It happens to all of us.
You get the urge to use the bathroom, but once there, you can't go.
Frequent constipation affects about 4 million people in the US today, and that number seems to grow every year.
Over-the-counter laxatives are the go to remedy, but nature offers some pretty impressive solutions as well.
Today, we want to shine a light on fennel and its incredible benefits for your digestive system. Plus, learn how to use fennel for constipation relief - quickly & naturally!
What Is Fennel?
Fennel is a plant of the parsley family commonly identified by its characteristic yellow flowers. Its leaves are feathery in nature and the plant is generally aromatic. Fennel is a hardy plant and is indigenous to the Mediterranean, especially around the shores.
For cooking purposes, you can use the bulb, seeds and flowers of fennel. However, its seeds are the most commonly used in herbal medicine.
Though fennel has several uses, the most explored use of fennel is to relieve constipation.
Benefits of Fennel for Constipation
Clinically speaking, pharmacologically active substances that help relieve symptoms of constipation by inducing bowel movements are called laxatives. Several studies conclude that fennel is one such natural, yet effective laxative.
For instance, this study posted in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website reveals that fennel exhibits it laxative properties through two primary mechanisms:
- stimulation of motility
- antispasmodic action
As an added bonus, it also stimulates the release of gastric enzymes.
Fennel Stimulates Gastrointestinal Motility
Gastric motility refers to the contraction of smooth muscles that line the GI tract to aid in digestion of food and its movement through the gut (known as peristalsis).
This function is achieved by an organic compound called anethole, which is a derivative of a common component of essential oils known as phenylpropene. This compound is also largely responsible for its smell and flavor.
By stimulating smooth muscle contraction, anethole makes fennel one of the most ideal natural remedies for constipation.
Fennel Boasts Antispasmodic Action
The antispasmodic action of fennel relies on the fact that there are two categories of muscles in the human body – voluntary and involuntary muscles.
Voluntary muscles are under your conscious control - aka moving your limbs or shaking your head.
Involuntary muscles are those that do not need your conscious control such as the muscles controlling gastrointestinal motility.
Sometimes when your gut health is less than stellar, the involuntary muscles lining the gut undergo unprecedented spasms. The antispasmodic action of fennel enables it to relieve these involuntary spasms and restore the normal contractility of the gut’s smooth muscles.
- Fennel Releases Gastric Enzymes
In some cases, impaired synthesis and/or release of gastric enzymes causes constipation due to impaired digestion. In such conditions, fennel can be used to kick start the process of digestion by stimulating production of gastric enzymes.
A few of the constituents that give fennel these benefits include:
- alpha pinene
Fennel is also rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, several organic acids and proteins.
Best Forms of Fennel and How to Use Them
There are various forms of fennel available for pharmacotherapy. The choice of the form to use depends on availability, ease of administration and bioavailability of the active ingredient.
Here are some of the commonly used forms of fennel and how to best use them:
1. Eat the raw seeds
Raw fennel has a crunchy texture with a sweet flavor, making it favorable to add in any dish when eating it raw. The rich taste of fennel seeds even freshens your breath!
A few of our favorite ways to use them include sprinkling them on salads or mixing them into smoothies.
2. Make a tea
Fennel tea is also an option that is gaining popularity in managing digestive problems. You can make fennel tea at home using either the seeds or the roots. To make the tea from seeds:
- Boil some water and pour into the mug you want to drink out of (you don’t want to boil the seeds directly because high temps damage their nutrients)
- Put 1 teaspoon of fennel into the cup
- Cover and let steep for 10 minutes before drinking it (max 3 times a day for best benefit)
3. Use a fennel tincture
Tinctures are extracts of components with healing properties from herbs combined with glycerin or alcohol. You can make fennel tinctures at home, though the procedures are a little complicated and may require certain skills.
To make fennel tincture at home:
- Mash fennel seeds to smaller sizes using a mortar and pestle
- Put the mashed seed in a clean glass jar and pour vodka over the seeds
- Fill the jar with vodka and close the jar loosely with a lid
- Let the preparation stand for about two days and check if it needs to be topped off with vodka again
- Let the preparation sit for about one month as the herbs infuse into alcohol. Meanwhile, store it in a cool, dark place
- After a month, strain out the seeds and discard them. Store the remaining tincture in a cabinet – ready for use
Instead of making fennel tinctures on your own, you can also purchase ready-made tinctures like our Organic Digestive Blend.
It not only includes fennel, but other gut-friendly herbs as well like ginger, peppermint, yarrow and more. As with all our tinctures, we use glycerin instead of alcohol for those who may be sensitive to it. Glycerin is also easier on the gut and the taste buds!
Next time you are "backed up," try fennel for constipation relief instead of the typical laxatives that are loaded with chemicals and fillers!