Fennel comes from the genus Foeniculum, but is treated as the sole species within the genus by most botanists. It is a member of the Apiaceae family, and is a hardy perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. We know the scent and taste of fennel well as it is not unlike anise seed and similar “sweet” herbs.
The bulb and foliage is probably what you are used to using in food recipes, and this part of the fennel is used all around the world, but particularly in Mediterranean cuisine where the bulbs are used both raw and cooked. Fennel tea is a popular one and is usually comprised of broken open fennel seeds, and fennel essential oil is pressed from those seeds. In many parts of India and Pakistan roasted fennel seeds are consumed in what are called mukhwas, an after dinner breath freshener and digestive aid. You might have also noticed that many toothpastes- especially of the more natural variety utilize fennel as a main ingredient because of its antiseptic qualities.
In aromatherapy fennel is an expectorant, anti-spasmodic, stimulant, insecticide and carminative, amongst others. It is noted to inspire one feeling “timid” to courage and strength. It has a wonderful wintery smell and could be associated with winter holidays such as anise, cinnamon and others, but it is just as common that fennel is featured throughout the year. In skin care fennel may help keep wrinkles at bay.