Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an aromatic medicinal plant from the carrot family. All its parts, such as leaves, bulbs, and foliage, have distinct uses. However, fennel seeds, in specific, are famous for their unique culinary and medicinal properties.
For centuries, they have been in use to treat various ailments related to digestive, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Parents consider adding fennel seeds to their baby’s diet due to the seeds’ potential to promote digestion, improve health, and fight infections.
This post tells you about fennel seeds, its safety for babies, potential health benefits, and ways to add fennel seeds in recipes for your baby and toddler.
When Can Babies Consume Fennel Seeds?
There is no specific age for the introduction of fennel seeds. Vegetables related to fennel, such as carrots, can be introduced at the age of six months (1). You may introduce fennel seeds as a flavoring substance to six-month-olds, who consume various other solids.
You may give a teaspoon or two of fennel water to babies. It will help the infant adjust to fennel’s taste and digestibility. Gradually, add fennel powder to different recipes, such as porridge, cereals, soups, and stews. Fennel powder enhances a meal’s flavor.
You may also occasionally feed fennel tea to babies. Young babies can consume a tablespoon of fennel tea after or before meals. Older babies and toddlers may be able to consume half a cup of fennel tea spread across multiple servings in a day. Giving fennel to babies is safe as long as the quantity is controlled. Consult a pediatrician to know the quantity of fennel tea you can give to your baby.
Nutritional Value Of Fennel Seeds
Besides adding flavor and aroma to a meal, fennel seeds can also offer extensive nutrients such as vitamins A, C, B6, niacin ,riboflavin, thiamine, zinc, sodium, phosphorous, proteins, and phytochemicals. One teaspoon (2g) of whole fennel seeds can provide the following nutrients to your infant (2) (3).
|Fiber, total dietary||0.796g||–|
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture and World Health Organization
Possible Uses Of Fennel Seeds For Babies
Fennel seeds contain bioactive compounds, which may offer some long-term health benefits (4). Below are some notable benefits of fennel seeds for babies.
- Support digestion: Fennel seed water, tea, and essential oil can enhance gastric motility, improve digestion, and promote a healthy appetite (5) (6). Consumption of fennel water or tea is used as a herbal remedy for treating indigestion, bloating, farting, and gastric distension in babies. Effects are instantaneous and quite effective.
- Help fight constipation: Fennel seeds are known for treating constipation by enhancing gastric motility (4) (7). Fennel seed water and tea are common remedies for relieving constipation in traditional and alternative medicine.
- Relieve colic symptoms: Fennel seed oil emulsion has shown effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of infantile colic (8) (9). However, fennel oil may contain some compounds, such as estragole, inappropriate for a baby’s health (10). Consult a doctor before serving fennel oil to a baby. In such a case fennel water can be quite effective in reducing the painful cramps in the baby.
- Might relieve cough: Warm fennel water and tea are used as home remedies to manage symptoms of respiratory ailments, such as cough and bronchitis. Anethole and fenchone are compounds with expectorant properties found in fennel oil (5) (6).
- Overall health: Studies have noted that fennel seeds have antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hepatoprotective effects that can benefit health in long run (10) (11) (12).
Consult a pediatrician before using fennel seeds for any therapeutic or medicinal purposes.
Precautions To Take When Feeding Fennel Seeds To Babies
Here are some tips to follow while feeding fennel to babies and toddlers.
- Buy organic fennel seeds and fennel powder from a reputed store.
- Do not feed whole fennel seeds to babies as they can be a choking hazard. Instead, use crushed fennel seeds in purees and smoothies
- If the baby shows sensitivity or intolerance after ingesting fennel in any form, discontinue feeding it.
- Fennel seed allergy is rare but possible. The allergy symptoms include hives, swelling of the mouth, itching, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms may appear immediately after ingesting or touching fennel. Hence start with a small quantity and wait for a couple of days to check any signs of allergies.
- If the baby has a family history of allergies to certain pollens and foods (parsley, carrot, celery, parsnip, etc.) belonging to the Apiaceae family (13), consult a doctor before introducing fennel.
- Fennel seed can interact with several medicines, such as antibiotics (14). Consult a pediatrician about fennel seed use if your baby is on any medications.
- While preparing fennel water or tea, take precaution to boil on a low flame and gradually to avoid evaporation of antioxidants.
Fennel Seed Recipes For Babies
Here are some easy-to-consume fennel seed recipes for babies and toddlers.
1. Fennel water
You will need:
- 1 cup clean drinking water
- 1tsp fennel seeds
- Soak a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of water overnight.
- The next day, filter the water into a bowl and feed the baby a teaspoon or as directed by your pediatrician. Do not serve more than a tablespoon a day to younger babies.
2. Fennel tea
You will need:
- 1 cup water
- 1tsp fennel seeds (crushed)
- Boil water into a saucepan over medium heat and add fennel seeds.
- Switch off the flame and cover the pan. Let the seeds steep in the water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Strain the tea into a cup, let it cool, and feed it to your baby.
For toddlers, you can serve fennel seed powder by adding it to milk and other dairy products, such as yogurt.
Fennel seeds are an aromatic and flavorful spice with several long-term health benefits. It can relieve digestive issues. You can feed it to your baby in age-appropriate forms; add fennel seed water and fennel seed powder in different recipes to enhance their flavor.
2. Spices, fennel seed, FDC ID: 171323; Fooddata Central; USDA
3. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
4. Shamkant B. Badgujar et al.; Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology; NCBI
5. S. K. Malhotra et al.; Fennel and fennel seed; Researchgate
6. Gurmeet Singh Sarla; Saunf: Do we really need fennel seeds after a meal?; Reasearchgate
7. Qabz (Constipation); National Health Portal; MoHFW, India
8. Mahtab Attarha et al.; Effect Of Fennel Essence And Gripe Water Syrup On Infantile Colic; BMJ
9. Irina Alexandrovich et al.; The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study; NCBI
10. Manzoor A.Rather et al.; Foeniculum vulgare: A comprehensive review of its traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and safety; Science Direct
11. Wesam Kooti et al.; Therapeutic and pharmacological potential of Foeniculum vulgare Mill: a review; Researchgate
12. Qing Liu; Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Spices; NCBI
13. Fennel; Drugs and Lactation Database; NCBI
14. M Zhu et al.; Effect of oral administration of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) on ciprofloxacin absorption and disposition in the rat; NCBI