Fennel Seeds Benefits for Gas, Bloating, Cramps, IBS, GERD and Much More
Fennel seeds are an amazing natural trapped gas remedy with many benefits for better digestive function and overall good health.
Eating these potent little medicinal seeds regularly can be especially beneficial for treating gastrointestinal problems like abdominal bloating, intestinal cramps, IBS and excessive flatulence.
Here’s how the seeds of the fennel plant improve digestion and ease intestinal upsets, nutritional properties and health benefits, a few potential side effects to be aware of and the two best ways to use fennel seeds to help prevent or treat stomach pain, bloating, cramps and embarrassing gas.
What are Fennel Seeds?
The fennel plant, scientific name Foeniculum vulgare, is a native perennial originating in the Mediterranean but now found worldwide. While the fennel bulb and leaves can be eaten, the nutrient rich seeds provide the most health benefits.
Dried fennel seeds have an aromatic anise flavor and are often used in cooking, though as you’ll see ahead, they have significant medicinal qualities that makes then a powerful natural remedy for many health problems.
How Fennel Seeds Help Digestive Problems
In India, fennel seeds are incredibly popular as an aid to digestion and have been used for this purpose for thousands of years. A small amount of the seeds are routinely chewed after a meal, both to freshen the breath and to stimulate digestive function.
Modern scientific studies on the properties of fennel seeds are showing that their rich volatile oil content is primarily responsible for these digestive benefits and ability to clear intestinal gas so effectively.
Compounds like anethole, fenchone and estragole have antispasmodic, calmative and anti-inflammatory properties that relax contracted intestinal muscles, easing abdominal cramps, releasing belly bloat and allowing trapped gas to dissipate.
Drinking a great tasting fennel tea, like this high potency one I use in my kitchen, or eating the fresh seeds is a simple way to prevent or treat many digestive problems like bad gas pains, belly bloat, stomach cramps and too much flatulence.
Natural Remedy for Acid Reflux and GERD
The volatile oils in fennel seeds stimulate bile to start off digestion properly and their calmative properties also help prevent indigestion, acid reflux and other GERD symptoms.
Chewing on a teaspoon of fennel seeds straight after a meal, or sipping on a strong fennel seed tea while you eat is an effective way to reduce painful heartburn and acid stomach discomfort for most people. Be sure to read about potential side effects of fennel seeds first before eating them regularly.
Eating fennel seeds or drinking fennel seed tea has even proven effective for many people with more serious digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. IBS symptoms include severe stomach gas pains, alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation and ongoing bloating, cramps and excessive flatulence.
This study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome who took a dose of 8 to 12 seeds three times a day had a “marked improvement with less abdominal cramps, less dependence on laxative… and less visits to physicians”.
These medicinal strength and organic fennel seeds with extremely high volatile oil content are the best on the market for treating IBS with fennel and highly recommended if you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
One of the causes of regular diarrhea is a build up of gases in the colon that pressure the walls of the lower intestine to release excess water, or prevents them from absorbing it in the first place.
Chewing on fennel seeds after a meal can help reduce excessive gas that leads to diarrhea and some resources suggest drinking a strong fennel tea as a natural treatment. It’s far better though to minimize the possibility of diarrhea from built up gases by preventively using fennel seeds around meal time.
Also be aware that chronic diarrhea lasting more than a couple of weeks is a serious health condition with many potential causes. Visit a knowledgeable healthcare professional if you experience ongoing diarrhea that doesn’t quickly respond to herbal cures like fennel.
Constipation as an inability to have a regular bowel movement, less than three a week by medical definition, though any less than one a day is unhealthy. When you are constipated you feel tired, drained and low on energy as proper elimination is disrupted and your liver has to deal with accumulating toxins.
Eating fennel seeds can be an excellent cure for constipation. The volatile oils in fennel, like anethole and fenchone, have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect on your entire gastrointestinal tract, improving the passage of digesting food and encouraging elimination.
