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A natural mouth freshener, one of the spices in panch phoran (Indian five spice blend) used to flavour Indian curries, and an ancient remedy for digestive issues, fennel seeds (saunf) are found in almost every Indian kitchen. The sweet and powerful flavour of fennel seeds has made it quite popular in modern French and Italian cooking. Apart from its distinct aroma and taste, the medicinal benefits of fennel seeds are known from ancient times. Fennel seeds have been used in various parts of the country for its digestion-boosting properties. It is said that Romans used it to manage obesity.
While in India, it is normal to chew plain or sugar-coated saunf after meals, in many parts of the world people roast them with a little salt or sugar to make a snack.
Loaded with calcium, Vitamin C, iron, magnesium and potassium, fennel seeds apart from their role in weight loss are also said to prevent cancer as they have a compound called anethole which according to research is effective at destroying breast cancer cells and even stopping spread of breast and liver cancer cells. Anethole in fennel seeds is also said to stimulate milk production in lactating mothers.
Ayurveda expert Dr Dixa Bhavsar recently talked about the benefits of fennel seeds in her Instagram post.
“Fennel Seed is an ancient Indian spice. Usually, spices are hot in nature and are not soothing to stomach. But fennel seed is an exception to this rule. It is the spice of choice to chew after food,” she wrote.
The expert says that as per Ayurveda fennel has a special role in digestion.
“Because of its cooling and sweet properties, it specifically strengthens and warms agni (the digestive fire) without provoking pitta. And as a tridoshic herb, fennel is also balancing for vata and kapha, making it a great digestive choice for anyone to keep on hand. Fennel is also helpful for anyone experiencing post-digestive discomfort from excess vata by redirecting apana vayu,” says Dr Bhavsar.
* Useful in chronic respiratory conditions leading to emaciation (as in tuberculosis).
* Balya – improves strength and immunity
* Pittasradoshajit – useful in bleeding disorders of Pitta origin.
* Agnikrut – improves digestion strength
* Hrudya – good for heart, cardiac tonic
* Shukrapaha, Avrushya – It is not an aphrodisiac
* Yonishoolanut – useful in relieving pain during menses. As further support for women, fennel has a specific effect on rasa dhatu, promoting the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers.
Dr Bhavsar says fennel seeds are also helps with worm infestation, constipation, Vata disorders, burning sensation, anorexia, lack of interest in food, vomiting and cough & cold.
The Ayurveda expert also says that the sattvic qualities of fennel seeds are said to refresh the mind and promote mental alertness. She adds that the spice is also considered to be rejuvenating for the eyes.
“In the respiratory system, fennel even reduces aggravated kapha that congests the lungs,” she concludes.