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Hiccups and IBS: Fennel Tea Can Help

I believe in natural products but I realize that natural doesn't always mean it's safe.

Fennel tea can help with IBS discomfort.

Fennel tea can help with IBS discomfort.

My Introduction to Fennel Tea

I’ve always liked herbal tea, but I didn’t drink it often. I knew it was better than coffee. So, as part of a health quest, I explored different tea flavors.

Fennel tea was not on my radar. I didn’t think I could stomach it. It smells like anise and tastes like licorice. Those are two super strong flavors. As I learned more about it, I knew it would be a healthy addition to my diet. I had another motivation. A close family member was really struggling with irritable bowel syndrome. She also hiccupped excessively. She changed her diet, cut down spices, and dropped onions and soda, but it didn’t help.

As I researched fennel tea, I realized that it could help her. Fennel is a known digestive aid. It helps to calm the digestive muscles because it has anti-spasmodic properties.

 IBS

IBS

Description and Origin

The fennel plant is native to the Mediterranean and southern Europe but it’s grown all over the world now. To me, the bulb looks like a giant spring onion with green feather light leaves. The plant is actually quite pretty when it blooms with delicate yellow flowers.

The light green seeds are harvested from the flowers, then dried. They look a bit like cumin seeds.

 Fennel Fruit or Bulb

Fennel Fruit or Bulb

Fennel Flowers

Fennel Flowers

Why Does It Help With Hiccups and IBS?

Hiccups (also known as Singultus) happen when the diaphragm, a thin muscle under the lungs, contracts. The sound we make when we hiccup happens when the contraction sucks air into our lungs. The little piece of cartilage, the epiglottis, that covers our windpipe snaps closed and creates the hic sound. The contraction is essentially a spasm. IBS, on the other hand, is a medical condition that affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain, gas, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation.

The use of fennel to relieve hiccups and stomach discomfort has predominantly been used by those who believe in natural remedies. Recently scientists have been paying attention to fennel and conducted studies into its antispasmodic properties. Among many benefits, they found that the essential oil found in fennel has the hormone, estrogen which is known to inhibit muscle spasms. So, it makes sense that it can calm an angry gut.

It’s generally safe for children and can offer relief as it relaxes the intestinal tract muscles. However, parents should check with their pediatricians before trying any holistic options. Fennel is not recommended for children under 5 years old.

According to the Northwest School of Botanical Studies, fennel tea can help to treat intestinal spasms associated with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, Celiac’s disease, and intestinal candidiasis.

How to Prepare Fennel Tea

  1. In a cup, pour very hot (not boiling) water over one teaspoon of fennel seeds, cover, and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  2. You can crush the seeds lightly to release more oils and flavor. (Optional) I used a mortar and pestle, but you could squeeze the seeds between two metal spoons.
  3. Drink it after a meal to help with digestion.
  4. Remember, hot not boiling water. Boiling water may destroy some of the nutritional benefits of the seeds.

Or:

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  1. Pour hot water over four tablespoons of chopped fennel fruit (the bulb) or two tablespoons of fresh fennel leaves.
  2. Cover and steep for fifteen minutes.
Fennel Seeds

Fennel Seeds

Fennel Tea with Added Flavors

If you don’t like tea, you may want to chew a teaspoon of chopped fennel fruit (the bulb) after every meal as a digestive aid.

In Indian cuisine, candied fennel seeds are served after meals as a digestive aid.

Fennel Tea Pairs Well with Other Spices and Natural Sweeteners

  1. Honey: A heaped teaspoon of honey will sweeten the tea which is also rich in antioxidants and packed with healthy nutrients.
  2. Ginger: The quantity of crushed fresh ginger in your cup of tea is a personal choice. I like strong teas and will add at least half a teaspoon of crushed ginger root to my hot tea. I add a teaspoon of honey too. Ginger is excellent for our digestion and can help to alleviate some flatulence.
  3. Peppermint: A combination of fresh peppermint and fennel leaves with a touch of honey is very refreshing, especially if you serve it chilled.

Health Benefits of Fennel

Risks Associated with Fennel

As with any herbal remedy there are benefits but there are also risks. If you have any pre-existing conditions or allergies, check with your doctor before you take any herbal supplements or drink any herbal teas.

  1. Be cautious of fennel if you receive treatment for an estrogen sensitive condition. This includes breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids because fennel mimics estrogen. During my cancer treatment, I was told to avoid any food that contain plant estrogen (phytoestrogens) since it would interfere with some of the Chemo drugs I was receiving. This included fennel, flax, and soy, to name a few. Now that I’m in remission, however, I’ve been cleared to eat these foods again.
  2. Fennel is not recommended during pregnancy. Fennel can trigger contractions but is beneficial to boost breast milk after the baby is born.
  3. Those who are allergic to celery, carrot or mugwort may be sensitive to fennel. Fennel is a member of the carrot family.
  4. Anyone with a bleeding disorder should be careful with this herb. It could increase the risk of bruising and may slow blood clotting.
  5. Avoid fennel if you take diabetic medication, or anticoagulant medication.
  6. Also avoid fennel if you had major surgery, if you have a peptic ulcer or have been diagnosed with hemophilia.

Resources

Tisserand, Robert, and Young, Robert. 2014. Essential Oil Safety. Second Edition.

Wilson, Celeste. Isla Verde Spa Training Academy Certificate of Aromatherapy Course.

Wilson, Celeste. National Higher Certificate in Beauty Therapy. The Durban University of Technology.

Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. 25th Anniversary Edition.

Clinical Nutrition Research

https://e-cnr.org/DOIx.php?id=10.7762/cnr.2015.4.3.168

The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine

https://www.jamda.com/article/S1525-8610(06)00334-3/fulltext

The Northwest School for Botanical Studies

Fennel | The Northwest School For Botanical Studies (herbaleducation.net)

RX List

https://www.rxlist.com/fennel/supplements.htm

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Celeste Wilson

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