Fennel seeds (Saunf) Benefits Uses And Side Effects

Fennel seeds (Saunf) Benefits Uses And Side Effects

Fennel seed is a savoury spice that looks quite similar to but it is a bit sweeter than cumin seeds. They are produced from the fennel plant which belongs to the same family as carrots. There might not be an Indian home that isn’t aware of its warm and sweet aroma. They have a warm and pleasant smell and are generally green or brown in colour. In fact, Indians use fennel seeds extensively in cuisines . and roasted fennel seeds are an important ingredient in mukhwas, a popular after-meal mouth freshener. In South India, people make fennel water out of these seeds which is considered good for digestion. In Eastern India, it is used as one of the main ingredients in a type of spice mixture called panch phoron. It is also used in North India, especially in Kashmir and Gujarat.

Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region. It was initially cultivated by the Greeks from where it  spread to the rest of the Europe.. Later, owing to its medicinal properties, it spread to the other parts of the world. Presently, the largest cultivator of fennel seeds is India. Other fennel producing countries include Russia, Romania, Germany and France.

Most cooking enthusiasts are quite aware of fennel seed usage, but do you know that the entire fennel plant can be used for different purposes. The flowers and leaves can be used for garnishing, the leaves and stalks are used in salads and as sprinklers on pizzas. Dried fennel fruit is usually chewed to increase the production of saliva. It is also used as a flavouring in alcohols, soups, sauces, meat items, and pastries.

Just when you think that’s all, these seeds have several medicinal uses too. Fennel seeds are primarily used as antacids and as a mouth freshener to keep off bad breath. Boiled fennel seeds and their broth can help get rid of flatulence and aid  in weight loss. Fennel seeds can also be used as a painkiller and for reducing swelling . Additionally, fennel is  considered to be good for the eyes.

Let us have a look at the nutritional and healing miracle these tiny seeds are.

Fennel seeds (Saunf) Benefits Uses And Side Effects

Basic Facts about Fennel Seeds:

Botanical name: Foeniculum vulgare

Family: Apiaceae

Common Name: Saunf

Sanskrit name: Madhurika

Parts used: Seeds, stalks, leaves, flowers, bulbs

Native region and geographical distribution: Fennel is cultivated all over the world. India accounts for about 60% of the total world production of fennel. Major fennel seeds producing states in India include Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana

Interesting facts: Fennel seeds are also referred to as the ‘meeting seeds’ because in the olden days, people used to carry these seeds to munch on them during long church services.


  • Fennel seeds nutrition facts
  • Fennel health benefits
  • Fennel seeds side effects
  • Takeaway

Fennel seeds nutrition facts

Fennel seeds are rich in dietary fibre. 1 tbsp of fennel seeds contain 2.3 g of fibre. This fibre content help ease constipation problem and keeps the digestive system healthy. Fennel seeds are rich in various nutrients. They are a great source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. They are also packed with vitamins such as vitamin A, B6 and C.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds contain the following nutrients:

Nutrient Value, 1 tbsp

Water 0.51 g

Energy 20 kcal

Protein 0.92 g

Fat 0.86 g

Ash 0.48 g

Carbohydrate 3.03 g

Fibre 2.3 g


Mineral Value, 1 tbsp

Calcium 69 mg

Iron 1.08 mg

Magnesium 22 mg

Phosphorus 28 mg

Potassium 98 mg

Sodium 5 mg

Zinc 0.21 mg

Copper 0.062 mg

Manganese 0.379 mg


Vitamins Value, 1 tbsp

Vitamin B1 0.024 mg

Vitamin B2 0.02 mg

Vitamin B3 0.351 mg

Vitamin B6 0.027 mg

Vitamin C 1.2 mg


Fats Value, 1tbsp

Saturated 0.028 g

Monounsaturated 0.575 g

Polyunsaturated 0.098 g

Fennel health benefits

For digestive issues: The most pronounced effects of fennel seeds have been on the digestive system. The intake of these seeds helps to reduce the incidence of indigestion, abdominal cramps and even aids in the elimination of gas. Due to its antispasmodic and digestive properties, fennel seeds are commonly consumed after food and even help in relieving constipation and ulcerative colitis.

