This post is evidence-based and backed by 20 research studies about fennel’s safety and effectiveness.
When your digestive tract is healthy, you most likely feel great all over too. It’s a gas.
But excessive belly gas is no laughing matter and can point to underlying digestive difficulties like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, colitis, indigestion, and food intolerances. And almost everyone has digestive problems these days.
Yet something as simple as adding fennel seeds can provide a lot of relief for the digestive system, including reducing gas and bloating.
Fennel seeds for digestion are helpful because they contain many natural digestive aids and nutrients. Simply chew up some fennel seeds before, during, or after your meals. There is no need for fancy recipes, tinctures, or concoctions.
Now that you know fennel seeds are a good choice for gut health, let’s dig a little deeper into what fennel seeds are, how they work, how much you need, and how to get creative using them.
Table of Contents
What are fennel seeds?
Hold up. Fennel may seem foreign to your palate if you are like most Americans.
You may be wondering what fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) are, and why the seeds over the bulb are the best choice for digestion.
Originating in the Mediterranean region, the whole fennel plant is edible, from the bulb to the fronds and the seeds. With a mild anise-like taste, fennel adds a nice flavor to just about any sort of meal.
Many people use the bulb in stir fry recipes and soups, but the fennel seeds often are forgotten.
However, the seed is precisely the part you should remember because it is the most concentrated in healing antioxidants and the fennel seed is the best part of the plant for your digestive tract.
Fun fact: Fennel is closely related to carrots, coriander, and dill. You will notice this is true because they all have delicate-looking fronds.
Gut-healing benefits of fennel
Fennel seeds for digestion are great because they contain lots of antioxidants and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Because of this, they support natural digestive processes and are considered carminative agents.
Fennel seeds also contain some vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin C, but don’t rely on them as a sole source of these nutrients; you would have to eat a lot of fennel seeds for the vitamin content to add up.
Rich in anethole and other antioxidants, fennel seeds help to reduce gas and increase intestinal muscle movements according to Science Direct.
Functional foods like fennel aren’t just good for one thing in the body. They often help many systems. In other words, by helping your digestive tract, your whole body is rewarded.
Fennel essential oil contains many antioxidants:
Because of this, fennel seeds may help many digestive issues, including gas pain, colic, constipation, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, and indigestion. When it comes to functional nutrition, fennel is hard to beat.
Reduces gas pain and colic
Colic is thought to be related to intestinal gas pain in infants. The beauty of fennel for gas pain and colic is that it relaxes the intestinal smooth muscles according to research. In fact, several research studies have shown that fennel seed extract is helpful for this condition of gas and bloating.
For example, fennel seed oil reduced colic symptoms in 125 infants compared to placebo. Colic was eliminated in 65 percent of the infants receiving fennel essential oil compared to only 24 percent of the placebo group.
In another study of babies with colic, a combination of fennel seed, melissa, and chamomile were given to babies. Compared to placebo, those receiving the fennel combination had 85 percent less crying time compared to 49 percent of the placebo.
By helping the body to expel gas, most people can appreciate the benefits of reducing stomach pain from this tasty herb.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disease of the digestive tract that often causes pain and discomfort in the digestive tract related to bowel movement changes in frequency, such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of the two.
Another benefit of fennel seeds for digestion is that it may help reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). By easing up the spasms of intestinal muscles while also promoting increased effectiveness of digestive muscles, fennel may be helpful for people who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome.
Patients with IBS all had improvement in symptoms when given a combination of bio-optimized extracts of turmeric and essential fennel oil for a period of one month, especially people with diarrhea-predominant IBS symptoms.
Constipation is a common problem for people who eat a Western diet. That is why turning to fennel seeds and learning to eat well for digestion can make a huge difference in bowel habits and overall health.
Fennel seeds are used in many folk remedies to help treat constipation. For example, a combination of fennel, anise, elderberry, and senna is used traditionally for constipation in Brazil.
Part of the reason that fennel reduces constipation is that it reduces flatulence owing to its carminative actions. One clinical study found that the combination of fennel seed, anise, elderberry, and senna reduced constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements, and perception of bowel function also improved.
Fennel seeds are also helpful for constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a very common disorder, according to research published in the Annals of Gastroenterology.
May reduce diarrhea too
Fennel seeds are balancing in the digestive tract, meaning that they help reduce imbalances in function, such as diarrhea and constipation. Maybe the fact that fennel seeds may help reduce diarrhea is why it is known as the marathon plant by the Ancient greeks!
In IBS-diarrhea predominant symptoms, fennel is particularly helpful according to some pilot research. Using a combination of turmeric and fennel essential oil in gelcaps twice daily reduced the severity of all types of IBS, but was the most effective for IBS-diarrhea and gut pain.
Indigestion and heartburn are very common. Many plants, like fennel seeds, are helpful in treating acid reflux and indigestion naturally. Fennel seeds can help in digestion and reflux because they help reduce muscle spasms of the stomach and promote natural emptying of the stomach.
By also increasing the ability of the stomach to make acid and improve the muscle movements of the intestines, fennel can help with indigestion.
Fennel seeds may help stimulate natural bile flow, bile absorption, and is healthy for the liver because of their rich antioxidant content.
May help reduce leaky gut
Fennel seeds may help protect the gut lining by reducing inflammation and providing healthy fibers, which help form a protective barrier by promoting a healthy microbiome.
Tip: Make sure to improve your diet as well. A good overview of a leaky gut diet of this is written by Omnibiotic.