Alongside its calmative and antispasmodic properties, herbal medicine textbooks list fennel seeds as having cathartic, purgative and laxative effects for remedying constipation naturally.
By eating the seeds of the fennel plant or drinking the tea you can stimulate the mucus membranes of your digestive tract, increasing intestinal motility and encouraging the peristalsis action which sends you to the toilet.
How to Use Fennel Seeds to Fight Bad Gas
While certain foods can definitely increase your instance of flatulence, most often really smelly gas is a result of the food you eat getting trapped or delayed in the colon and fermenting or putrefying there.
Chewing on fennel seeds can help prevent this by improving the digestive process. As both food that is being digested, and any trapped gas, moves through your system more quickly there is far less chance of noxious compounds building up to breaking point.
With the possible exception of activated charcoal (which does require more complex timing), fennel seeds, either eaten after your meal or made into a tea, are one of the best homemade stomach gas treatments available.
Next let’s have a look at the nutrition in fennel seeds, more wide ranging health benefits, a couple of precautions to be aware of and then two ways to use fennel seeds to prevent both digestive problems and excessive flatulence.
Fennel Seed Nutrition
Fennel seeds are quite the nutritional powerhouse with high levels of volatile oils, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids and dietary fiber. Here’s some of their best nutrition:
- The seeds of fennel contain potent volatile oils like anethole, fenchone, chavicol, pinene, limonene, camphene and estragole with many health benefits.
- Rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin, rutin, hesperidin, apigenin and kaempferol.
- Other beneficial nutrients include beta-sitosterol, myristicin, chlorogenic acid and antioxidant carotenoids.
- Nutritional data lists fennel seeds as having 15.8 grams of protein and 14.9 grams of fat, predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids, per 100 grams.
- The is also 345 calories in 100 grams of the seeds. Around 20 calories in a more realistic tablespoon serving.
- Vitamin A, C, E and vitamin K are all present, as are various B vitamins such as B1, B6 and folate.
- A source of minerals like boron, calcium, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and zinc.
- Eating fennel seeds also provides a good intake of fiber in your diet with 100 grams offering 39.8 grams of dietary fiber according to nutritional resources.
More Fennel Seed Benefits
Herbal textbooks and medical resources list a wide variety of potential health benefits of fennel seeds. Here’s some of the highlights:
- Anti-inflammatory actions that can treat arthritic joint pain, skin conditions and many other diseases of inflammation.
- A strong antibacterial against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Fennel seed also has antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
- Fennel contains many antioxidants compounds to combat free radical damage like quercetin, apigenin, kaempferol and various volatile oils.
- Boosts your immune system and is beneficial for the respiratory system, clearing phlegm and easing a sore throat.
- Premier digestion enhancer with strong carminative, antispasmodic, digestive and anti-flatulent properties for trapped gas relief and less farting.
- Eating fennel seeds regularly can help lower your blood pressure (though check side effects below first). It is also good for your entire cardiovascular system with antithrombotic activity and vasorelaxant actions.
- Promotes healthy skin with its antioxidant, antimicrobial and antifungal volatile oils, flavonoids and phenolic compounds.
- Good for hair growth and recommended in Ayurveda for preventing grey hairs.
- Beneficial for your eyes and a fennel tea eye wash is prescribed in traditional medicine for conjunctivitis and glaucoma.
- Fennel seeds are a herbal diuretic and homemade remedy for water retention, relieving the symptoms of edema such as puffy hands and feet.
- Volatile oils like anethole help lower your risk of cancer by inhibiting NF-kappaB — an inflammation triggering and gene-altering molecule.
- Chewing fennel seeds promotes natural weight loss. Read about the four different ways they do it in this comprehensive article on fennel tea.
Side Effects of Fennel Seeds
Dried fennel seeds are generally considered very safe. So safe in fact that diluted fennel seed tea is often recommended as a treatment for colic in babies. There are, however, a few fennel seed side effects to be aware of:
- As is common with most potent herbs, fennel seed products are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- Some older studies suggest large doses of fennel seeds may have a mildly estrogenic effect, though more recent research is contradicting this and lists fennel as having quite low phytoestrogen activity. Occasional use of fennel seeds for treating bloating and bad gas pains should not have any impact on estrogen levels for either women or men.
