Wild fennel: properties and benefits of this medicinal plant

Wild fennel (commonly called fennel) is a Mediterranean herbaceous shrub that arises spontaneously especially in central and southern Italy in the so-called Mediterranean scrub.

This aromatic plant belongs to the Umbelliferae family and has been known since ancient times for its aromatic properties. With a taste similar to dill, it is used to flavor Mediterranean dishes. Rich in phytotherapeutic properties, it is used in all its parts in the preparation of herbal teas with digestive and carminative qualities, especially for women.

Wild fennel: the plant

It is an umbrella plant with the scientific name of Foeniculum vulgare, a poor relative of cultivated fennel, but with different botanical characteristics.

Wild fennel is a spontaneous and perennial plant that consists of:

  • a branched stem up to 2 m high
  • green threadlike leaves similar to hay
  • small yellow flowers arranged like an umbrella. Numerous seeds are born from these flowers which, with the wind, infest all the surrounding soil, spreading the medicinal plant out of all proportion, revealing the infesting nature of this shrub
  • its fruits (commonly called seeds) are actually greyish-green achenes

Being a perennial crop, it does not make it necessary to re-sow it: when winter arrives, it is cut at the root and then it is expected that in spring the main root will produce new shoots.

Cultivated fennel, on the other hand, is an annual or biennial plant with a tap root. It reaches 60–80 cm in height. The large white heart-shaped sheath that develops at the base is consumed.

How fennel is grown

Wild fennel requires little care and is easily maintained and reproduced both in the garden and in a small vegetable garden.

Here is the practical guide to grow it.

  • Habitat. Being a rustic plant, it easily adapts to arid and difficult soils, but it fears the cold. In regions where the ground freezes, no crops will be found. You also need good exposure to the sun and shelter from too much wind.
  • Ground. It needs well-drained soil. It also adapts easily to sandy and gravelly soils, but is more productive in soils with good organic substance.
  • Sowing and propagation. The time for sowing is spring. The seeds are positioned only one centimeter deep. To propagate the plant, just let the flower go to seed. From a bush a multitude of seeds are produced which are then very easy to germinate.
  • Irrigation. It needs little water and also grows in arid areas. If we cultivate it in the garden or in the vegetable garden, it is advisable to proceed with watering in the evening or early in the morning and to abound with water especially in summer.
  • Mulching and fertilization. For the best yield of this plant, mulching is recommended both in summer, to keep the earth from drying out, and in winter, to keep the roots warm. Annually add organic matter to the soil using compost-based fertilizer, or mature manure to hoe on the ground between autumn and winter.
  • Pruning. In winter, prune the shrub up to the stem that protrudes from the ground, leaving the root in the ground, which will give life to a new crop the following year. To prevent the root from freezing, cover the area with non-woven fabric.
  • Collected. The whole bush can be consumed, up to the base, so collect every part of it. In particular in autumn the roots, in summer the leaves and stems to be used as aromatic herbs and from the end of August to October the seeds, to spice dishes and make herbal teas.
  • Parasites. It fears aphids. If it is attacked you can cut the plant in the most infested parts, use nettle or garlic maceration. It also fears fungal diseases that start from the root and the soil, such as root rot and collar rot. To prevent the problem, pay attention to too much humidity and prevent any water stagnation.

Wild fennel: how to use it

The wild plant is entirely edible.

  • Fennel seeds, which are actually its fruits, are used to flavor ragù, cheeses and biscuits, but also for second courses of white meat and fish.
  • Seeds and leaves macerated in pure alcohol give a very good liqueur or to enrich mulled wine or herbal teas.

In phytotherapy the leaves and seeds of this medicinal plant are used for the preparation of dry extracts. The essential oil of fennel is extracted from the seeds in a current of steam, with antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and digestive properties, and healing of the intestine and colon.

It should be used with caution because the active ingredients are contained in very high doses and can have hallucinogenic effects.

Wild fennel: phytotherapeutic properties

The properties are many, so much so that it is a plant already widely used in ancient times. Here are the properties that stand out the most:

  • antispasmodic
  • digestive
  • carminative, promotes the expulsion of intestinal gas
  • antiseptic, helps eliminate bad breath

We recommend taking it as an herbal tea, let’s see how it is prepared and what benefits it offers.

Fennel herbal tea: how to prepare it and what benefits

It is made both with seeds and with fresh leaves and with the root bulb. It can help our well-being in various situations, especially in the case of:

  • difficult digestion
  • bloating and abdominal cramps

It benefits women especially, thanks to the active ingredients with digestive and carminative power, but also to the presence of chemicals similar to estrogens. Among its benefits and uses: we find how:

  • natural antispasmodic for stomach and intestines and helps eliminate heartburn, flatulence, bloating, cramps and diarrhea. It also treats the main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • to relieve the symptoms of menstruation and menopause because it contains substances similar to estrogens but of plant origin
  • purifying, it helps to improve kidney function, purify the blood and prevent stones.
  • antibacterial for the well-being of the oral cavity, to relieve inflammation of the gums and treat the problem of bad breath
  • to regulate appetite, the drink is therefore recommended in diets to reduce weight
  • to reduce water retention by helping to drain fluids
  • strengthening the immune system
  • to relieve sore throat and cold symptoms by eliminating congestion and phlegm.

