides other uses. Fennel Seeds (Saunf) are very effective for digestive problems. It is good for colic in babies, and can treat stomach cramps of all ages. Fennel is known to normalize the appetite and in this way it can support weight loss. It can treat flatulence and generally calm the digestive tract. However this botanical is also a cleanser of the liver and helpful for detoxifying the body's systems. Fennel is a natural diuretic and it increases the flow of urine and acts as a tonic to the kidneys. These aromatic fennel seeds can be chewed upon or had as a tea decoction for beneficial effects upon the stomach. It also improves vision and even as antidote for poison. It is also good for promoting menstruation, and relieving discomfort of menopause. This is because Fennel is naturally rebalancing to hormones. It is good for aiding the return of a regular menstrual cycle after childbirth or after coming off the birth control pill. It also can cleanse the eyes when used as a douche. Other uses attributed include as rejuvenator, to stop hiccups, cure wheezing, ease stomach pain, give milk to woman’s breasts, good for kidney etc.
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 essential oil is used in soaps, and some perfumes.