For high blood pressure: Fennel seeds are rich in potassium and lower in sodium, thus helping to lower blood pressure, particularly systolic blood pressure.

Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties: Due to these properties, fennel seeds help to prevent stomach infections and food poisoning.

For women: The intake of fennel seeds has benefits for both, women in the reproductive age and those who have experienced menopause. It helps to relieve the symptoms of dysmenorrhoea or pain during menstruation and even helps to improve menstrual cycles, while at the same time, it helps to improve bone density in postmenopausal women, reducing the risk of bone loss due to osteoporosis.

For respiratory disorders: The use of fennel seeds is good for a variety of respiratory disorders like a chronic cough, bronchitis and COPD. It also reduces the excessive buildup of mucus.

  • Fennel seeds for digestive problems
  • Fennel seeds for healthy bones in women
  • Fennel seeds for respiratory diseases
  • Fennel seeds for menstrual cramps
  • Fennel seeds for high blood pressure
  • Fennel seeds have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Fennel seeds antibacterial properties
  • Fennel seeds benefits for teeth

Fennel seeds for digestive problems

Carminatives are those agents that can help prevent the formation of gas or help in the removal of the gas from the gastrointestinal tract. Research suggests that fennel seeds have carminative properties. According to a study, the decoction of fennel can prevent indigestion. A combination of fennel, cumin and coriander decoction can help in the expulsion of gas from the stomach. Fennel seeds can also help in relieving abdominal cramps.

Another study revealed that fennel essential oil can help prevent colitis, a condition in which the inner lining of the colon gets inflamed. A preclinical study suggested that aqueous extract of fennel can be used for the treatment of gastric lesions. These benefits are attributed to the presence of phytochemicals, flavonoids, phenolic compounds and fatty acids.

Fennel is generally eaten as an after-meal snack mainly because it aids in digestion. Ever wondered if this fact has some scientific evidence? Research reveals that phytoconstituents in fennel seeds such as anethole, limonene, pinene, fenchone and cineole possess carminative, antispasmodic (relieve muscle spasms) and digestive (aid in digestion) properties.  Fennel also helps in the production of digestive juices and in the absorption of nutrients from the food. The presence of oils in fennel seeds can act as a laxative, thereby preventing constipation.

Fennel seeds for healthy bones in women

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a low bone density and reduction in new bone development. This is especially common among postmenopausal women due to a reduction in estrogen levels. Estrogen is known to reduce bone loss and promote new bone formation. Studies suggest that fennel extract is rich in phytoestrogen, a type of phytochemical and it can help prevent the disease among postmenopausal women by acting as a natural substitute for chemical estrogen supplements.

According to research, oral administration of fennel seed extract for a period of 6 weeks led to a decrease in ovariectomy-induced bone loss. These studies indicate the potential of fennel seeds to prevent bone loss due to osteoporosis.

Fennel seeds for respiratory diseases

The term respiratory diseases is mainly used to denote conditions that affect the lungs and airways. Studies suggest that fennel seeds can help prevent respiratory disorders such as chronic cough, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

One research demonstrated that fennel can help prevent the excessive buildup of mucus in the nose and throat (catarrh).

Preclinical studies have also revealed that fennel seeds exhibit a positive effect on the elevated respiratory rate and it also helps relieve  COPD inflammation by increasing the number of macrophages, a type of WBC. According to a systemic evaluation published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, the antioxidant properties of fennel seeds can be effective in the treatment of chronic cough and bronchitis.

Fennel seeds for menstrual cramps

Dysmenorrhea is a term used to denote painful periods. While abdominal pain is the primary symptom of this problem, it may also be associated with, bloating, sore breast, nausea and headache. In a clinical study, sixty students with this condition were given oral fennel drops during their period. The results revealed that fennel was effective in decreasing the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.

Furthermore, fennel seeds are known to be  an estrogenic agent which can help promote menstruation. A preclinical study showed that the presence of compounds such as dianethole and photoanethole in fennel helped induce menstruation.

