Are you reluctant to introduce your toddler to medicines for constipation and respiratory problems? Fennel seeds might just be the answer. Read on to know how.
By Siddiqha Naseem
Remember how our mothers would put a few seeds of fennel into our mouths and ask us to chew on them, whenever we had a mild chest congestion? At that time, we may not have understood the health benefit the spice provided — but the fact is that fennel seeds have medicinal properties that help in clearing mucus from the chest.
In India, the fennel seed or saunf needs no introduction. It acts as a mouth freshener and is an active ingredient in many of our culinary preparations. Many parents swear by the positive effects of fennel seeds to relieve constipation in children. In fact, the versatile spice has many other health benefits. Read on to know more.
Fennel is a pleasant-smelling herb native to the Mediterranean but now available all over the world. It is a rich source of potassium, antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and dietary fibre. Fennel seeds do much more than simply beat bad breath and can provide many health benefits like clear nasal pathway during cold, constipation, asthma and more. Adults often consume it after a meal to help in digestion.
Fennel seeds can be given in the form of liquid as it is difficult for the baby to chew the seeds. Soak a spoonful of fennel seeds in a cup of water overnight. Filter the water and feed a spoon or two of this liquid to your little one, whenever necessary.
For older children , it is a good idea to offer fennel tea. This is how you can prepare it — boil a tablespoon of fennel seeds in some water, then filter and add some honey for sweetness.
Fennel is used in many Indian dishes and considered safe for children. However, it should be given as a medicine rather than a nutrient food.
“Once a child starts eating solids, you can feed her a small quantity of water in which fennel seeds have been soaked overnight, when needed,” says nutritionist Priya Kathpal.*
Sometimes, children may have reactions to natural products. Check if the spice triggers an allergic reaction in your child, by doing a small test. Feed her a small quantity of fennel water and wait for two to three days for any reaction. If the baby does not show signs of allergy such as rashes, continue to give your baby fennel water, as and when required.
1. Give relief from constipation — Fennel seeds have proven to be an effective remedy for many digestive disorders, including constipation in children. Fennel seeds are laxatives that help in good bowel movement. They loosens the stool, making it easy to release and reduce pain for the baby. This spice ensures a healthy digestive system in a growing baby.
2. Reduce colic — Colic is a pain in the abdomen experienced by infants that trigger crying bouts for hours. This happens because of intestinal cramping that occurs in newborns, as their digestive system develops every day. A swollen abdomen is one of the common symptoms for colic. Fennel seeds have effective digestive properties that can help in easing these cramps. Fennel water – made by soaking fennel seeds in water overnight – should be fed to the baby to reduce colic. The quantity, however, depends on the age of the child.
3. Help develop stronger bones — Fennel seeds are rich in magnesium and phosphorus — the main minerals that help in the bone development of children. They slow down the process of all bone-destroying cells. Feeding one teaspoon of fennel water every alternate day will help in the bone development of your child.
4. Provide antioxidants — Antioxidants, also called free-radical scavengers, help prevent damage to the body's cells caused by pollution, exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays and inflammation. These nutrients also slow down the aging process. Fennel seeds are packed with antioxidants that help in building the child's immunity and promote overall health.
5. Help in respiratory problems — Fennel seeds are superheroes for all respiratory problems. They are rich in cineole, an essential oil that helps to keep nasal pathways clear. If your child falls ill frequently with bronchitis, asthma, cough and lung abscesses, use fennel seeds sometimes to relieve his symptoms.
6. Promote brain function — Fennel seeds are a rich source of potassium. They increase the electrical activity of the brain, leading to a healthy functioning brain. Consuming a small amount of fennel seeds regularly helps in enhancing the supply of oxygenated blood, filled with nutrients, to the brain.
100 grams of fennel seeds contain:
Calcium – 1196 mg
Magnesium – 385 mg
Phosphorous – 487 mg
Potassium – 1694 mg
Vitamin C – 21 mg
Riboflavin - 0.353 mg
Sodium – 88 mg
Dietary Fibre – 40 mg
Apart from children, adults can also derive many health benefits from fennel seeds. Some of these include promoting hair growth, easing of menopause symptoms, aiding weight loss and reducing cholesterol levels. Include fennel seeds in your family's daily diet for a dose of good health.
*With inputs from Priya Kathpal, Nutritionist and founder at Nutrify.
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