My Fennel Tea Story
Since my cancer diagnosis in 2013, I’ve been concentrating on my health. I’ve limited my caffeine intake which has been a bit of an adjustment. I’ve always liked tea but I didn’t drink it often. I knew it was a healthier option to coffee. So, as part of my quest to be healthier, I started exploring different tea flavors. Along the way, I discovered a few that could actually help me with some minor health issues.
Fennel was never on my radar. I honestly didn’t think that I would enjoy it but then a family member close to me started having trouble with her stomach. To protect her privacy I will call her Penny. It turns out that Penny has irritable bowel syndrome. She’s also been hiccupping excessively since she was very young. I was researching teas to help me with some respiratory issues when I stumbled on Fennel because there is some evidence that it helps with that too.
So to break it down…
Description and Origin
The Fennel plant is native to the Mediterranean and southern Europe but it’s grown all over the world now. To me, the bulb looks like a giant spring onion with green feather light leaves. The plant is actually quite pretty when it blooms with delicate yellow flowers.
Why does it help with hiccups and IBS?
Simply put, hiccups (Singultus) happens when the diaphragm, a thin muscle under the lungs, contracts involuntarily. The sound we make when we hiccup happens when the contraction sucks air into our lungs. The little piece of cartilage, the epiglottis, that covers our windpipe snaps closed and creates the hic sound. The contraction is essentially a spasm. IBS, on the other hand, affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain, gas, cramps, diarrhea or constipation.
The use of fennel to relieve hiccups and stomach discomfort has predominantly been administered by those who believe in a more natural approach but scientists have been paying attention to the herb and studying its antispasmodic properties. The essential oil found in fennel contains the hormone, estrogen and it is known to inhibit muscle spasms. It makes perfect sense to me then that it can calm an angry gut. It’s even safe for young children and can offer relief for colic as it relaxes the intestinal tract.
As a recent tea drinker, I was willing to give it a try for my respiratory issues. I suggested it to Penny for her IBS. Perhaps it could help relieve some of her symptoms since it has antispasmodic properties. I thought that at the very least it could take the edge off on her bad days. She’s been drinking the tea for a couple of days now and the gas and bloating has improved. We’ll continue to drink a cup a day to see if it can ease her symptoms even further.
The Northwest School of Botanical Studies has gone as far as to say that, “The seed tincture or tea is effective for treating intestinal spasms that result from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, Celiac’s disease, and intestinal candidiasis.”
As I mentioned above, I was looking at Fennel as a way to help me deal with some breathing issues. They often leave me feeling achy all over my chest. Penny feels the same type of discomfort when she’s had a hiccup attack that lasted for a number of hours. For this reason, she is excited to see if the tea can help her hiccup less. I’m hoping it can help me by relaxing my airway because of its added antimicrobial properties.
How to prepare / recipes
We’ve been drinking a store bought tea but this is not the only way to prepare the tea. It can be made from the seeds, leaves (fresh or dried) or from the bulb.
In a cup, pour hot (not boiling) water over one teaspoon of fennel seeds, cover and let it steep for 10 minutes. You can also crush the seeds lightly to release more oils and flavor. You can drink this tea up to three times a day. It’s best to drink it after a meal to help with digestion. Remember, hot not boiling water. Boiling water can actually destroy some of the nutritional benefits in the seeds.
Pour hot water over four tablespoons of chopped fruit or two tablespoons of fresh leaves. Cover and steep for fifteen minutes.
You could also chew a teaspoon full of the fruit after every meal as a digestive aid.
In Indian cuisine, candied fennel seeds are served up after meals as a digestive aid.
It pairs really well with …
I like to mix and match my teas and often put two teabags in a cup. I mix eucalyptus with peppermint or rooibos with some raspberry tea for example. Fennel pairs well if mixed with anise or licorice teas. Anise is also known to help with hiccups and digestive issues. I will often sweeten it with some honey.
Folks with the following allergies, conditions or disorders should consider checking with their health care provider before drinking or eating Fennel.
If you are being treated for an estrogen sensitive condition then fennel might make it worse. This includes breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, endometriosis or uterine fibroids because fennel mimics estrogen.
During my cancer treatment, I was told to avoid any food that contained plant estrogen since it would interfere with some of the Chemo drugs I was receiving. This included fennel, flax, and soy, to name a few. Now that I am in remission, however, I have been cleared to eat these foods again.
Those who are allergic to celery, carrot or mugwort may be sensitive to Fennel. Fennel is actually a member of the carrot family.
Anyone with a bleeding disorder should be careful with this herb.
What else might fennel help with?
Research is still in its early stages but it suggests that fennel is beneficial for:
Stomach discomfort and poor digestion
Stomach cramps and spasms
Gas, bloating and belching
Heartburn and indigestion because it reduces the acid levels in your stomach
Because it acts like estrogen it can help with menstrual cramps
As an antibacterial in the mouth, it can control bad breath
Can help to treat upper respiratory infections, sore throat, cough and bronchitis because of its antimicrobial properties.
Fennel infused salves were reportedly used in ancient Egypt, India, and China to treat insect bites.