Fennel is a flowering plant in the same family as carrots. It is native to the Mediterranean, has a strong anise flavour, and produces seeds that can be used as a spice and can also be made into a herbal tea. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at fennel seeds and the benefits that they could provide, as well as side effects and other issues you need to be aware of.
What is Fennel Tea?
Fennel tea is made using fennel seeds, which are harvested, dried, and then crushed before being added to teabags or to a loose-leaf tea concoction. It can be added to other strongly flavoured spices, such as dried ginger, but it may also work well with a mixture of strong-tasting herbs like oregano.
The Health Benefits of Fennel Tea
Before we tell you about the benefits of fennel tea and fennel seeds in general, there is one tidbit we think is well worth knowing: while the name fennel is said to come from Latin (by way of Old English), the Greek for this plant is Marathon, and rather than being named after the battle of the same name (which later inspired the famous race), the battle was actually named after fennel. In Greek, the battle of Marathon basically translates as “the battle on the fennel fields”.
Now there’s some food for thought as you’re sipping your fennel tea.
1. It Contains Antioxidants
Fennel seeds contain antioxidants that provide support for a number of essential processes and help fight oxidative stress, while also providing this herb with its unique flavour and scent. These compounds include:
- Anethole: A weird and wonderful compound also found in liquorice and used to give ouzo that famous anise flavour. It is also known as anise camphor, and in addition to anise and similarly flavoured plants, it can be found in guarana.
- Myrcene: A compound also found in wild thyme and actually constituents a significant percentage of that herb’s organic composition.
- Pinene: This compound is actually found in the essential oil of sideritis, a herb we’re very familiar with here on Shelgo Tea.
2. It is Anti-inflammatory
Fennel and its seeds contain compounds that can reduce inflammation, a known contributor to countless chronic diseases. (1) This could be the reason fennel has such a long history of use as a digestive aid, and it could also hint at some analgesic properties.
That doesn’t mean that fennel seeds are as effective as NSAIDs, far from it, but it could keep inflammation levels low, and in doing so, it could provide relief from everything from conditions of the joints to conditions of the bowel. It could also reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
3. It is Antibacterial
Fennel possesses antibacterial compounds that can help neutralise bacteria on contact. It’s not alone in having these properties—we’ve previously discussed how most commercial mouthwashes and toothpastes rely on antibacterial compounds like thyme oil and peppermint oil—and there are better herbs out there, but it’s still noteworthy.
These compounds can inhibit the growth of bacteria in your mouth, and a hot cup of fennel seed tea could improve your oral health. Of course, if you’re adding copious amounts of sugar or honey to that cup of tea, then those benefits will be offset, but if you can drink it without a sweetener, it could neutralise some of the bacteria that leads to halitosis and dental plaque.
4. It Can Soothe Digestive Issues
Fennel seed tea has long been used as a digestive aid. A hot tea made from an antioxidant-rich spice or herb will typically provide some relief in this department, but if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, then fennel seed tea is more effective than most. It is believed to work both by reducing inflammation and relaxing the muscles in your gut, which could reduce spasms and provide relief from diarrhoea, gas, and bloating.
5. It Has Calming Properties
Not only can fennel seed tea potentially help calm your digestive system and reduce discomfort, but it could also impact your mental health and help you wind down in the evening. There hasn’t been a great deal of research in this area, and the research that does exist suggests it’s not as effective as the natural depression remedy St John’s Wort or the age-old Passionflower, but it could be gentler and the risk of side effects and contraindications is also considerably less than the aforementioned remedies.
It may also be more effective when used in combination with other calming herbs, many of which you can find here in the Shelgo Tea store.
Side Effects of Fennel Tea
Fennel seeds are well tolerated and safe for most people, but it is possible to be allergic to them, so it’s best to steer clear if you are allergic to any plants in the carrot family.
It should also be avoided in large doses by pregnant women. As with most plants, spices, and herbs (we discussed this in guides to everything from the Indian medicine ashwagandha to juniper berries), there hasn’t been a great deal of research concerning fennel seed consumption in pregnant women, so it’s best to avoid them and err on the side of caution.
They should be avoided by anyone who is breastfeeding, as there has been some research suggesting that it can pass into the breastmilk and affect the baby’s central nervous system. This only seems to be the case for very young infants (up to a few weeks old), and some sources state that fennel seed is safe for children and babies, but we wouldn’t recommend consumption without consulting a healthcare professional.
Large amounts of fennel seed as found in fennel tea should also be avoided by anyone suffering from bleeding disorders and by anyone taking medication that affects blood flow, as there is a chance it may slow down blood clotting. It can also impact levels of oestrogen and other hormones, so it’s not advised for anyone consuming tablets that affect hormone levels.
It is also possible to experience some mild side effects from consuming fennel seed tea even if you do not fall into any of the categories mentioned above. However, this typically only applies if you consume large amounts, and moderate consumption should be safe and side effect free for the vast majority of consumers.