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Pros & Cons of Fennel Seeds

By Karen Curinga ; Updated May 01, 2018

Fennel — a feathery, fragrant herb — is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Its flavor is reminiscent of licorice or anise. Although every part of the plant is edible, seeds and essential oils are most often used for medicinal purposes. While fennel provides some powerful benefits, it can pose risks for certain people.

Provides Antioxidants

Fennel seeds are excellent sources of antioxidants. Powerful substances, antioxidants help protect your body from free radicals, unstable molecules that damage healthy cells. Research published in Journal of Medicinal Food in 2011 noted that fennel seed extract may have remarkable potential to protect cells and fight certain cancers, such as breast and liver cancer. The study concluded that fennel seed extract could be a safe, effective and easily accessible source of natural antioxidants.

Enhances Digestive System

Fennel helps calm your intestinal tract and eliminate gas. In addition, it's a traditional treatment for colic, which can have links to digestive problems. Breastfeeding mothers consume it in tea form. Fennel seed oil could be effective in reducing intestinal spasms and increasing free movement in the small intestines.

Nutrient Boost

Two tablespoons of fennel seeds contains 138 milligrams of calcium, which is around 14 percent of the daily recommended amount of 1,000 milligrams for most adults. It also contains more than 2 milligrams of iron, a quarter of the amount recommended daily for men and 11 percent of what's recommended for women.

Calcium helps develop and protect bones and teeth and is necessary for proper muscle contraction and relaxation. Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, a protein that transfer oxygen from the lungs to your body's tissues. It's essential for growth, development and proper cell function.

Safety Considerations

Although rare, side effects may occur when consuming herbs. Fennel can disrupt the nervous system when taken in excess and may increase your skin's sensitivity to sunlight.

The Norris Cotton Cancer Center states that fennel may increase the risk for seizures and advises against taking fennel without first talking with your health provider if you have epilepsy or any seizure disorder. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before using fennel medicinally.

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