Fennel, a unique herb with a crunchy, pale-green root and feathery carrot top-like fronds, is believed to have been first used by the Roman author and naturalist Pliny, who lived between 23 A.D. and 79 A.D.1 Centuries later, in 812 A.D., the emperor Charlemagne2 declared that fennel should be grown in every garden so people could take advantage of its potential healing properties.3
Apart from fennel bulb and fronds, the seeds may deliver some benefits when steeped and consumed as fennel tea. If you’re curious about what fennel tea tastes like, what it can possibly deliver for your health and how you can make it at home, continue reading this article.
What Is Fennel Tea?
Fennel seed tea, or simply fennel tea, is made from the seeds of the fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare). The tea may taste a bit like licorice,4 but with a slightly bitter aftertaste.5 Fennel, a perennial herb,6 is typically found in the Mediterranean region, although it may now be grown in countries outside that area, such as the U.S., France, India and Russia.7
Traditional medicinal practices in ancient Egypt, China and India have utilized fennel extensively, although more and more people are being aware of its benefits because of newer information highlighting its health-boosting potential.8
Fennel Tea’s Health Benefits
Fennel has been linked to numerous health benefits because of its high concentration of anethole, estragole, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and volatile compounds.9,10 Fennel tea may help:11,12,13
Reduce spasms in the gut and other parts of the body — This is due to its antispasmodic effects.14,15
Improve digestion — Fennel tea has long been utilized as a digestive aid. It’s said to help expel gas,16 reduce bloating and cramping, stimulate the digestive process17 and ensure maximum nutrient uptake.
Help relieve constipation — Fennel tea may help relax digestive muscles,18 and assist in cleansing the body and moving toxins through the system.19
Detoxify the body — Fennel may work as a blood cleanser and diuretic20 that keeps the kidneys and liver healthy, and may eliminate toxins found in these organs.21
Raise the amount of antioxidants in the body — Antioxidants in fennel tea may help the body combat harmful toxins you’re exposed to22 and fight harmful oxidative damage.23
Enhance immunity — Fennel has powerful antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal effects,24 and has been linked to combating flu and colds.25,26
Decrease inflammation — Fennel tea is said to possess anti-inflammatory properties that may target sore and inflamed gums, and address pain caused by gout and arthritis.27
Protect the eyes — Fennel tea may assist with addressing poor eyesight, while its antibacterial and immune-boosting properties may shield the eyes from conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.28
Help address respiratory distress — Fennel tea may work as an expectorant.29,30
Lower blood pressure levels — Nitrites found in fennel seeds may play a role in stimulating vascular effects within the body.31
Balance hormone levels — Compounds in fennel tea are known to possess estrogen-like qualities that may lead to a balancing effect on female hormones.
Help with breast milk production — Fennel has been utilized as a galactagogue, or a substance that increases the quality and quantity of breastmilk.32
Potentially help babies with colic — For babies with colic, fennel tea may be a good remedy.33 Research has suggested that this drink may assist with reducing its symptoms.34
Reduce weight — Fennel tea may help with weight loss through different mechanisms. It may promote urination (as fennel is a good diuretic),35 help prevent water retention36 and aid in regulating appetite.
Assist with better sleep — It’s said that fennel tea can relax the muscles and help the person feel more ready to sleep.37
Freshen breath — The tea’s antibacterial properties assist in cleansing pathogens that cause bad breath.38
What Is Fennel Tea’s Caffeine Content?
According to Medical News Today, fennel tea is a caffeine-free drink,39 making it a potentially good option for people who are caffeine-sensitive or need to lower their intake of caffeinated drinks. However, just because it’s a caffeine-free drink doesn’t mean that you should indiscriminately consume fennel tea in unlimited quantities, as there are side effects linked to fennel tea (more on this to come later) that you must be aware of.
How to Make Fennel Tea
Fennel tea is typically made by crushing dried fennel seeds into a powder and steeping these in boiling water.40 Here’s a simple guide on how to make your own fennel tea:41
Simple Fennel Tea Recipe
- 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly crushed fennel seeds
- 1 cup boiling water
- In a teapot, steep the fennel seeds in the boiling water for five to 10 minutes, depending on desired strength.
