Ever wondered what uses Giant Fennel has?
You’ll be surprised! Let’s delve into Gozo’s natural medicine with Heléna Szöllősy.
Who knew this particular plant was from the fennel family? Giant Fennel to be exact. Before you go chopping it into your next soup – read on to explore the benefits of these tall, yellow beauties and grab one to investigate yourself on your next walk on Gozo.
Ferula communis – L.
Botanical Name: Ferula communis – L. Synonyms: Ferula brevifolia, Ferula linkii Family Name: Apiaceae or Umbelliferae Maltese Name: Ferla Common Names: Common narthex, Giant Fennel Meaning of the Name: Ferula, from Latin, a Ferule is a schoolmaster's rod, such as a cane, stick, or flat piece of wood, used in punishing children. The Giant fennel has tall sticklike stems, communis, from Latin, common
Giant fennel is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to approximately 1–4M tall. It has a hollow, succulent stem. The leaves are tripinnate or even more finely divided, with a stout basal sheath clasping the stem. The flowers are usually yellow, rarely white, produced in large umbels. On Gozo, it is in flower from March to May. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by flies. The plant is self-fertile. Many plants of this genus, especially Ferula communis are referred to as ’giant fennel’, although they are not fennel in the strict sense.
- Habitats: Dry hills, walls, waste ground and limestone, often in soils that are damp in the Spring.
- Range: Europe – Mediterranean, North Africa
- Status for Malta: Originating from Maltese islands. Common in the wild.
- Parts Used: Fessoukh, flower buds, leaves, root, young sterns. Fessoukh is a resin gum obtained by the incision of the root. It is largely used in traditional medicine. in Morocco and other Arab countries.
- Herbal Actions: Afrodisiac, Analgesic, Anthelmintic, Ant hysteric, Antirheumatic, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Diuretic, Emetic
- Main Active Constituents: aristolene, coumarins, essential oils, ferulenol, limonene, myrcene, pinene, pungent oils
- The roasted flower buds are absorbed as a vermifuge, an anti-hysteric, for dysentery, and as an aphrodisiac.
- The whole plant is said to possess antispasmodic properties. It is used for dysentery and anthelmintic. Fessoukh is used internally as an analgesic for pain in joints and rheumatism, as a diuretic, as an emetic and for female sterility. It is used to flavour curries as a carminative.
- Mixed with olive oil, it is recommended by practitioners for external use for a variety of skin diseases.
- Orally it is prescribed by practitioners as an anthelmintic, diuretic, vermifuge, and analgesic, and for pains in the joints, female sterility, and rheumatism, as well as an emetic.
Fessoukh mixed with oils used for skin problems and to heal feet cracks. It is used for rheumatism and moths or ring worm. Gum resin is added to some depilatory preparations. The roots are also used, especially in a preparation used for hair care.
Pre-blossom inflorescence, young stems. Unopened inflorescences are cooked with steam like couscous and added olive oil and vinegar. Over consumption for several, more than 5-6 may cause intoxication.
- A gum ’Gum Ammoniac’ is obtained by notching the root. It is used as incense and also has medicinal value.
- The stems are used in furniture making.
- The dried pith is used as tinder, it burns very slowly inside the stem and can thus be carried from one place to another.
- It is also used as cat and dog repellent.
This plant is also well known for its toxicity and its anticoagulant activity. Severe hemorrhagic syndrome characterizes the poisoning called ferulosis or ferulisme. Studies on overdose of medicinal uses of fessoukh in traditional medicine as well as alimentary use of the plant show clinical and biochemical data of intoxication by this plant, which are dominated by haemorrhage as a consequence of blood coagulation disturbance
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Author : Heléna Szöllősy. Editor: GITH
Helena is an expert on the medicinal properties of plants having trained in Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy, specialising in Phytotherapy including Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Apitherapy and Bach Flower Therapy.