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The Herb or Vegetable Fennel and Digestive Discomfort: An Effective Treatment For Intestinal Gas?

Updated on November 22, 2016

Effective Treatments For Flatulence?

Are you experiencing some degree of digestive discomfort? Perhaps you have a friend or family member with a gas problem? If so then you, or they, will have considered all the various recommendations for treatments of this annoying, and potentially embarrassing, condition.

What Is The Herb Fennel and What Can It Do For Flatulence

One traditional treatment that has survived down many centuries is that of fennel. Fennel is a plant which belongs to the Umbelliferae family, something it shares with both celery and carrots. Its Latin name is Foeniculum vulgare. Cultivated fennel root has a strong, distinctive aniseed flavour unusual in a root vegetable and is something of an acquired taste.

Wild and Cultivated Varieties Of Fennel

There are several different varieties of fennel including both wild and cultivated variants. All of them grow quite tall and and have large 'plates' of small flowers of varying colours. These produce small crescent shaped seeds. The root, leaves, and seeds have all been used as digestive and culinary aids. Some care should be taken if seeking out wild fennel for culinary or medical use due to aesthetic similarities to potentially toxic plants: it may be wiser to seek out a professional herbalist instead. It is possible to grow your own cultivated fennel for decorative and culinary use, but it is a rather demanding plant and takes up a lot of space. Although bear in mind that it's also useful for decorative as well as medicinal properties, a small bonus!

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Using Fennel In Cooking To Treat Digestive Gas

Historically fennel was often served at the end of heavy meals in order to assist with digestion. The seeds were also commonly chewed on religious 'fasting' days, to take the worshipper's mind off their hunger! Parts of the plant can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, and the seeds (or more correctly, fruits) especially have often been used as a treatment for intestinal gas. Fennel has been studied, especially with regard to the essential oils it contains, and has been found to effectively reduce the amount of undesirable microbes within the intestinal tract, perhaps reducing the amount of gas produced as a result.[8]

In what forms are fennel products available? You can buy the root in most supermarkets and greengrocers and use it as a salad or cooked vegetable. However, be warned, it can be rather an expensive luxury! It has a strong aniseed flavour and may well require some getting used to! As a culinary ingredient it goes rather well braised with beans (coincidentally, considering their status as the 'musical fruit!) Caraway seeds are also a useful ingredient in sweet baked goods such as seed cake and scones.

Most health food stores stock both fennel tea and fennel seeds, and fennel is included as an ingredient in some digestive aids and herbal tonics in pill and syrup form. You may also be able to source fennel essential oil. Fennel is commonly used for treatment of intestinal gas and digestive discomfort. Don't forget, if you are thinking of using fennel regarding a digestive or other ailment you are suffering from, you really need to consult a qualified medical practitioner first


1. Riley, G. "The Oxford Companion to Italian Food." New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2007.

2. Tenenbaum, F. "Taylor's 50 Best Herbs and Edible Flowers: Easy Plants for More Beautiful Gardens." New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

3. I Parejo, F Viladomat, J Bastida, C Codina. "Development and validation of a high-performance liquid chromatographic method for the analysis of antioxidative phenolic compounds in fennel using a narrow bore reversed phase C18 column." Analytica Chimica Acta, 512:2. 11/06/2004: pp. 271-280

4. Mahfouz, S.A., Sharaf-Eldin, M.A. "Effect of mineral vs. biofertilizer on growth, yield, and essential oil content of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.)" Int. Agrophysics. 2007, 21: pp.361-366.

5. Flandrumhill. "Wild Rabbits and Carrots." 25/08/2009 (03/10/2010). <>

6. Russell, D.N., Russell, D., Sneyd, L.W. 'Healthy solutions: a guide to simple healing and healthy wisdom'. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publications, Inc.; 2006.

7. Renjie, L., Zhenhong, L., Shidi, S. 'GC-MS analysis of fennel essential oil and its effect on microbiology growth in rats’ intestine.' African Journal of Microbiology. 2010; 4.12: pp. 1319-1323. <Available online>

8. Çetin, B., Ozer, H., Cakir, A., Polat, T., Dursun, A., Mete, E., Öztürk, E., Ekinci, M. 'Antimicrobial Activities of Essential Oil and Hexane Extract of Florence Fennel [Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum (Mill.) Thell.] Against Foodborne Microorganisms.' Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010: 13(1): pp. 196-204.


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    • MurciélagoHeart profile image

      MurciélagoHeart 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this info about fennel. I love the stuff. Great job with publishing your resources too, very informative.