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Fennel

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Foeniculum vulgare Mill. syn. F. officinale All. and Anethum foeniculum.
Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae). A number of subspecies have been identified and their names add to the potential confusion surrounding the terminology of these plants.

COMMON NAME(S): Common, sweet or bitter fennel, carosella, Florence fennel, finocchio, garden fennel, large fennel, wild fennel.

Fennel ( Foeniculum vulgare ) is the most important species in the genus Foeniculum (treated as the sole species by many botanists ), and is native to southern Europe (especially by the Mediterranean ) and southwestern Asia . It is a member of the Apiaceae (formerly the Umbelliferae).

History

According to Greek legend, man received knowledge from Mount Olympus as a fiery coal enclosed in a stalk of fennel. The herb was known to the ancient Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, and Greek civilizations, and Pliny recommended it for improving the eyesight. The name foeniculum is from the Latin word for "fragrant hay." Fennel was in great demand during the Middle Ages. The rich added the seed to fish and vegetable dishes, while the poor reserved it as an appetite suppressant The plant was introduced to North America by Spanish priests and the English brought it to their early settlements in Virginia. All parts of the plant have been used for flavorings, and the stalks eaten as a vegetable. The seeds serve as a traditional carminative. Fennel has been used to flavor candies, liqueurs, medicines, and food, especially pastries, sweet pickles, and fish. The oil can be used to protect stored fruits and vegetables against infection by pathogenic fungi. Beekeepers have grown it as a honey plant Health claims have included its use as a purported antidote to poisonous herbs. mushrooms, and snakebites,and for the treatment of gastroenteritis, indigestion, to stimulate lactation, and as an expectorant and emmenagogue. Tea made from crushed fennel seeds has been used as an eyewash. Powdered fennel is said to drive fleas away from kennels and stables.

Botany :- Fennel is an herb native to southern Europe and Asia Minor. It is cultivated in the US, Great Britain, and temperate areas of Eurasia. All parts of the plant are aromatic. When cultivated, fennel stalks grow to a height of approximately 90 cm. Plants have finely divided leaves composed of many linear or awl-shaped segments. Grayish, compound umbels bear small, yellowish flowers. The fruits or seeds are oblong ovals approximately 6 mm long and greenish or yellowish brown; they have 5 prominent dorsal ridges. The seeds have a taste resembling that of anise. Besides F. vulgare, F. dulce ("carosella") is grown for its stalks, while F. vulgare var azoricum Thell. ("finocchio") is grown for its bulbous stalk bases.

Uses of Fennel

Fennel has been used as a flavoring, scent, insect repellent, herbal remedy for poisoning and Gastrointestinal conditions, and as a stimulant to promote lactation and menstruation.

Culinary Uses

As a herb, fennel leaves are used in French and Italian cuisine's in sauces for fish and in mayonnaise. In Italy fennel is also used to season pork roasts and spicy sausages, especially the Florentine salami finocchiona . It is traditionally considered one of the best herbs for fish dishes. The English use fennel seeds in almost all fish dishes, especially as a court bouillon for poaching fish and seafood. It is used to flavour breads, cakes and confectionery. It is an ingredient of Chinese Five Spices and of some curry powders. Several liquors are flavoured with fennel, including fennouillette, akvavit, gin and was used in distilling absinthe.

Side Effects of Fennel

Pennel may cause photodermatitis, contact dermatitis, and cross reactions. The oil may induce hallucinations and seizures. Poison hemlock is sometimes mistaken for fennel.

Dosage

  • Fennel oil: 0.1 to 0.6 milliliters (about 2 to 12 drops)
  • Fennel seed: 5 to 7 grams (about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoonfuls)
Toxicology

Administration of the volatile oil to rats has exacerbated experimentally-induced liver damage. Ingestion of the volatile oil may induce nausea, vomiting, seizures, and pulmonary edema.Its therapeutic use in Morocco has occasionally induced epileptiform madness and hallucinations. The principal hazards with fennel itself photodermatitis and contact dermatitis.Some individuals exhibit cross­reactivity to several species of Apiaceae characteristic of the so-called celery-carrot-mugwort-condiment syndrome.Rare allergic reactions have been reported following the ingestion of fennel.

Fennel oil was found to be genotoxic in the Bacillus subtilis DNA-repair test. Estragole, present in the volatile oil, has been shown to cause tumors in animals. A survey of fennel samples in Italy found viable aerobic bacteria, including coliforms, fecal streptococci, and Salmonella species, suggesting the plant may serve as a vector of infectious GI diseases.

A serious hazard associated with fennel is that poison hemlock can easily be mistaken for the herb. Hemlock contains highly narcotic coniine, and a small amount of hemlock juice can cause vomiting, paralysis, and death.

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