Ayurveda, Cooling Spices, Digestion, Fennel, Kapha Dosha, Pitta Dosha, Vata Dosha

Digestive Fire: Keep it Kindling with Fennel Seeds

Fennel Seeds

Fennel—a tall, aromatic plant, often found growing wild along California’s highways.  The brightly colored yellow flowers, bulb, stalk, fronds, and even the seeds of this medicinal plant are edible. Considered to be a digestive aid by many cultures, this plant is also associated with longevity and strength. Some would say, that in fennel’s ability to helps us digest, we are able to better absorb, assimilate and eliminate effectively. Enabling us to become stronger and live longer healthier lives.

A cooling carminative, fennel seeds—relieve gas without increasing internal heat or tejas. While carminative properties, prevent and remove blockages. In doing so, air can move through the body to kindle our digestive fires. The volatile oils activate the digestive juices. Transforming the gut from a stagnant swamp into a flowing river.  In fostering digestion, nutrients can be better absorbed and toxic, or ama, build-up prevented.

The carminative actions and cooling energy makes fennel especially beneficial for pitta (fire + water) imbalances like hot flashes, inflammation, indigestion, acid-reflex,  or other ailments connected to the small intestine where heat festers. Fennel’s cooling energy will help to balance the excessive heat (pitta), but it will not hinder the digestive fire.

In Sanskrit, the word for fennel, Shatapushpa, means what possess a hundred flowers. 

From a vitamin and mineral perspective, fennel provides vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, folic acid, magnesium, iron, and calcium—another great reason to spice it up! Aromatically and by supporting digestion, fennel helps to calm the nerves. It’s an antispasmodic as well—relieving intestinal spasms or cramps. A stomatic, which helps to tone and strengthen the stomach. Fennel also supports the urinary systems through its diuretic actions. Additionally, fennel contains phytoestrogens making it helpful for PMS or symptoms related to menopause—relief from both can also be a result of fennel’s cooling energy.

fennel fronds

During the Fall and Spring, fennel bulbs brings what’s in season to the table. It’s light and diuretic nature helps to counterbalance the heavy and wet air of Spring. Fennel’s cooling energy balances the heat from Fall and Winter’s warming spices—and helps prepare our bodies for the upcoming Summer season (it’s a terrific ingredient for a Spring cleanse).

Over the summer (or in any season), we can benefit from fennel through its seeds. The sweet, yet pungent, licorice type flavor is further intensified in its hardy seeds. Bringing a delicious and balancing touch from meat marinades to homemade salad dressings. Incorporating cooling spices like fennel seeds with spicy-hot, acidic foods or when temperatures rises, will help to bring balance to the meal and at the same time foster balance within.

fennel seedsAccording to Ayurveda, like attracts like, and opposites decrease—creating balance. Incorporating this wisdom of counterbalancing through our foods can support staying in physical balance whether the ailment is connected to excessive heat within or in the seasonal air. Keep it cool, and keep it kindling with fennel seeds.

Well, tell me, tell me—what are the benefits of fennel?

  • Improves digestion
  • Removes toxins
  • Helps absorb nutrients
  • Prevents/Treats bloating, gas, belching, acidity (Pitta imbalances)
  • Calms the nerves
  • Freshens breath
  • Relieves intestinal spasms or cramps
  • Supports the urinary systems through it’s diuretic actions
  • Phytoestrogens make it helpful for PMS, or symptoms related to menopause
  • It’s cooling, thus it pacifies Pitta—a great Summertime herb
  • It’s tri-doshic—great for all: vata, pitta, and kapha

How do I incorporate fennel seeds/powder into my diet?

  • Eat a handful of roasted fennel seeds after a meal
  • Drink fennel tea
  • Crush fennel seeds into your masala chai or lemonade
  • Make strawberry fennel jam
  • Create a fennel based rub for your next BBQ—tastes great with cumin & coriander
  • Add 1/2 tsp or so of crushed seeds to your favorite vegetable sautee, soup, salad, pasta, etc…
  • Combine with other kitchen spices like black pepper, cumin or coriander to create a balanced spice mix.

Spice: Fennel
Doshas: Vata.Pitta.Kapha
Taste/Energy/Post-Digestive Effect: Pungent,Bitter/Cooling/Pungent

Frawley, Dr. David and Lad, Dr. Vasant. The Yoga of Herbs. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; Lotus Press, 2001
Kerala Ayurveda Academy. Lessons 101-109. Foster City, CA, 2009
Murray, Michael, Pizzorno Joseph and Pizzaorno Lara. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York,  New York; Atria Books, 2005


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