Fennel ‘Safe and Effective’ for Easing Menopause Symptoms

Although a normal phase of a woman’s life, menopause can have a wide range of inconvenient symptoms. New research suggests fennel may help to relieve these symptoms, with little to no side effects.
Clinical trial shows fennel is a safe and effective treatment for menopause symptoms, with no side effects.

The symptoms of menopause range from changes in mood, period, or sex drive to sleep trouble, anxiety, depression, and the well-known hot flashes. This stage in a woman’s life can also increase the risk of health issues, such as osteoporosis or heart disease.

Physicians often recommend hormonal therapy (HT) for managing menopausal symptoms, as well as preserving bone density. However, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) caution against the health risks that HT often poses, including that of a heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer.

Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that women take the smallest dose of HT for the shortest period of time possible.

Because of the adverse health effects associated with HT, many women turn to complementary, plant-based medicine for symptom relief during menopause. Plants such as red clover or soy contain phytoestrogens – substances similar to the estrogen produced by the human body but derived from plants.

However, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) report that the efficacy of phytoestrogens in relieving menopause symptoms has been inconsistent.

But new research – published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) – suggests that the phytoestrogens found in fennel help manage postmenopausal symptoms and pose no adverse effects.

Fennel – or Foeniculum vulgare Mill – is a herb known for its culinary and medicinal uses. Fennel is commonly used as a spice, and fennel tea is known to relieve indigestion or premenstrual cramps.

Fennel led to reduction in menopause symptoms

The new research consisted of a randomized, triple-blind trial – an experiment in which the details are kept secret from the participants, those administering the intervention, as well as the committee of researchers in charge of evaluating the outcomes of the experiment.

The study comprised of 90 Iranian women between 45 and 60 years old who lived in Tehran. The average age at which Iranian women get their menopause is younger than that of American women. The former is 48.2 years, compared with 51 years in the U.S.

Participants were administered capsules containing 100 milligrams of fennel every day, twice per day, for a period of 8 weeks. The participants were divided into two groups of 45 women: one that received the treatment and one that received placebo.

Using the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS), the researchers compared the results of the treatment group with those of the placebo group at 4, 8, and 10-week intervals after the intervention began.

Based on the participants’ responses, fennel was found to be “an effective and safe treatment to reduce menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women without serious side effects.”

The study revealed significantly lower MRS scores in patients who had received the treatment compared with the placebo group.

In the treatment group, a Friedman test revealed significantly lower scores at 4, 8, and 10 weeks, compared with the baseline. In the placebo group, the same test found no significant differences.

This is one of the first clinical trials to investigate the effects of fennel on menopausal symptoms.

This small pilot study found that, on the basis of a Menopause Rating Scale, twice-daily consumption of fennel as a phytoestrogen improved menopause symptoms compared with an unusual minimal effect of placebo. A larger, longer, randomized study is still needed to help determine its long-term benefits and side effect profile.”

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS

What Are The Health Benefits Of Fennel?

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Fennel is highly prized for its licorice-like flavor and the myriad of health benefits it provides and has been used in natural remedies since ancient times. Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean, fennel remains especially prevalent in Greek and Italian cuisine – though its influence has spread globally over the years.

It is easily recognized by its pale bulb and long green stalks and can be grown almost anywhere. All parts of the fennel plant – including the bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds – are edible and contribute a nice blend of flavor to other foods.

Nutritional breakdown of fennel

fennelFennel is easily recognized by its pale bulb and long green stalks and can be grown almost anywhere.

