Aside from its many culinary uses, fennel and its seeds offer a wide array of health benefits and may provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.
1. Highly nutritious
Both fennel and fennel seeds are low in calories but provide many important nutrients.
Fresh fennel bulb is a good source of vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin critical for immune health, tissue repair, and collagen synthesis.
Vitamin C also acts as a potent antioxidant in your body, protecting against cellular damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
Both the bulb and seeds contain the mineral manganese, which is important for enzyme activation, metabolism, cellular protection, bone development, blood sugar regulation, and wound healing.
Aside from manganese, fennel and its seeds contain other minerals vital to bone health, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
2. Contain powerful plant compounds
Perhaps the most impressive benefits of fennel and fennel seeds come from the antioxidants and potent plant compounds they contain.
Essential oil of the plant has been shown to contain more than 87 volatile compounds, including the polyphenol antioxidants rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and apigenin.
Polyphenol antioxidants are potent anti-inflammatory agents that have powerful effects on your health.
Studies suggest that people who follow diets rich in these antioxidants have a lower risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, obesity, cancer, neurological diseases, and type 2 diabetes.
3. Fennel seeds may suppress appetite
Fennel seeds may not only add depth and flavor to your recipes but also help curb appetite.
A study in 9 healthy women demonstrated that those who drank 8.5 ounces (250 ml) of tea made with 2 grams of fennel seeds before eating lunch felt significantly less hungry and consumed fewer calories during the meal than those who drank a placebo tea.
Anethole, a major component of fennel essential oil, may be behind the appetite-suppressing qualities of the plant.
4. Can benefit heart health
Eating fennel and its seeds may benefit heart health in a number of ways, as they’re packed with fiber — a nutrient shown to reduce certain heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol.
Diets high in fiber have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. A review of 22 studies associated a greater dietary fiber intake with a lower risk of heart disease. For every additional 7 grams of fiber consumed per day, heart disease risk decreased by 9%.
Fennel and its seeds also contain nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which play important roles in keeping your heart healthy.
5. May have cancer-fighting properties
The wide array of powerful plant compounds in fennel may help protect against chronic diseases, including certain cancers.
For example, anethole — one of the main active compounds in fennel seeds — has been found to exhibit cancer-fighting properties.
One test-tube study showed that anethole suppressed cell growth and induced apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in human breast cancer cells.
Another test-tube study observed that fennel extract stopped the spread of human breast cancer cells and induced cancer cell death.
6. May benefit breastfeeding women
Fennel has been shown to have galactogenic properties, meaning it helps increase milk secretion. Research suggests that specific substances found in anethole, such as dianethole and photoanethole, are responsible for the galactogenic effects of the plant.
7–10. Other potential benefits
Aside from the benefits mentioned above, fennel and its seeds may improve your health in the following ways:
- May have antibacterial properties. Studies show that fennel extract inhibits the growth of potentially harmful bacteria and yeasts, such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus,and Candida albicans.
- May reduce inflammation. The powerful antioxidants in fennel, such as vitamin C and quercetin, can help reduce inflammationand levels of inflammatory markers.
- May benefit mental health. Animal studies have found that fennel extract may reduce aging-related memory deficits.
- May relieve menopausal symptoms. A review of 10 studies noted that fennel may improve sexual function and satisfaction in menopausal women, as well as relieve hot flashes, vaginal itching, dryness, pain during sex, and sleep disturbances.
It’s important to note that many of these studies used concentrated doses of the plant, and it’s unlikely that eating small amounts of fennel or its seeds would offer the same benefits.