Fennel seeds for high blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force with which the heart pumps blood to the other parts of the body. Although a high blood pressure does not have any immediate symptoms, It increases the risk of heart diseases and stroke in the long term. Fennel seeds are rich in magnesium which is a mineral known to be important for regulating blood pressure.

Additionally, they have a good balance of potassium and sodium. Studies claim that a high potassium, low sodium food can help reduce the blood pressure. Traditionally, fennel leaves are chewed to reduce the symptoms of hypertension. In a preclinical study, fennel seeds extracts were found to reduce systolic blood pressure by acting as a diuretic (increase water expulsion from the body).

Fennel seeds have anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is a physical condition caused by an infection or an injury wherein the affected area becomes swollen, painful and exhibits redness. According to research, the essential oil of fennel seeds contains several flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties. The oil also contains flavonoids such as eriodictyol-7-rutinoside, quercetin-3-rutinoside and rosmarinic acid that are useful for reducing inflammation. Animal studies indicate that a methanol extract of fennel seeds, at a dose of 200 mg/ Kg, can be used to inhibit inflammation.

Fennel seeds antibacterial properties

The whole fennel plant is known to possess potent antibacterial activity. Research indicates that the essential oil from fennel fruits can prevent diseases caused due to bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus. Extracts from the fennel plant and seeds also exhibit potent antibacterial properties against bacteria that cause food poisoning and stomach infection. The antibacterial properties of fennel are attributed to the presence of components such as Dillapional and scopoletin.

Fennel seeds benefits for teeth

Dental caries or tooth cavities occur due to the production of acids by the bacteria in the teeth. Untreated cavities could cause severe toothache, tooth and gum infection and gradually lead to the loss of teeth. Research suggests that essential oil from fennel can help prevent cavities caused due to oral bacteria such as S. mutans and L. casei. It can also help prevent the formation of plaque caused due to these bacteria. The research concluded that fennel is an excellent anti-caries herb that can inhibit the growth and spreading of oral bacteria.

Fennel seeds side effects

Although fennel seeds have numerous health benefits, these seeds do have a few side effects in some people. Therefore it is recommended that people with any of the below-mentioned conditions consult a doctor before adding fennel seeds to your diet.

1.   Expecting mothers should avoid fennel  

A few compounds in fennel have a structure similar to that of the female hormone estrogen. It also hampers the clotting of blood which might lead to excessive bleeding. Emmenagogue foods tend to stimulate blood flow in the pelvic regions, thus leading to menstruation. Since fennel seeds have this property, it could lead to miscarriage in pregnant women. Its antispasmodic properties might cause premature contractions. Hence it is advisable to eat fennel seeds moderately or as adviced by gynecologists during pregnancy.

2.   Fennel may cause allergies in some people

Research indicates that people who are allergic to peach are often allergic to fennel. The study identified the presence of lipid transfer protein (LTP) to be the allergen responsible for allergic reactions.

3.   Interaction of fennel seeds with medicines

 If you are on certain medications, fennel seeds could possibly interfere with these medicines and lead to negative reactions in the body. Fennel seeds interfere with antibiotics, contraceptives, estrogens, certain heart medications, antifungals etc. It is advisable to maintain at least 2 hours gap between the consumption of these medicines and fennel seeds. Also speaking to your medical advisor before consuming fennel seeds during your medication is highly recommended.

4.   Fennel oils may cause hallucinations and seizures

There was one reported case of a 38-year-old epileptic patient who developed a seizure after consuming cakes that contained fennel essential oil.


Fennel seeds have been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for ages. Be it ancient Indian Ayurveda or ancient Roman and Greek medicine, fennel seeds and other parts of the fennel plant are extensively used for their antacid and diuretic properties and their ability to relieve pain, inflammation, respiratory and menstrual disorders. These seeds are packed with nutrients with very few side effects. However, some people may be allergic to fennel seeds. if you face any of the above-mentioned side effects, immediately seek the help of a medical advisor or doctor.

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