Fennel is an herb native to southern Europe and Asia Minor. The seeds have a taste resembling that of anise or licorice. The herb, which is about three feet tall and feathery and fragrant when cultivated, has been used for medicinal purposes dating back to ancient Chinese, Indian, Egyptian and Greek civilizations. Although there are many health benefits that come with ingesting fennel, there are some side effects to consider as well.
Historically, fennel has served as a flavoring element in candies, liqueurs, medicines and food. In the field of medicine, fennel treats gastroenteritis and indigestion and stimulates lactation and menstrual flow.
Fennel seeds have been used to suppress appetites during fasting periods. Also, it is believed that the herb can serve as an antidote to poisonous herbs, mushrooms and snake bites.
Skin Side Effects
Although this only impacts a small percentage of people, a skin condition called photodermatitis, which is a form of allergic rash, can occur after eating fennel and then exposing the skin to direct sunlight.
Digestive Side Effects
Fennel oil should never be used in food preparation as it can cause nausea, vomiting or even seizures if ingested. It is usually fennel seeds, either whole or ground, that should be used in cooking.
Pregnant women should avoid consuming large amounts of fennel as it can effect estrogen levels in the body. However, fennel does increase the flow of breast milk once the baby has arrived.