Fennel Seed- xiao hui xiang-Foeneculum officinale

Common Name: Fennel Seed

Pinyin Name: Xiao Hui Xiang

Botanical Name: Foeneculum officinale

Part Used: Fruit, Seed

Essential oil derived from fennel seed is also highly effective and should be diluted in olive oil to 5% before adding the volatile oil. The essential oils present in fennel seed account for the rich aroma, sweet flavor, and much of the medicinal qualities of this medicinal herb. Essential oils are highly anti-microbial in nature, so fennel seed would be a could inclusion in any remedy for colds, sore gums, or respiratory infections.

Properties: Warm, Acrid

Constituents: essential oils: rans-anethole and estragole, fenchone, Limonene; polyphenols, such as rosmarinic acid and luteolin, petroselinic acid

Channels Entered: Heart, Liver, Spleen

Primary Actions:

Western view: aromatic caminative, stomachic, phytoestrogenic, galactogogue

Growing & Harvesting:


Fennel is a hardy perennial herb that is easily cultivated by seed. Like most herbs, it likes sun and good drainage.This umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, grows wild in most parts of temperate Europe, but is generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean. This plant is worth growing as it will come back year after year producing medicinal seeds for you and your family; the only trick is being able to harvest the seeds before they fall to the ground or a hungry critter eats them. Simply cover the seed heads before the seeds mature with some type of netting or cheese cloth and a twist tie so that you will catch the fennel seeds for harvest.

Culinary Uses:

As a flavoring, fennel seeds give Italian sausage its distinctive licorice accent flavor. The seed are served with small mints as a treat at the end of Indian meals to aid in digestion. It is sometimes found in deserts and candy recipes, and is used throughout many cultures. An infusion of fennel seeds make for a tasty tea after meals and is one of the best herbs for reducing flatulence, or gas.

Medicinal Benefits & Uses

Lower Back Pain

In Chinese medicine, Kidney Yang Deficiency can result in Lower Back Pain with weakness and chronic soreness. Fennel is used with other Kidney Yang tonic herbs to relieve this type of pain.

Testicular, Vaginal & Scrotum Pain

The Liver acupuncture channel traverses the reproductive organs. If coldness persists along these channels pain can develop. Fennel disperses the cold from the channel and relieves this type of pain which tend to be sharp in nature.

Middle Jiao-Spleen Support

Fennel seed has a sweet-warm energetic nature that is drying making it helpful for children with chronic damp conditions caused by a sluggish Spleen energetic system in Chinese medicine. Internal Dampness may be indicated by chronic sinusitis, stomach upset with sticky bowel movements, and chronic phlegm. Fennel seed is an age-old remedy that is gentle, safe and effective for children. One of the reasons that fennel is so popular in children's remedies is that it has a pleasant sweet anise flavor and fragrance. It is most often associated with relieving digestive disorders, abdominal pain and cramps, gas, colicky babies, and upset stomach from eating too many greasy foods.

As a Spleen Qi support herb, fennel seed can restore health to the Spleen organ system of TCM.
Spleen imbalances can be based on familial patterns (DNA), chronic exposure to moist conditions, staying in wet bathing suits too long, sitting on damp wet surfaces for an extended period, worrying too much, or studying and reading for long hours. Poor dietary habits and eating too many rich, fatty, and fried foods is the most common cause of Spleen damage in Western culture today. Fennel is used in most of our herb combinations and is included, often for it's ability to promote the absorption and digestibility of all the herbs in the formula, but also to soothes Liver Qi Stagnation.

Fennel seed tea can be combined with ginger root to promote the appetite in cases of a poor appetite for those with Spleen Qi Deficiency, or for those trying to put on weight, and is especially effective when used before meals.

