Cooling Spices, Kapha, Pitta, Vata

Digestive Fire: Keep it Kindling with Fennel Seeds

Fennel Seeds

Fennel—a tall, aromatic plant with bright yellow flowers that grows wild along the California highways. It’s bulb, stalk, fronds, flowers and even the seeds are…edible. Many cultures consider fennel to be a digestive aide and acknowledge it as an herb that gives longevity and strength. Some would say, that in fennel’s ability to helps us digest, we can absorb, assimilate and eliminate effectively. Thus, we become stronger and live longer, healthier lives.

Fennel seeds are a cooling carminative—they relieve gas without increasing internal heat. It’s carminative properties, prevent and remove blockages. In doing so, air can move through the body and kindle the digestive fire.  Fennel’s volatile oils activates the digestive juices and transform the gut from a stagnant swamp into a flowing river.  In fostering digestion, nutrients can be better absorbed and toxic build-up prevented.

The carminative actions and cooling energy, makes fennel especially beneficial for pitta (fire + water) constitutions or imbalances like anger, skin conditions, 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. This favorable combination makes fennel a great spice for all constitutions.

In Sanskrit, the word for fennel, Shatapushpa, means what possess a hundred flowers. Imagine how many flowers you can posses with fennel?

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 it’s 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, enjoying 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 it’s seeds. The sweet, yet pungent, licorice type flavor is further intensified in it’s 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. This Summer, keep it cool, but 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 Summer time 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…

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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