Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare
) is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.
Fennel is a highly aromatic biennial herb, erect, shining green, and grows to 2.5 m tall, with hollow stems. The leaves grow up to 40 cm long; they are finely dissected, with the ultimate segments filament-like, about 0.5 mm wide. The leaves are similar to those of dill, yet slightly thinner in comparison. The flowers are produced in terminal compound umbels (umbrella like clusters arising from the same point on the stem) 5–15 cm wide, each umbel section with 20–50 tiny yellow flowers on short stalks. The fruit is a dry seed from 4–10 mm long, half as wide or less, and grooved. This fruit is what the plant is better known for, and is usually mistakenly called seed. Fennel is used in Indian cooking. It is an essential ingredient while making biryani
, the delicious aromatic rice preparation.
Fennel is a well known and important medicinal and aromatic plant widely used as carminative, digestive, lactogogue and diuretic and in treating respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. Fennel has a long history of herbal use and is a commonly used household remedy, being useful in the treatment of a variety of complaints, especially those of the digestive system. The seeds, leaves and roots can be used, but the seeds are most active medicinally and are the part normally used. An essential oil is often extracted from the fully ripened and dried seed for medicinal use, though it should not be given to pregnant women.