Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Instantly recognizable by its bright yellow flowers and feathery green leaves, Foeniculum vulgare, better known as fennel, is a hardy perennial found primarily in dry coastal areas. Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean region, but has been transplanted with success and is cultivated in a number of countries throughout the world. It grows to approximately two-and-a-half meters in height. Fennel leaves and fruits emanate a characteristic anise scent and flavor.
 
Raw fennel bulb is an outstanding source of vitamins and nutrients, with one cup providing 17% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C, 10% of potassium, 8% of manganese, 6% of folate, and 4% of calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Dried fennel seed provides a greater concentration of some of these nutrients, with one tablespoon containing 7% of the RDA of calcium, 19% of manganese, 6% of iron and magnesium, and 3% of potassium.
 
Aside from its use as a spice, fennel has been used medicinally since the time of the ancient Romans to improve eyesight, to increase milk supply for nursing mothers, and as an antidote to poisoning. Fennel is beneficial to digestion and has been used as both an appetite suppressant and anti-bloating agent; the dried seeds are useful in treating stomach pains in adults and fennel syrup is often used to relieve symptoms of colic in babies. Fennel syrup has also been used to good effect in treating chronic coughs. Scientific studies have suggested that fennel extract may be useful in treating glaucoma and improving eye health overall. Due to its diuretic properties, fennel may be useful as a part of a comprehensive weight loss program. Powdered fennel can even be used as a flea repellent; as a result, it was one of the few substances used during the Middle Ages that actually did help to ward off the Black Plague. Modern medical uses for fennel include treatments for dyspepsia, upper respiratory inflammation in children, excessive flatulence, and severe menstrual cramps. Fennel is also recommended to control diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and, in some cases, to treat patients suffering from kidney stones.