I woke up at 3 o’clock this morning hot and sweaty and seriously dehydrated. I came downstairs and drank a glass of water. When that didn’t satisfy me, I opened my tea cupboard.
(Do you have a tea cupboard? So many of us do.)
Right away, I reached for Fennel tea. It struck me as the ideal remedy for my malaise. As I waited for the kettle to boil, I wondered: Am I craving fennel for a reason?
Steaming mug of tea in hand, I went to the computer and input “fennel tea for menopausal symptoms.”
The Cruciferous Power House
My natural desire for fennel must have been one of those moments when my body was directing me, because I found plenty on-line to suggest that fennel packs a punch when it comes to knocking out menopausal complaints.
Among the most encouraging reports I read was a 2017 study that suggested fennel helps postmenopausal woman manage everything from mood swings and insomnia to vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
And unlike pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy (HRT), there are no adverse side affects.
What is fennel?
Fennel is one of those items in the grocery store produce section that doesn’t get a lot of shelf space.
You might know it: A big pale green, veiny bulb with three or four fibrous looking cropped appendages sticking out the top.
Or maybe you’ve seen the delicate fronds tied in bundle amongst the fresh herbs.
Certainly, you’ve seen the seeds bottled in the herbs and spices section of the store.
Whatever its form, fennel has a delicious anise or licorice flavour, a bit like sweet basil, although it’s part of the carrot family. Its botanical name is Foeniculum vulgare.
What Makes Fennel So Good for Us?
Fennel seems to have so many health benefits that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with how it helps us to handle menopause.
In a word: Phytoestrogens. They’re the reason fennel makes menopausal women feel better. Fennel contains a phytoestrogen called anethole, a chemical that protects the plant from funguses, bacteria, and herbivores while attracting pollinating insects.
Anethole is widely used to flavour foods and drinks, and it’s being investigated for its ability to reduce inflammation and possibly prevent cancer.
Anethole affects the body by reducing motor activity, temperature, anxiety, stress, depression and pain. It also improves memory, libido, breathing, gastrointestinal activity, urinary function, blood pressure and ocular pressure.
Wow! No wonder I felt better after my mug of fennel tea.
How Do Phytoestrogens Work?
Phytoestrogens interact with the hormone systems of anyone or anything that consumes them. They:
- decrease or increase normal hormone levels
- mimic the body’s natural hormone
- alter the production of hormones
So, if you’re going through menopause, and you’re feeling the negative effects of decreasing estrogen in your body, (hot flashes and the like), phytoestrogens might help you to feel better, because they’re picking up the slack.
Compared to the hormones we make naturally, and the hormones physicians prescribe, phytoestrogens are weak. But if they help, (and I definitely felt better after a cup of fennel tea), I think they’re worth trying, especially if they’re part of an overall healthy whole foods diet.
That said, if you’re dealing with any sort of medical issue and/or taking medications, it’s best not to start loading up on phytoestrogens without first discussing them with your doctor.
Hormones are complicated. What’s good for one person isn’t necessarily good for another, so ask, if you’re at all concerned.
What Other Good Stuff Does Fennel Do?
If you do decide to bring more fennel into your diet, you’ll be giving yourself a fiber boost, which not only helps you move your bowels regularly but also limits cholesterol build-up and removes carcinogens from your system.
You’ll get a good dose of vitamin C, that water-soluble antioxidant superstar that protects cells from free-radical damage.
Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, which is the foundation of all our connective tissue. Your skin, eyes, joints, bones, teeth, heart, brain, liver, kidneys – this list is long! Let’s just say every bit of you needs vitamin C to thrive.
According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, adult women who are neither pregnant nor breastfeeding require 75 mg of vitamin C per day. That is, unless they live in a heavily polluted area, smoke or spend a lot of time in sun, in which case they need 110 mg of vitamin C per day.
A cup of sliced fennel provides us with about 14% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Tasty and healthy as fennel is, I don’t think any of us want to eat 5 or 6 cups of it everyday. Make it part of a balanced diet. 🙂
Cooking with Fennel
The first time I cooked fennel was back in the 90’s. I chopped it up and fried it like you might fry onion, then added tomatoes to make a sauce. The musky, licorice flavour of the fennel didn’t compliment the tomatoes, in my opinion. Maybe I used too much.
Since then, I’ve tried using it thinly sliced in salads and on sandwiches, and I’ve braised it and served it alongside fish and chicken. These methods I recommend. I’ve also addedfennel pollen to my salads, and cooked grains, and it’s delicious. My Italian friend, Piera, told me she grew up eating fennel after big dinners. Her mother would slice it thinly and lay it on a large plate in the middle of the table so everyone could help themselves. It aided digestion. I do that now. I love it!
Of course, the seeds make a lovely tea, and if you chew them they freshen the breath.
And I Thought Fennel was Nothing Special!
I can’t say I ever really noticed fennel before I had that restorative cuppa at three in the morning. Now, having learned about all the wonderful ways fennel that can help me feel happier, healthier and less menopausal, I eat it all the time.
If you’re in the mood for some fennel, too, here’s a great tasting fennel recipe.Print
Having learned about all the wonderful ways fennel that will make me happier, healthier and less menopausal, I’m in the mood for a great tasting fennel recipe.
- 5 cups loosely packed baby kale and baby spinach mix
- ½ bulb of fennel, thinly sliced and then chopped
- 1 apple, chopped
- 1 cup of cooked yellow beans, chopped
- 1 stick of celery, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Fennel fronds, torn
- 3 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp maple syrup
Toss the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Combine oil and vinegar. Pour on salad and toss to coat.
Add chicken or tuna or beans to make a complete meal.