Baby & Childhood Remedies

Spleen Qi is responsible for the transportation and transformation of foods and fluids, so children who are overweight likely have Spleen Qi Deficiency and cannot utilize what foods they do consume correctly. Spleen Qi Deficiency must be corrected so that children are not subjected to a lifetime of obesity. The Spleen energetic system also includes the pancreas in Chinese medicine, and Spleen imbalances can be a precursor for type 2 diabetes in children, a recent disturbing phenomenon in western culture. 

Fennel is ideal for children with poor appetites as it arouses the appetite, and should be considered for children or babies who are failing to thrive and grow. Fennel can be combined with yellow dock root as a bath for constipation in children. Some of the lesser known uses of fennel seed for children is to restore the urinary tract, for kidney problems, to reduce high uric acid levels, as a syrup for sore throats, and as an expectorant for coughs. Fennel seed can be combined with goldenseal leaf and made in to an infusion for eye infections, or pink eye.

Fennel seed can be used as a tea for children, but is more easily applied as an herbal bath for children who can be finicky about drinking herb teas. The seeds can be infused with boiling water for 10 minutes, strained, cooled, and added to an infant or child's bath. Use about 1/8-1/4 cup seeds for each bath. Fennel seed can also be chewed from the whole seed, but this can be difficult with kids who are funny about new rich flavors. Think of fennel seed as a remedy for children any time they have an upset stomach, travel sickness, diarrhea, or hiccups. They can be carried as dried whole seeds and consumed as a tasty licorice snack to chew on.

A strong infusion of fennel seed will help to alleviate abdominal pain and indigestion where there is stagnation due to coldness and deficiency of the stomach. The essential oil found in fennel seed also stops spasms in the intestines, thus reducing abdominal pain. The essential oils found in fennel seed regulate the peristaltic action of the Large Intestinal gastrointestinal tract and help to reduce emptying time of the bowels, thus avoiding food stagnation that can lead to tummy aches.

Contra-indications:
Do not use in large doses with Yin Deficiency and Deficient Heat. Fennel seed is generally a safe herb for therapeutic use and is gentle enough for children; however. it gently stimulates the uterine, and large therapeutic doses should be avoided during pregnancy although it is fine in a formula as an adjunct herb used in small doses in a combination will not threaten a pregnancy.

More Ways to Use Fennel

  • Nursing mothers can drink fennel seed tea to naturally increase milk flow. Additionally, mothers who consume fennel seed tea while nursing can ease a babies digestion and soothe a colicky baby.
  • Fennel seeds are often combined with other digestive herbs for their carminative action, especially when using natural laxative herbs that have a griping tendency.
  • Fennel root can be used effectively in urinary disorders such as kidney stones. Dosage: 1/2 oz. Dry herb daily decocted with 2 cups of water.
  • Fennel seeds infusions can be used as a repairing mouthwash to cure gum disorders and loose teeth.
  • Fennel seed infusions can be gargled to benefit sore throats.
  • Fennel seed infusion can be used as a natural eyewash for sore eyes, and in herbal combinations for conjunctivitis and eye infections with goldenseal leaf.
  • Fennel seed treats inflammations and can be made in to a poultice by crushing the seed and combining the seed with hot water. When cooled, it can be applied to a new mother’s swollen and tender breasts to ease the pain, or on bruises.
  • Fennel seed infusion can be gently reduced over a low heat and combined with honey to make a natural cough syrup for children’s coughs.
  • The pure essential oil of fennel seed can be diluted to 5 % in a carrier oil and used to rub the stomach of a colicky baby or constipated child. (Always massage in a clockwise direction gently). Dosage: 2 drops to 1 teaspoon base oil. The pure essential oil of fennel seed is antispasmodic and antibacterial.


Popular Home Remedy Herbal Combinations:

  • Fennel Seed, Mullein, Hyssop-As and infusion for coughs.
  • Fennel Seed, Meadowsweet, Chamomile-As a tincture to reduce acid.
  • Fennel Seed, Catnip, Ginger-To relieve flatulence.
  • Fennel Seed, Goldenseal Leaf, Agrimony-As a weak infusion for conjunctivitis & eye infections.