茴香 (huí xiāng)
Fennel is a part of “umbrella” plants family with such relatives as celery, cumin, dill, cilantro. Resembling dill, it is sometimes called sweet dill. Fennel’s aroma is similar to star anise, but more sweet and intoxicating. When fennel blossoms it looks like umbrella with small yellow flowers. Once flowers dry out and fall, umbrellas form seeds, which are harvested and used in cooking and medicine.
The ancient Romans called this plant Foeniculum, originated in Latin and meaning “hay”, probably in relevance to its fresh scent. Overtime, the name was shortened to fanculum, eventually becoming its modern version “fennel” or “fenkel”. Ancient Greeks and Romans regarded the plant to have magic powers to enhance physical strengths, ward off evils, sharpen mental strength. Fennel represented victory and success.
Anglo-Saxons valued fennel’s medical properties, using it for curing different illnesses, freshening and sweetening the monasteries.
Fennel aids digestion and improves appetite, so it has been a popular herb in food and beverage industry - for making liquors, candies, baked goods, puddings. Fennel is a favorite in national cuisines of South Europe, Hungary, Romania, China, India, used to enhance taste of soups, sauces, breads.
Fennel tea is a mild and pleasant drink not only beneficial for digestive health, but able to detox and stimulate the liver expel toxins, due to its anti-bacterial and disinfectant properties. It is also a diuretic and mild laxative, used in herbal preparations for slimming and losing excess weight.
Fennel water or “grape water” is given to small babies to relive colic and gas.
The plant has also a strong expectorant properties, therefore being an ingredient in cough syrups and medications and ointments for colds.
Fennel is a natural aid in women health, as it has hormonal benefits. It stimulates the flow of milk for breastfeeding mothers and regulates menstrual cycle.
First of all, fennel is a strong antioxidant and skin detoxifier. This anti-bacterial ingredeint is excellent for teens’ or problem skin, prone to acne, irritations, blemishes. It purifies, heals and soothes skin.
Fennel is known to tone and firm skin, increasing elasticity and smoothness. It is a stimulates blood circulation, being used in anti-cellulite formulations.
Finally, fennel being a strong digestive, is actully good for skin’s metabolism, regulating moisture level and keeping skin hydrated and supple.
Fennel is generally safe, but essential oil of fennel should be avoided by people with neurological disorders, allergies and pregnant women as fennel can act as uterine stimulant, when used in high doses.