One raw fennel bulb contains only 73 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 2.9 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of dietary fiber (28% of daily…

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Health Benefits of Bitters

Including bitter foods in the diet isn’t simply a matter of reviving tradition or taste — bitter-flavored foods have a history of healing. From the wine-infused herbal concoctions used by ancient Egyptians to the 16th-century prescriptions of famous physician Paracelsus, elixirs brewed from carefully selected bitter herbs have been treasured as helpful remedies throughout the ages. Studies have confirmed that getting an adequate amount of bitter flavor is important for digestive balance and is linked with many health benefits. Digesting bitters regularly has been shown to:
• Curb sugar cravings
• Soothe gas and bloating
• Relieve occasional heartburn
• Encourage digestive enzymes, bile, and necessary stomach acids
• Calm upset stomach and nausea
• Increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
• Help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
• Balance appetite
• Ease constipation and regulate bowel movements
• Support liver function and healthy skin

Getting Bitters Back in Our Diets

It has become increasingly difficult to find quality bitter foods in the marketplace. Even the fruit and vegetable cultivars packed into produce departments have been intentionally bred to minimize bitterness and have been selected instead for qualities of sweetness, bright color, and full shape. While these traits certainly make produce shopping more appealing to browsing consumers, they also represent our disregard for nutritional value as well as phytonutrient, antioxidant, and flavonoid variety in our foods. Today, the true bitter flavor is enjoyed in just a few commonly munched-on items, including greens (particularly dandelion and arugula), coffee, hops, olives, and dark chocolate.

A few not-so-common botanicals that have a natural bitter flavor include gentian, cascarilla, cassia, and cinchona bark, among others. To make up for the general deficit of bitter flavors in most modern diets, many practitioners recommend the use of a supplemental herbal tonic or tincture that includes at least one of these plants.

You can find bitter tonics at many health food stores and online. I personally love Urban Moonshine bitters, which have been carefully crafted by a Vermont herbalist using local, Certified Organic ingredients. If you want to avoid the alcohol that’s traditionally used as a solvent and preservative in bitter tonics, Flora’s Swedish Bitters also offers a nonalcoholic version that’s equally as potent and beneficial. If you’d like to make your own simple bitter tonic, see the Dandy Tummy Bitters Recipe.

Grow Your Own Bitters

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Easy to forage and cultivate across the United States, dandelion root is a popular addition to digestive tinctures, and dandelion greens lend a bitter bite to seasonal salads. If you’d like to dedicate a portion of your garden to dandelions, either wait to see if this prolific “weed” comes up naturally, or order seed from Strictly Medicinal Seeds.

Yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea): Grown for the bitter root, this perennial is hardy to negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit and prefers rich, moist soil in partial shade. Sow in fall, winter, or very early spring for spring germination. The rare gentian plant is native to the mountain meadows of central and southern Europe and Asia Minor and is protected in its native habitat. Help conserve and protect this beneficial plant by adding it to your home garden with seeds from Strictly Medicinal Seeds.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): This aromatic perennial is one of the oldest cultivated plants and was one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons. ‘Florence’ and ‘Bronze’ fennel are both available from Seed Savers Exchange, and the company recommends starting the seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last spring frost in your area. Fennel can grow up to 6 feet tall and shouldn’t be planted near dill because their cross-pollination results in strangely flavored seeds for both plants.

Arugula (Eruca sativa): These cold-hardy, peppery greens are a great introductory flavor for anyone who may not be used to bitter foods. Toss fresh arugula in salads, replace basil in pesto, or slightly wilt it and top a pizza. Multiple heirloom cultivars are available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, along with ‘Wild Rocket’ arugula (Diplotaxis tenuifolia), which reportedly has a more pungent taste than traditional arugula.

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia): This melon is a member of the squash family, and its vines grow up to 16 feet long. Trellising is recommended because the fruits have a tendency to rot in moist soil; the trellis also makes the immature, 4- to 6-inch long fruit easier to spot and harvest. To eat bitter melon, slice the fruit in half and remove the seeds and pith; do not peel it. According to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which sells ‘Green Skin’ bitter melon, the melon is a staple in much of Asia, where its mildly bitter flavor is appreciated in soups and curries.

Sweet, sour, salty, umami, and bitter: These are the five major flavors that the roughly 10,000 taste buds speckling your tongue and throat have been primed to identify. Traditional cultures believed in the fundamental importance of consuming a rich balance of all five flavors because each one has unique gastronomic qualities and health indications. Bitter has an excitable quality that some people would describe as disagreeable and harsh. The very word “bitter” has even become linguistically associated with expressions of anger, resentment, pain, and reactivity.