Fennel tea how to prepare it

To prepare a purifying herbal tea, dried fruits left to infuse in hot water are used. There are also pre-dosed lyophilized sachets on the market.

  • Herbal tea with seeds. Pound 1 teaspoon of seeds in a mortar, then put them in a tea measuring cup and dip them in a cup of hot water. Leave to infuse for 7-10 minutes before filtering and drinking.
  • Herbal tea with fresh leaves. Wash and cut the fresh leaves which are then immersed in a cup of boiling water, leave them to macerate covered for 15-20 minutes. Filter before drinking.
  • Herbal tea with the bulb. Clean the bulb well, cut it into pieces. Pour into a cup of boiling water and leave to infuse covered for 15-20 minutes. Filter before drinking.

For small digestive or intestinal problems, take 2-4 cups a day after meals.

It can be used to make compresses to reduce swelling and to treat any ocular infections such as conjunctivitis. Just soak a cotton ball in the warm infusion and leave it on the eyelids for 10 minutes.

Contraindications of fennel

Fennel tea is not completely harmless, but it does have some contraindications. Here are some caveats:

  • can cause allergy
  • may have interactions with medicines by increasing the effects of the medicine or, conversely, reducing them. It is therefore advisable to notify your doctor.
  • it can be given to newborns in case of colic, because it has a carminative effect, helps to stretch the intestine and eliminate gas. Be careful because it can compromise breastfeeding because it gives a sense of fullness.
  • it is not recommended for cancer patients, particularly those with estrogen-dependent tumors. In other cases it could be useful to soothe stomach discomfort due to therapies.
  • it is not recommended in pregnancy.

Wild fennel: use in the kitchen

It has been used not only as a useful herb in cooking but also as a natural remedy since ancient Greek times. Especially in the cuisine of Southern Italy, in Sicily in particular, there are amazing recipes.

Calories and nutritional values ​​of wild fennel

Wild fennel contains 10 calories per 100 grams and is composed of 43% carbohydrates and 56% proteins.

In the kitchen you can use all parts of the fennel.

Pasta with wild fennel


  • 200 gr of spaghetti
  • 200 gr of shrimp
  • 1 bunch of wild fennel
  • 1  spring onion
  • 8  Piccadilly tomatoes
  • chili pepper

Preparation. Clean the fennel and cook it in salted water. Drain it and set aside the cooking water. Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes and cut them into small pieces. Put a drizzle of oil in a pan and fry the spring onion over low heat, then add the chopped tomatoes and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped fennel and a little cooking water. Cook with the lid closed for about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp already peeled, stir and immediately remove from the heat. Cook the spaghetti in the cooking water of the fennel and leave it al dente. Stir in the pan with the sauce. Serve hot.

Chicken flavored with fennel


  • 1 kg of chicken
  • 150 gr of Pachino cherry tomatoes
  • 50 gr pitted Taggiasca olives
  • 30 gr of capers
  • wild fennel
  • water

Preparation. Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes and then cut them in half. Remove the stalk from the peppers and slice. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and add 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic and the chillies. Let it brown for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken. Brown the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes over medium heat and add the cherry tomatoes, olives, capers and wild fennel. Add a little water and cook with the lid closed for about 25 minutes over low heat. Uncover and add more fennel and continue cooking without a lid for 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

Pancakes with fennel


  • 1 bunch of wild fennel
  • eggs
  • 50 gr of grated cheese
  • flour 00

Preparation. Clean the fennel by removing the hardest and most woody threads, wash it and boil it in salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain and cut into small pieces. Add the eggs, a pinch of salt, black pepper, grated cheese and, if desired, the flour (which can be replaced by other flours to become gluten-free) in a bowl. Mix everything until you get a thick mixture. Prepare the pancakes. In a pan pour plenty of olive oil until it completely covers the bottom and, when it is hot, dip the small pancakes which must be golden brown on both sides at the end. Leave to drain on a plate lined with absorbent paper, salt lightly and serve. They are also good cold!

Wild fennel digestive liqueur


  • 1 liter of food alcohol at 90 °
  • fresh wild fennel leaves
  • 1 handful of fennel seeds
  • 1 liter of water
  • 800 grams of sugar

Preparation. Wash and dry the wild fennel leaves, possibly freshly picked, and after having dabbed them with absorbent kitchen paper, deposit them in an airtight glass container. Add the alcohol at 90 ° and some dried seeds, after having crushed them in a pestle. Seal tightly and shake well, then store in a closed, dark place for about 15 days, until the leaves turn white and macerate. Prepare a syrup by boiling the water with the sugar. When it becomes completely cold, add the macerate, which in the meantime will have been filtered through a sieve. Mix and bottle. Consume the liqueur after a month, very cold.

Wild fennel: curiosity

The term ‘fennel’ derives from the term fennel, which means to cheat, to cheat. Because? It comes from the fact that the aroma was used to cover a poor quality wine. It was therefore added to the barrels to make it more pleasant in flavor.

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