Secret Natural Ingredient: Fennel
This versatile herb freshens your breath, soothes winter coughs, even slims your stomach.
Stop belly bloat stat!
To de-puff your stomach before a big event, drink fennel tea, which helps ease digestive woes, says Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, author of The Fat Flush Plan. Start sipping a few nights ahead of time.
Chew on this: Munching on 5 to 10 fennel seeds sweetens your breath naturally. In addition to increasing the production of saliva (which washes out bacteria), the herb's essential oil boasts antibacterial properties that may help fight bad-breath germs, says Andrew Gaeddert, an herbalist and the author of Healing Digestive Disorders. Keep seeds in a small tin in your purse to have on hand post-meals.
Fennel can help you recover from a long, exhausting workout. It's a good source of potassium, which, coupled with other electrolytes such as sodium, helps balance your fluid levels and regulate muscle contractions. Pair it with an apple (which contains healthy carbs essential for replenishing muscle energy) and pistachios (for muscle-repairing protein) in a salad, suggests Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet.
Whip this up after a sweat fest: In a bowl, toss together 1 apple, chopped; 1/2 of a fennel bulb, thinly sliced; 1/4 cup chopped pistachios; and 2 tablespoons low-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Scratching your head nonstop? Fennel seed oil may be the solution—it's a gentle anti-inflammatory that is ideal for treating an itchy scalp, nutritionist Paula Simpson says.
Try her calming deep-conditioner: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 of a ripe avocado, mashed; 3 tablespoons coconut oil; 6–8 drops fennel essential oil; and 1 teaspoon kelp powder. Apply to the ends of your hair first, working the formula up and into your scalp. Wrap your head in a towel for 30 minutes, then shampoo and rinse well.
Can't stop coughing? Make some fennel tea, says Nancy Arrowsmith, author of Essential Herbal Wisdom. The herb contains compounds that may help loosen chest mucus, as well as soothe a sore throat and relieve coughing spasms.
To brew your own, combine 1–1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds (found in the spice aisle at most supermarkets or at a health-food store) and 1 cup water in a kettle, and bring to a boil; steep for 15 minutes, strain, then sweeten with honey to taste. Or try
Yogi Tea Throat Comfort ($5; yogitea.com), which is made with fennel seeds. (If cough persists, see your doctor to rule out a bacterial infection.)