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Pros & Cons of Fennel Seeds

Pros & Cons of Fennel Seeds
A close-up of fennel seeds. Photo Credit: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Fennel -- a feathery, fragrant herb -- is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Its flavor is reminiscent of licorice or anise. Although every part of the plant is edible, seeds and essential oils are most often used for medicinal purposes. While fennel provides some powerful benefits, it can pose risks for certain people.

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Provides Antioxidants

Fennel seeds are excellent sources of antioxidants. Powerful substances, antioxidants help protect your body from free radicals, unstable molecules that damage healthy cells. An article published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in September 2011 noted that fennel seed extract may have remarkable potential to protect cells and fight certain cancers, such as breast and liver cancer. The study concluded that fennel seed extract could be a safe, effective and easily accessible source of natural antioxidants.

Enhances Digestive System

Fennel helps calm your intestinal tract and eliminate gas. In addition, it's a traditional treatment for colic, which can have links to digestive problems. Breastfeeding mothers consume it in tea form. An article published in "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine" in July 2003 noted fennel seed oil is effective in reducing intestinal spasms and increasing free movement in the small intestines. The study showed a significant decrease in colic symptoms in infants treated with fennel seed oil emulsion.

Nutrient Boost

A 3.5-ounce portion of ground fennel seed provides 1,196 milligrams of calcium, more than 100 percent of the daily value set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. The same amount also contains 21 milligrams of vitamin C, or 35 percent of the DV. Calcium helps develop and protect bones and teeth and is necessary for proper muscle contraction and relaxation. Vitamin C is crucial for the development of connective tissue, which helps heal wounds and supports blood vessels.

Safety Considerations

Although rare, side effects may occur when consuming herbs. Fennel can disrupt the nervous system when taken in excess and may increase your skin's sensitivity to sunlight. The Norris Cotton Cancer Center states that fennel may increase the risk for seizures and advises against taking fennel without first talking with your health provider if you have epilepsy or any seizure disorder. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before using fennel medicinally.

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