Large numbers of the diverse roots, barks, flowers, and herbs of the wild plant kingdom are bursting with complex bitter flavor. However, with the overwhelming load of sugar-encrusted, salt-sprinkled, and MSG-doused foods filling our plates, bitterness has essentially vanished from the modern palate. This unfortunate disappearance has done more than simply change the tang and smack-factor of our foods. The general lack of bitter foods in our diets may very well be contributing to widespread problems with digestion and appetite control.

Kitchen Cabinet Medicine : 3 Herbs For A Cold

Got a cold, sick in bed? Find relief and comfort with this simple tea blend using 3 common culinary herbs.

When down with a cold, a hot cup of tea can go a long way. But it can be hard to take care of ourselves when we feel lousy. Grogginess, grumpiness, and exhaustion can overwhelm our capabilities for self-care. That’s why I often recommend this totally simple (yet very effective) herbal tea that makes use of some readily available kitchen herbs.

Kitchen Cabinet Medicine – Tea blend for a cold 

  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaf
  • 2 teaspoons sage leaf
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds – gently broken up in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder

Use high quality, organic herbs. If you’re a cook, you’ll probably have these herbs on hand in your spice rack. Put the herbs into a medium sized teapot or jar. Pour 2 cups freshly boiled water over the herbs, and cover. Let infuse for 10 – 15 minutes. This tea must be covered while steeping, to preserve the medicinal volatile oils in the plants. Strain and pour into your tea cup.  Add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey, if desired. Re-steep the herbs with more hot water for another brew. After 2 batches, start again with fresh herbs.

thyme-teaThyme (Thymus vulgaris): Used in herbal medicine for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral actions. Being anti-inflammatory, it helps to soothe a sore throat and inflamed tissues, and thyme is traditionally used for bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, and upper respiratory tract infection and congestion.

sage-teaSage (Salvia officinalis): Similar to thyme, the sage leaf is antimicrobial against infection, and also anti-inflammatory. It soothes mucous membranes and particularly brings relief to a sore throat.

fennel-seed-tea-tangylife-1Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): Soothes a cough, moistens the mucous membranes and loosens congestion, warms the digestive system, and relieves nausea. Fennel also has a soothing taste which can be comforting and relaxing during illness.

honey-lemon-tea-a-800-dmHoney: Raw, unpasteurized honey from a quality source is an excellent medicinal aid. Being antimicrobial and antibacterial, raw honey not only sweetens your tea but provides additional support to your immune system as an added benefit.

* Make an overnight infusion – If you are sick today, and know you’ll probably be sick tomorrow, make this tea in a larger quantity as an overnight infusion. In a glass jar, pour 4 cups hot water over 1 tablespoon of each herb (3 tablespoons in total). Cover, and let infuse overnight. This makes a wonderfully rich tea that only needs to be gently reheated (not to boiling point) the next day for drinking. Add honey as desired and drink throughout the day.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Fennel?

Fennel is highly prized for its licorice-like flavor and the myriad of health benefits it provides and has been used in natural remedies since ancient times. Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean, fennel remains especially prevalent in Greek and Italian cuisine – though its influence has spread globally over the years.

It is easily recognized by its pale bulb and long green stalks and can be grown almost anywhere. All parts of the fennel plant – including the bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds – are edible and contribute a nice blend of flavor to other foods.

Nutritional breakdown of fennel

fennel
Fennel is easily recognized by its pale bulb and long green stalks and can be grown almost anywhere.

 

One raw fennel bulb contains only 73 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 2.9 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of dietary fiber (28% of daily requirements).

That same serving provides 27% of daily potassium needs, 5% of sodium, 6% vitamin A, 11% calcium, 46% vitamin C, 9% iron, 5% vitamin B-6 and 10% of daily magnesium needs.

Fennel also contains phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, choline, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin (vision), vitamin E and vitamin K.

In addition to all of these nutrients, fennel also contains dietary nitrates and is a natural source of estrogen.

Possible health benefits of consuming fennel

 

Bone health

The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K content present in fennel all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.