- As a precaution, women being treated for hormone sensitive health conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids and ovarian, uterine or breast cancer are advised to avoid fennel seeds and many other types of herbs, and especially highly estrogenic foods like soybeans.
- Fennel seeds are best avoided by hemophiliacs as they may have an effect on blood clotting. Those taking medication for seizures should also not take the herb.
- Allergic reactions to fennel and its seeds are very rare, though more likely in those who are also allergic to carrots, celery or dill. Consult a doctor if you suspect an allergic reaction after chewing fennel seeds or drinking fennel seed tea.
- Finally, fennel seed essential oil is a highly concentrated product with specific applications and should not be used internally without medical supervision. Regular fennel seeds are powerful enough for relieving trapped stomach gas so there’s no need to use fennel essential oil for this purpose.
Eating Fennel Seeds for Better Digestion
The simplest way to use fennel seeds to prevent bloating and gas is to simply buy a bag of high quality organic seeds like these that I use and chew up around a teaspoon, or a least a good pinch, after a meal and swallow them.
You’ll probably recognize the liquorice like aniseed flavor from Indian dishes. The taste is relatively strong and warming but not at all unpleasant to my taste buds.
However, if you are used to everything you eat being sweet then the pungent flavor of fennel seed might take a little getting used to. That said, I certainly wouldn’t recommend eating fennel candy or other forms of sugar coated fennel seeds for digestive problems. Eating the seeds with honey isn’t a good idea either.
Sugar is one of the root causes of digestion problems and too much flatulence with the way it promotes bad bacteria growth in your lower intestine. Really, not everything should taste sweet so do your body a favor and get used to more complex flavors.
If you don’t think you could chew fennel seeds regularly, a far better option than fennel candy or sweets with fennel seeds is freshly brewed fennel tea (perhaps with a drop or two of stevia extract rather than sugar if you really need it).
Making Fennel Tea to Prevent Bloating and Gas
Fennel seed tea is quite refreshing and a very effective way to prevent belly bloat, abdominal pain and stomach cramps as it helps to release intestinal contractions and move along trapped gas.
When you drink the warm tea it travels quickly through your gastrointestinal tract to where it’s needed the most so relief can be even quicker than eating fennel seeds.
Here’s how to make homemade fennel seed tea:
- Start by crushing a tablespoon of organic fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon in a bowl. A seed grinder can also be used.
- Add them to a cup and pour very hot but not quite boiling water over them (turn the kettle off just before it boils).
- Cover the cup with a small plate and leave it to sit for 5 minutes for a regular strength tea or up to 15 minutes for a stronger one.
- Strain it if you like (I rarely bother) and sip for quick relief from trapped stomach gas, intestinal pain and tummy bloating.
There are also high strength fennel seed teas available which are convenient for work or traveling. After testing quite a few of these, I believe Heather’s tummy tea is the most effective and the hundreds of positive reviews seem to agree.
Fennel Seeds as a Natural Remedy
I hope you’ll give fennel seeds or fennel seed tea a try if bad gas pain, bloating, stomach cramps and other gastrointestinal problems like IBS or GERD have been ongoing health issues for you.
Some people may find it surprising, but often natural herbal cures like this are simply more effective than pharmaceuticals (and with a lot less side effects). Surely it’s worth giving traditional medicine like fennel a try before turning to harsh drugs such as antibiotics.
Fennel seeds actually have many more wide ranging beneficial properties, including lowering your risk of many diseases, improving your appearance, helping you get to sleep and even reaching your ideal weight. You can read about them in detail in this popular article on the many health benefits of fennel tea.
Have you had success with using fennel seeds for intestinal cramps, abdominal bloating, painful stomach gas or other digestive issues? I’d be interested to hear your experiences with this powerful homemade remedy.
Photo 1: Ted Rabbitts / Photo 2: glaukos
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