With the arrival of the milder days of September, we are on the verge of leaving summer behind. And with it, the discomfort of a dehydrated body, the consumption of ice-cold beverages, and the mindless but permissible indulgence in frequent feasting with loved ones after overcoming the burden of almost endless pandemic restrictions for the past three years.
To restore our digestive functions in an optimal but natural way and to forge a resilient immune system for the first autumn chills, it would be ideal to rely on a special herbal tea for a few days. And what could be more convenient than choosing a natural remedy that is also affordable these days, like fennel tea?
This modest drink, made from the infusion of dried fennel seeds that have been gently crushed to release their nutritious oils, hides some positive effects on both our body and our mood, especially after particularly irregular periods outside our diet or lifestyle. Therefore, in addition to the change of seasons, fennel tea may be appropriate after Christmas or Easter, or even after a trip that has disturbed the digestive rhythm.
What are the main properties of fennel tea? These include depurative, carminative, and laxative effects that are beneficial to the gastrointestinal system and elsewhere.
Depurative properties of Fennel Tea
Regular bowel movements are an important sign of good health. Our bowels have a primary function of detoxifying indigestible and unwanted substances. When this function slackens, we begin to strain secondary organs of elimination such as the skin or lungs—which is not ideal.
The diuretic properties of fennel tea can help flush out toxins and relieve constipation, which is common in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
Fennel seeds, from which the extract is made, are a good source of selenium, a mineral that helps remove toxins from the liver and keep the body functioning well. Therefore, choosing this particular herbal tea helps to detoxify the liver and prevent diseases such as cirrhosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Fennel tea also stimulates the gallbladder, a small gland attached to the liver that stores bile. It is an emulsion that facilitates the breakdown of fats in the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum (our stomach cannot decompose fats), which improves overall digestion.
Maintaining efficient bile flow ensures adequate bowel stimulation. If bile flows too often and irritates the intestines, it can cause diarrhea, and if it stagnates in the gallbladder (or liver if the gallbladder has been surgically removed), constipation can become more common.
Carminative properties of Fennel Tea
Most commonly known as a carminative, fennel tea helps to relax muscles in the digestive tract, relieving uncomfortable cramping and bloating.
The major constituents found in the volatile oil of fennel seeds include anethole and other terpenoids, which inhibit spasms in smooth muscles, such as those in the intestinal tract, and this is thought to contribute to fennel’s use as a carminative (gas-relieving and gastrointestinal tract cramp-relieving agent).
Anethole has also been shown to bind to dopamine receptors and reduce pain even in female gynecological conditions such as dysmenorrhea, and its presence does not adversely affect the use of sedatives.
In order for the antispasmodic properties to be fully effective, fennel tea should be drunk in the morning, before breakfast, as soon as the steam has evaporated from the cup.
Laxative properties of Fennel Tea
Fennel tea can help prevent colic and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) because its antispasmodic properties help reduce stomach cramps and bloating.
Fennel not only promotes the hydration of the body, but also exerts a special “gentle” evacuation action compared to other herbs with a similar effect on constipation, which have a more aggressive shock action, such as senna, frangula, rhubarb. These types of herbs contain active ingredients called “anthraquinones“.
Their mechanism of action is to irritate the intestinal walls, thereby inducing increased peristalsis and evacuation of the intestinal lumen. However, prolonged use of such herbs (it would be recommended not to take them for more than 3 to 5 days) may cause:
- Refractory effect and dependence, with the need to increase the dose again and again;
- Sluggish bowel syndrome (intestinal motility decreases, producing a desired effect opposite to the reduction of constipation);
- Unwanted loss of electrolytes and subsequent diarrhea leading to dehydration;
- Potential bleeding and increased risk of serious adverse events, such as colorectal cancer.
In addition to its benefits for hydrating the body, its diuretic and depurative effects on digestion, and its ability to calm and regulate physiological bowel motility, drinking fennel tea, like other herbal infusions, gives us time to sit, relax, and inhale naturally soothing aromas.