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Health Corner - Kitchen Herbs: Fennel Seeds (Saunf)

Pratibha Shah

Hello everyone! Continuing on the series on Kitchen Herbs, in this article I’ll share with you the benefits of Fennel seeds or ‘saunf’, an herb commonly available in the Indian kitchen.

The botanical name of Fennel is ‘Foeniculum vulgare’. It is a perennial herb that grows to the height of about 2-3 meters. The flowers are arranged on multiple stalks that come out of a single point and spread out like spokes in different directions. The seed are ½ to 1cm. in length and about half this measurement in width. Prominent ridges run along its length. It propagates easily and is therefore found abundantly in Europe, US, Asia, Australia and Canada.

Many substances have been identified in fennel including estragole, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, flavonoid glycosides, flavonoid aglycons, quercitin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, eriocitrin, rutin, miquelianin, rosmarinic acid, and caffeoylquinic acid. Most of these substances are antioxidants. The pharmacologically active agents are polymers of anethole, such as dianethole and photoanethole.
The parts of fennel that are commonly used are – flowers, bulb, leaves and the seeds. According to Ayurved, ‘saunf’ is light and unctuous in property; sweet, very slightly bitter and pungent in taste, and ‘cold’ in nature. It is used very commonly as a spice in cooking, as a digestive and as a mouth freshener after food.

I am listing below some of the conditions where ‘saunf’ seeds can be used very effectively:

•    It is considered a brain tonic and therefore can be given to kids as tea or to chew raw. (However, large quantities of fennel seeds should not be consumed on a daily basis, especially by boys. *)
•    Its use has been recommended for people with weak eyesight. Ideally, fresh leaf juice should be used for this purpose, but in its absence, tea made with seeds or raw seeds can be used.
•    Fresh juice of leaves, raw seeds or tea made with fennel seeds are very effective in - quenching thirst, alleviating nausea and vomiting, kindling appetite, aiding digestion, relieving bloating of stomach, colic and dysentery. The root can be used as a purgative.
•    It is a heart tonic.
•    It brings down the elevated levels of ‘pitta’ and is therefore used in urticaria and similar skin disorders. It is purported as a blood cleanser.
•    Chewing fennel seeds relieves dry cough and oral ulcers.
•    It is a diuretic and therefore can be used in burning micturition (passing urine with a burning sensation). Fresh juice of leaves or fennel seed tea can be used for this purpose.
•    It is also very effective as a galactogog (increases milk production in lactating mothers).
•    Its aphrodisiac properties are well known.
•    Due to its sudorific properties (induces sweating), it is used to bring down fever. For this, fennel seed tea taken warm works best.
•    As it is ‘madhur’ or sweet in taste, it is ‘balya’ (increases strength and stamina).
•    In summers, application of paste made up of leaves or flowers to the head, keeps the head cool and prevents heat stroke.
•    Fennel seeds have also been proven to be excellent for bad breath. The seeds can be chewed alone or with other similar products, sweetened or salted.

Most of these above mentioned benefits of fennel seeds have been proven by recent research. **

So please use this simple herb in your kitchen and reap its multiple benefits. See you soon with another wonderful herb.

      * http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0022-3468(08)00650-7
      ** http://www.raysahelian.com/fennel.html

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Saunf is light and unctuous in property. It is used very commonly as a spice in cooking, as a digestive and as a mouth freshener after food. It is a brain and heart tonic, and s recommended for people with weak eyesight and oral ulcers.

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