People either smile or frown when asked if they like that black licorice/anise/fennel taste. Perhaps knowing what fennel can do for your stomach will help brighten your impression of this amazing spice.
In India, a teaspoon of fennel seeds (sauf) is often chewed after meals to settle the taste buds and to aid digestion. It also is a natural breath freshener, neutralizing your digestion from the mouth, down into the stomach and later on in your intestines. Fennel helps with occasional and chronic experiences of gas, cramps and indigestion, setting you free from “oh, that was a bad combination” or “i knew that smelled funny but I ate it anyway!”
Nutritionally fennel seeds are very rich in minerals including magnesium. They also contain a compound called anethol which minimizes spasms in smooth muscles such as those in the intestinal tract. These “spasms” are what feel like bloating, cramping and poor assimilation of foods. Anethol provides a similar type of calm that you’re used to hearing about with ginger, cardamom and turmeric, though these ingredients have their own compounds.
For those of you familiar with ayurvedic medicine, fennel seeds soothe the body and mind aspects of pitta, helping balance digestive fire but also bring a sense of calm and peace, that “what a great meal that was” feeling. Fennel also helps apana vata, a subdosha of vata responsible for improving downward flow, which is digestion, elimination and for women the hormonal system.
Start with a tsp or small handful directly after any meal, try it after each meal if you have existing health concerns. The most popular simple recipe is roasted fennel:
50% raw fennel seeds
50% baked fennel seeds
Spread 5 oz. of fennel seeds in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until color turns slightly brown. Mix with equal amount of raw fennel seeds. Seal in an airtight container and store away from direct sunlight.