A Healing Herb

And it tastes like licorice

By Karen Frye

We have so many wonderful healing herbs that help restore and maintain good health. Many of them can be grown easily and used in tea, in recipes, or in tinctures to be used medicinally. One that grows well in the Sandhills is fennel.

Fennel is a 6-foot perennial with feathery leaves and clusters of little yellow flowers. The tiny oval-shaped seeds are ribbed and greenish-gray. All the parts of the plant have a licorice-like fragrance.

You can grow fennel from seeds. If you plant them in the fall, they’re ready in spring. You don’t have to give fennel a lot of attention, and the plant doesn’t require a lot of water to survive.

The fennel seed is an effective digestive aid, particularly dealing with bloating, gas, and diarrhea. If you like the taste of licorice, you can chew a handful of seeds after a meal to help relieve indigestion, or you can drink a cup of fennel tea. Fennel is also available in capsules.

While a previous study suggests fennel should not be used by people who have any type of liver disease, more recent studies have found it beneficial for the heart. Nitrites derived from the seeds promote vascular function. The nitrites are reduced into nitric oxide, a compound that protects the heart.

Along with improved digestion, fennel can suppress the appetite. It’s helpful in promoting good function of the kidneys, liver and spleen. Fennel clears the lungs and helps reduce stomach acid. And it can ease the effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

If you aren’t a fan of the licorice flavor, try the capsules. Either way, fennel isn’t expensive, and if you choose to grow your own, it only costs pennies. There are many helpful herbs and, while most have no side effects, I always recommend that if you are on any medications, you should talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

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