Fennel is a rather pretty plant that tastes like licorice, but is actually in the carrot family. It’s a perennial with yellow flowers and feather-like leaves and is quite pretty when flowering. It’s a sweet seed that is used in countless recipes because of its delicate flavor. But we’re more interested in its healthful uses so here are three.
#1: Fennel seeds have a reputation for zapping menstrual pain. Fennel contains an essential oil called “anethole” which relaxes smooth muscle tissue, calming stomach cramps and menstrual pain. Research shows that women who eat fennel seeds beginning three days before their period, and continuing through the entire cycle, experience significantly less discomfort, swelling and cramping than usual. In fact, fennel seeds may be as effective as OTC drugs like ibuprofen or tylenol – with much less risk.
#2: Fennel seeds have been famous for hundreds of years as a vision improvement aid. The famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote these lines in honor of the fennel plant:
Above the lower plants it towers
The Fennel with its yellow flowers;
And in an earlier age than ours
Was gifted with the wondrous powers
Lost vision to restore.
#3: A truly great breath-freshener is a stalk of parsley, but fennel seeds are quite potent, too. They’re loaded with an ingredient called “cineo” which is a little-known ingredient for curing halitosis.
On the downside, fennel seeds are a prime ingredient in the famous liqueur absinthe which caused such a stir in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Absinthe is supposedly a dangerous additive drug and hallucinogen. And it was beloved by such famous lights as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Allan Poe and Lord Byron.
Here in America, New Orleans is a huge center for absinthe and, in fact, one of the most famous spots on Bourbon street is the Old Absinthe House who served Mark Twain (the most quotable man who ever lived!), Oscar Wilde, Franklin Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra.
I’m a huge fan of the TV show Murdoch Mysteries and was fascinated by an episode wherein Murdoch and his lady love, Julia, experimented with absinthe. They had quite an interesting evening!