Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Fennel, or herb fennel as it is sometimes called to distinguish it from its larger relative sweet (or Florence) fennel grown as a vegetable, Foeniculum vulgare (although you might find it labelled as Foeniculum officinale), is an attractive herb which comes in both green and maroony-red forms. Other common names by which it is known include aniseed weed, herb fennel and hui xiang. It is one of the sacred herbs of Wicca.
Fennel is a member of the family of Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) – which includes several very poisonous species including Hemlock – so for safety’s sake it is not a good idea to gather it from the wild.
Fennel is a perennial, although as a Mediterranean and African native (naturalized all over the place, including the UK and the USA) it’s only half-hardy, but if you give it a warm, sheltered position it will probably survive all but the worst winter. However, it does not like to be moved, so if you are growing it from seed, you need to sow it where you want it to end up, for best results. In colder climates, it would probably do best in a conservatory or greenhouse.
A standard infusion is made from 2 teaspoonfuls of seeds, fresh or dried, to 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before straining for use. Use it as a treatment for colic, coughs, flatulence (“gas” or “wind”) and indigestion, also as a laxative and tonic. A cold infusion can be used as a mouthwash for gum disease and a gargle for sore throats.
Fennel is used by the Navajo to make lip balm.
As with all herbs grown for use as herbal remedies, it’s important that fennel is grown organically, so as to reduce the risk of ingesting large quantities of chemicals with your remedy. For more information about growing herb fennel organically, visit the Gardenzone.
I offer a selection of fennel products in my online shop.
Sweet fennel essential oil is used mainly for respiratory and digestive conditions, including improving appetite. It’s not suitable for children, during pregnancy or for anyone suffering from epilepsy, cancer, or taking prescribed blood thinners. It should not be used on sensitive skin.