- Strain and serve. Reheat if desired.
This makes 1 serving
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Ideally, drink fennel tea right away. The longer it sits, the more volatile compounds may be released into the air, leaving fewer nutrients for your body.42 If you don’t have access to fennel seeds, you can buy ready-to-brew fennel seed tea from a high-quality and reputable source.
When drinking fennel tea (or other types of herbal teas for that matter), make sure to start with a small amount to lower the risk for adverse effects. Even better, consult your doctor first to check if you can handle this tea.
How to Store Fennel Tea
Whole or ground fennel seeds may be purchased year-round in markets. If you’re buying fennel seeds from a store, purchase whole seeds instead of powder. The latter may contain unwanted adulterated spicy powders.
At home, keep dry fennel seeds in a clean and sealed container in a cool, humidity-free and dark place. For ground and powdered fennel, store them in airtight containers inside your refrigerator. Ideally, try to use fennel seeds as soon as you can. They tend to lose flavor quickly because the essential oils begin to evaporate upon storage.43
What Are Fennel Tea’s Side Effects?
Always exercise caution when drinking fennel tea and ensure that you don’t excessively consume it, as estragole, a key element in fennel, has been identified as a potential carcinogen.44 Likewise, if you’re planning to use fennel tea for a colicky baby, consult your physician first to determine the safe amounts.
As mentioned earlier, fennel has an estrogenic effect. This effect may imitate this hormone45 and lead to possible health problems. Because of this, pregnant women mustn’t drink fennel tea, while breastfeeding mothers should exercise extreme caution.46
Furthermore, women suffering from breast, uterine or ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts or fibrocystic breasts must not consume fennel, since its estrogen content may exacerbate these conditions.47,48
Additionally, be cautious about drinking fennel tea if you have a bleeding disorder, since this may raise the possibility for bleeding or bruising. This principle applies to people diagnosed with seizure disorders too, since it can induce seizures among at-risk individuals.49 Other medicines that fennel may interact with include some antibiotics (especially those from the ciprofloxacin family) or birth control pills.50
People who are allergic to carrots, celery, mugwort or other plants belonging to the carrot family must avoid fennel tea because the herb is closely related to these foods, and may cause allergic reactions. Fennel may also trigger an increased sensitivity to sunlight51 and, in some cases, menstruation as well.52 There are also concerns surrounding the possibility that fennel may cause girls’ breasts to develop prematurely.53
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Fennel Tea
Q: What is fennel tea used for?
A: Fennel tea may be utilized to address constipation by relaxing the body's digestive muscles,54 and to alleviate some respiratory diseases by acting as an expectorant that eliminates mucus and phlegm.55,56 This tea may also help babies suffering from colic,57,58 promote better sleep59 and possibly assist with weight loss.60,61,62
Q: What is fennel tea good for?
A: Fennel tea can promote numerous health benefits, some of which include:
- Detoxifying the body63,64
- Raising the body's antioxidant levels65,66
- Promoting immunity67,68,69
- Lessening inflammation70
- Boosting breast milk production71
Q: Is fennel tea safe during pregnancy?
A: Unless your doctor approves it, pregnant women should not drink fennel tea.72 Fennel possesses an estrogenic effect, and therefore may exhibit qualities similar to estrogen.73 This may lead to health problems among pregnant women.
Q: Does fennel tea increase milk supply?
A: Fennel tea was used for years as a galactagogue that may increase breast milk quality and quantity.74 However, breastfeeding mothers who wish to drink fennel tea for this purpose must consult their doctor first.
Q: Is fennel tea a laxative?
A: Fennel tea may act as a gentle laxative.75 It helps alleviate stomach pain, intestinal spasms and constipation.76
Q: Where can I buy fennel tea?
A: Fennel seeds used to make fennel tea can be purchased year-round in many markets. While there are whole or ground options available, it's better to buy whole seeds, since powdered fennel seeds may be adulterated with unwanted spicy powders.77 Fennel tea bags may also be available in some health stores and websites, but make sure to purchase only from reputable sources.