As Autumn makes her presence felt with shorter days and cooler mornings the garden is one place where we can easily observe the continual cycles of nature. The feathery fronds of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) have transitioned into a more sculptural, umbrella like form. As her seeds ripen the umbel will turn brown and be ready to harvest. Medicinally it is the seed that is used.

Traditionally fennel has been used as a carminative to stimulate digestion and reduce flatulence, and as an excellent remedy for colic. As a galactagogue it will increase milk production in nursing mothers and has a calming effect on coughs. The oil can be used externally to ease muscular and rheumatic aches and pains.

In Ayurvedic medicine Fennel increases digestive fire without aggravating pitta, whose main function is digestion and metabolism. Energetically there is some dispute regarding whether fennel is warming or cooling and it is likely it is not far from neutral. Due to its carminative action, which are typically warming, it is thought to be warming. However, due to its mental effects -calming the nerves and promoting mental alertness – it is thought to be slightly cooling.


Fennel’s key constituents include an essential oil that contains trans-anethole, with antheole bearing a chemical resemblance to adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. It is this structural similarity to adrenaline which appears to be responsible for fennel’s bronchodilator effect.

The easiest way to include fennel into your daily life is to brew one tablespoon of the seeds as a tea and drink three times daily. When infusing cover with a lid to retain the essential oils and steep for 10 minutes. If you are pregnant talk with your herbalist or health care practitioner before using.

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