Herb of the Day
Medicinal Uses: Fennel is one of nine Anglo-Saxon herbs known for secret powers. In ancient days, a bunch of fennel hung over a cottage door on Midsummer’s Eve was said to prevent the effects of witchcraft. Try nibbling on the herb’s seeds, as Roman women did centuries ago, to help depress the appetite. Women in Roman times believed fennel prevented obesity.
Fennel is considered one of the oldest medicinal plants and culinary herbs. It is fairly certain that fennel was in use over 4000 years ago. It is mentioned in the famous Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian collection of medical writings made around 1500 BC. There it is referred to principally as a remedy for flatulence. Later authors of herbals, such as Pliny (AD 23-79), also describe fennel primarily as an aid to digestion. In the Middle Ages, it was praised for coughs. Fennel helps to take away the appetite. It is often used as a sedative for small children. It improves digestion, and is very helpful with coughs. It is also used for cancer patients after radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Enriches and increases the flow of milk for lactating women. To help with indigestion and gas, pour boiling water over crushed seeds (one teaspoon seed to a pint of water). The seeds are simmered in syrups for coughs, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Place fennel inside a fish when you cook it to make it more digestible. The leaves and seeds when boiled with barley increase breast milk. The seeds and root help clean the liver, spleen, gallbladder, and blood. The tea and broth of this herb are said to help in weight loss.
It is eaten in salads, soups, and breads. The oil mixed with honey can be taken for coughs, and the tea used as a gargle. The oil is eaten with honey to allay gas and it is applied externally to rheumatic swellings. The seeds are boiled to make an eye wash: use one-half teaspoon of seed per cup of water, three times a day, and be sure to strain carefully before use. Powdered seeds repel fleas from pets’ sleeping areas.
Magickal uses: In several ancient civilizations fennel was used as an antidote for snakebite. The thyrsus, which were prominent in Dionysian ceremonies, was often made of giant fennel stalks with pine cones attached at the ends.
Use for scenting soaps and perfumes to ward off negativity and evil. Grow near the home for the same purpose. Hang it around the doors and windows at Midsummer to repel evil spirits. Carry the seeds to ward off evil and to influence others to trust your words. To prevent wood ticks from biting your legs, wear a piece in your left shoe. Use in purification and healing sachets and spells.
Properties: Stomachic, carminative (relieves gas), pectoral (relieves chest congestion and cough), diuretic, aromatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, mild expectorant, anti-inflammatory, stimulant. Contains anethole, calcium, camphene, cymene, chlorine, dipentene, fenchone, 7-hydrozycoumaarin, volatile oils, oleic acid, petroselinic acid, phellandrene, pinene, limonene, stigmasterol, sulfur, and vitamins A and C.
Growth: Fennel prefers dry, sunny areas. It is a perennial that can reach 4 – 6 feet high, and grows in most average to poor soils. A tall herb of the umbel family, with feathery leaves and yellow flowers. A stout, strongly scented perennial plant, with erect stems and blue-green leaves. The striated stems are solid when young, becoming hollow with age. The yellow flowers grow in compound, terminal umbels, each with 10-30 stalks. Aniseed-scented, egg-shaped fruits follow the flowers. Flowers appear July to October. Needs full sun; partial shade in warm climates. Zones 6-9. Found growing as a weed in waste places in much of the United States, in southeastern Canada and in southern British Columbia. Native to Mediterranean Europe where it is found growing wild.
Gather the root in the spring for medicinal purposes:
Infusion: steep 1 tbsp. freshly crushed seeds in 1 cup water for 5 minutes. Sweeten with honey to taste.
Decoction: boil 1/2 tsp. seed in water. Strain. Use as an eye-wash, 3 times per day.
Extract: mix 10 to 20 drops in water. Use warm water and 1 tsp. honey for a soothing drink daily.
Milk decoction: boil 1 tsp. seed in 1/2 cup milk for 5 to 10 minutes. Take for colic.
Tincture: take 10 to 30 drops in water, as required.
Fennel-honey: add 1 to 3 drops fennel oil to 1 tbsp. honey and mix. Take a teaspoon at a time. A natural cough remedy.
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