  • Though phosphate and calcium are both important in bone structure, the careful balance of the two minerals is necessary for proper bone mineralization – consumption of too much phosphorus with too little calcium intake can result in bone loss.
  • Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.
  • Bone matrix formation requires the mineral manganese, and iron and zinc play important roles in the production and maturation of collagen.
  • Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health as it acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium.

Blood pressure

Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults meet the daily 4,700 mg recommendation.

In addition, potassium, calcium, and magnesium (all present in fennel) have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.

Dietary nitrates present in certain foods such as fennel have been found to lower blood pressure and protect the heart due to their vasodilatory and vasoprotective properties. One study conducted by the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences showed that participants’ blood pressure levels were lower after taking nitrate supplements that contained nitrate amounts equivalent to 150-250 grams of nitrate-rich vegetables than after taking a placebo.

Heart health

Fennel’s fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.

  • Fennel contains significant amounts of fiber, which helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.
  • In one study, those who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared to those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 mg per day).
  • Vitamin B-6 and folate prevent the buildup of a compound known as homocysteine. When excessive amounts of homocysteine accumulate in the body, it can damage blood vessels and lead to heart problems.

Cancer

  • Selenium is a mineral that is not present in most fruits and vegetables but can be found in fennel. It plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Additionally, selenium prevents inflammation and also decreases tumor growth rates.
  • Fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables like fennel are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene function as powerful antioxidants that help protect cells against free radical damage.
  • Fennel also contains folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.

Immunity

The selenium found in fennel has also been found to improve immune response to infection by stimulating the production of killer T-cells.

Inflammation

Choline is a very important and versatile nutrient in fennel that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.

Metabolism

Fennel is a source of vitamin B-6, which plays a vital role in energy metabolism by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily utilized for energy within the body.

Digestion and regularity

Because of its fiber content, fennel helps to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

Weight management and satiety

Dietary fibers are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and loss by functioning as “bulking agents” in the digestive system. These compounds increase satiety and reduce appetite, making you feel fuller for longer and thereby lowering your overall calorie intake.

Increasing iron absorption

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in developed countries and a leading cause of anemia. Pairing foods like fennel that are high in vitamin C with foods that are iron-rich will maximize the body’s ability to absorb iron.

Estrogen

Estrogen, which is found naturally in fennel, is crucial in regulating the female reproductive cycle and can also affect fertility. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted a study on mice, which showed that estrogen also plays an important role in controlling factors that contribute to body weight, such as appetite and energy expenditure.

Skin

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. Collagen, the skin’s support system relies on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C also promotes collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds have long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like fennel decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.

How to incorporate more fennel into your diet

Fennel has a crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor, making it a great addition to any dish. All parts of the fennel plant can be eaten, and the seeds are often used as a condiment in many recipes. When purchasing fennel at the market, look for bulbs that are firm and white or pale green and avoid spotted or bruised ones. Look for green stalks and leaves that are straight and bundled together; if the plant has flowering buds, this means that it is overripe.

fennel salad
Mix sliced fennel with a variety of your favorite fresh vegetables for a light, crisp salad.

 

Fresh fennel can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for about four days. It is best to eat fennel right after it’s bought because it loses flavor over time. Dried fennel seeds can last for about six months when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry area (such as a spice cabinet).

To prepare fennel, cut the stalks off the bulb at the base where they sprout and then slice the bulb vertically. The fennel leaves, stalks, and bulb can be prepared in a variety of ways:

  • Use the stalks as a soup base or stock
  • Sauté the leaves and stalks with onions for a quick and easy side
  • Mix sliced fennel with a variety of your favorite fresh vegetables for a light, crisp salad
  • Roasted fennel bulbs make a great addition to any entrée.

Potential health risks of consuming fennel

Some spices, including coriander, fennel, and caraway, have recently been shown to cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals when consumed. Those who are allergic to these spices should avoid consuming them.

Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods such as fennel should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.

High levels of potassium in the body can pose a serious risk to those with kidney damage or kidneys that are not fully functional. Damaged kidneys may be unable to filter excess potassium from the blood, which could be fatal.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.