May ease nausea
Nausea may also be reduced by fennel seeds because fennel helps increase the speed that the stomach can empty, also known as transit time.
Fennel reduces nausea associated with menstruation in women according to one clinical study.
Other benefits of fennel
Fennel is a type of food that helps many aspects of health. Remember, if it’s good for your gut, it’s probably good for your whole body.
Painful cramps during periods are known as dysmenorrhea. Fennel seeds can help dysmenorrhea by reducing both the pain and duration of a menstrual period after 3 months of taking 30 mg of fennel in a gel cap.
Fennel and vitamin E combined are more effective at relieving menstrual pain than ibuprofen according to one research study.
May have anti-cancer effects
Fennel’s rich source of anethole helps to reduce cancer-promoting compounds like tumor necrosis factor (TNFalpha). Rich in many antioxidants, fennel also helps reduce inflammation, and this effect usually helps reduce cancer risk as well.
Early research also shows that fennel may reduce the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells, but more work is needed to confirm these effects in humans.
Supports lung health
The use of fennel seeds has long been promoted for its benefits for cough and colds, asthma, and difficulty breathing.
Fennel seeds may help protect lung tissue from inflammation and injury according to early research work in animals.
Traditional uses of fennel are many and far-reaching. It is used to help heal snake bites, and wounds, and to help keep the skin youthful-looking. Research supports that fennel may also be:
- Healthy for your teeth and gums
- Cleansing as it freshens breath
- Helpful to improve short term memory
- Good for joint health because it increases collagen and elastin production
- Useful to promote youthful-looking skin
- Supportive of a healthy liver
- Useful to help reduce blood pressure
- Healthy for kidneys
- A galactagogue, meaning it may increase the production of breast milk in nursing mothers by increasing prolactin
- Able to reduce or prevent cataracts
- Good for reducing symptoms of menopause
- Useful in helping manage blood glucose in people with diabetes, according to Self Hacked
- Helpful for losing weight, but traditionally, fennel is used to stimulate the appetite
Keep in mind, no single food can perform miracles. You need to eat fennel in the context of an overall healthy diet for maximum benefits.
Using fennel seeds
Simply chew on about ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds anytime you feel some digestive discomfort. Chewing on fennel seeds right after a meal is especially effective for reducing gas.
The bonus is that it will help freshen your breath too.
If you don’t want to bother with chewing up the fennel seeds after a meal, simply sprinkle the fennel seeds on top of just about any entree. It tastes great in any kind of meat dish, in salads, and soups as well.
Other tips for using fennel:
- Add fennel seeds to recipes where you suspect you might have gas, bloating, or indigestion.
- Combine fennel seeds and caraway seeds and sprinkle this combination on foods for an extra gut-friendly boost to your meals.
- Crush or grind up the seeds right before using them to increase the absorption of the active compounds.
- Make fennel tea with ginger as well.
- Toast the fennel seeds before adding to soups or salads.
- Developing good digestive habits, such as using a gut-healing diet, and start with a routine.
- One way to keep fennel seeds in your routine is to keep a jar of the seeds at your kitchen table so that they are visible and ready to use.
- Add ground fennel seeds to smoothies.
- Puree into soups for extra flavor.
- Fennel has a natural sweetness to it, so you can use it to help improve the flavor of dishes. You can also use it to reduce cravings for sugar in this way.
How to make fennel tea
Making fennel tea is quite easy. Place about ½ teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds into a tea infuser. Boil some filtered water and then pour the water over the top of the seeds. Allow to steep for 10 minutes and then serve with honey if desired.
Fennel tea for constipation, diarrhea, bloating and IBS is a very natural way to support gut healing.
Fennel seed recipes
Fennel seeds can go into just about any recipe that you can think of. They are particularly tasty in or on top of the following foods:
- Braised chicken or pork
- Stir-fry dishes
- Curry dishes
- Cheese and crackers
- Homemade pickles
- Quinoa or rice dishes
- Salad dressings
- Lentils or beans
For best gut health, use gluten-free bread and crackers, and try to make sure to sprout lentils or beans when using them.
Buying fennel seeds and fennel products
Almost every grocery store and supermarket sell fennel seeds.
Fennel seed is safe to eat daily for most people and is a healthy herb to add to your foods.
There is a possible concern that using fennel during pregnancy could have side effects, although no research has ever shown that fennel leads to pregnancy difficulties. Still, use caution if eating fennel seed as medicine if you are pregnant or have an estrogen-sensitive condition because fennel seed compounds may mimic estrogen.
If you are sensitive or allergic to carrots, celery, or dill, you may also develop an allergy to fennel. Avoid fennel if you develop any new symptoms of sensitivities or allergies.
One single case report of a seizure is associated with fennel essential oil taken orally. If you have a history of seizures, make sure to consult with your doctor before using fennel.
Check with your doctor before using fennel if you are on blood-thinning medications.
Fennel seeds for digestion are more than likely to help your gut feel better if you eat them regularly. They are especially helpful if you have gas pain, bloating, IBS, constipation, or diarrhea.
Eating fennel seeds is a tasty way to support your gut health, so add some to your meals, chew a few of them up after meals, or make a fennel tea often to help you feel your best.
The information on this site is provided as a research resource for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace, diagnose, or provide treatment. Make sure to consult with a qualified health care practitioner any time you make changes to your health routine. Consult your medical care provider before using any herbal medicine.