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A Fan of Fennel

Contact Author Cathy Christensen March 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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I am a self-professed Food Network junkie. When all else fails, the Food Network is there for me, offering me tips, techniques, and the rhythmic stirring and chopping that can zone me into an intense relaxation unlike anything else. Whether it is Rachael Ray, Paula Deen or Bobby Flay, I know they aren’t going to stress me out—they are simply going to supply another brilliant, delicious meal option. And very often, one of the key ingredients in these tasty dishes is fennel, offering its yummy crunch and supporting flavor to a variety of dishes. But more than that, this herb has incredible skin care benefits, as well.

In the kitchen

Indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, fennel is now largely produced by the United States, France, India and Russia.1 Its texture is similar to that of celery, and all of its parts—the bulb, stalks and fronds—are edible, although the bulb is the most sought-after. Not a “bulb” at all in reality, it contains tightly stacked leaves that unpack like the base of a celery stalk. Its sweet, delicate flavor is tasty on its own, but it blends with and enhances other tastes so well that this is where its true strength lies. Fennel seeds are also commonly used as a spice in Italian sausage, stews and rustic breads.2 It contains a unique combination of phytonutrients and is an excellent source of vitamin C.1

The strengths of this umbelliferous herb are heartily embraced by spa cuisine chefs. At Oak Café Restaurant at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, California, the main course of Grilled Number One Tuna is enjoyed with baby artichoke hearts, fennel, garlic and light lemon herb broth. Fennel relish complements the Parmesan Crusted “Free Range” Chicken Breast at Washington, Connecticut’s The Mayflower Inn & Spa; and Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah, offers Fennel with Ginger. The Arugula salad at Kohler Waters Spa’s Burr Ridge, Illinois, location features shaved fennel, as does the Pan-seared Rare Ahi Tuna Bento Box at the Mandarin Oriental Boston; and check out the recipe for Red Inca Quinoa & Shaved Young Fennel from Executive Chef Michael O’Dowd of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, Arizona.

In the spa

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Fennel has a soothing, cleansing and toning effect on the skin and is especially beneficial for mature complexions. It can help reduce water retention in the skin and get rid of toxins to balance the production of hormones that effect skin elasticity.3

At the Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa in Dorset, England, the Body Sculpting Cellulite Therapy features a detoxifying Fennel and Birch Peel-off Body Mask to deeply cleanse the body’s system; and the Monticelli Mud treatment at Villagio Inn & Spa in Yountville, California, blends fennel essential oils with cypress and lemon to help relieve aches and pains. The Hungarian Moor Mud Kur service at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma, California, concludes with a massage using a soothing mineral cream made with fennel, juniper and lavender essential oils; and Anthony DeFranco Salon and Spa in Huntington Station, New York, offers the Sea Mud Body Treatment, which blends gingko and fennel extracts to revitalize and detoxify skin. Also, take a look at The Fennel Seaweed Body Treatment how-to from Zoē Anti-Aging & Wellness Spa in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, for a fulfilling fennel body service.

Professional product manufacturers are using this herb to round out their formulas as well, and some that feature fennel include Dermaxime’s Cellumend Anti-Celluite Cream, which helps remove cellulite and the orange-peel effect. Moor Spa’s Booster Cleanser Mask’s fennel ingredient helps to deep cleanse the skin, and Pedicure by OPI’s Massage is a moisturizing foot lotion with fennel. Additionally, En Vogue’s Lemon Fennel Spa Products are soothing and rejuvenating for manicures and pedicures, Arbré Skin Technology offers Marine Plant Gel with sweet fennel to hydrate and decrease stress for the body, and Imee Beauty offers pure essential fennel oil for its balancing, cleansing and detoxifying benefits.

Ancient times

Hey, if it’s good enough for Bobby Flay, it’s good enough for me—and let’s be honest, fennel was treasured long before the Food Network was created. In fact, it has been revered by many cultures since ancient times, and by adding it to your spa’s treatment and cuisine menus, you can ensure it is treasured by your spa’s clients, as well.






(All accessed Jan 13, 2009)



Quick Facts: Fennel

  • Greek myths state that a fennel stalk carried the coal that passed knowledge down from the gods to men.1
  • Fennel is a key ingredient in Indian curries and is one of the five essential spices in Chinese five-spice powder.2
  • Roman writer and scientist Pliny the Elder believed fennel offered at least 22 medicinal remedies.2
  • Charlemagne made fennel an essential vegetable in every imperial garden.2
  • During medieval times, fennel was used to protect against witchcraft and evil spirits.2
  • Syrup prepared from fennel juice used to be administered for chronic coughs.4
  • Fennel is said to be disliked by fleas, and its powdered version can drive fleas from kennels and stables.4

Recipe: Red Inca Quinoa and Shaved Young Fennelp

From Executive Chef Michael O’Dowd of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, ArizonaRed Inca Quinoa & Shaved Young Fennel

Makes 8 servings

24 ounces Red Inca quinoa

1 ounce young fennel, shaved paper thin

2 avocados

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

4 teaspoons cilantro, minced

4 teaspoons Iitoi onions, minced (scallions can be substituted)

8 ounces pineapple, diced

3 teaspoons chipotle vinegar

Mineral water

Sea salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste


1. Cook quinoa in rapidly boiling mineral water until cooked through and tender.

2. Strain through a chinoise and refrigerate until completely cooled.

3. Sauté diced pineapple on high heat until golden brown and caramelized, then cool in refrigerator.

4. Scoop the pulp out of the avocado and fork into a mash consistency. Add lime juice and refrigerate.

5. Add onions, shaved fennel, cilantro and chipotle vinegar to quinoa, then add pineapple and mashed avocado, and fold together.

6. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Treatment How-to: The Fennel Seaweed Body Treatment

From Zoē Anti-Aging & Wellness Spa, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

During The Fennel Seaweed Body Treatment, it is important to carry the fennel throughout the entire procedure as it stimulates the body and lymphatic system during the treatment, and is still working long after the client has left the spa.

Duration: 120 minutes

Cost: $165

Products needed:

Fennel essential oil

Grapefruit essential oil

Geranium essential oil

Massage oil

2 cups kaolin clay

1/2 cup ground fennel powder

1 cup sea kelp

1 tablespoon seaweed extract

Grape seed oil

Distilled water

Equipment needed:

Aromatherapy steam shower

Nasal cannula and oxygen

Vichy shower or regular shower

Hot towel cabi




Plastic sheets

Disposable bikini (if desired)


Bath pillow

Large bowl (size of soup bowl)

Small bowl (size of glass finger bowl)


Step 1: Welcome the client, and make her feel comfortable. Explain the procedure, discuss the client’s medical history, as well as the benefits of the procedure, and address any concerns at this time. The only contraindications for this treatment would be if the client is allergic to any of the ingredients used or is pregnant. After the conversation, ask the client to get into a disposable bikini and bathrobe, and escort her to the aromatherapy steam shower.

Step 2: Infuse steam with fennel, grapefruit and geranium essential oils. Allow client to relax, detoxify and exfoliate in the steam. If possible, have soft music playing to set a calming, relaxing mood while the client inhales the oils. As the oils flow through the bloodstream, the client should feel lighter and internally clean. The shower should last 15–20 minutes.

Step 3: During the shower, create a sea mud mixture by combining the kaolin clay, sea kelp, ground fennel powder, seaweed extract, 1 cup distilled water, 10 drops fennel essential oil, five drops grapefruit essential oil and five drops geranium essential oil in large bowl. The mixture must have the same consistency as pudding.

Step 4: Bring the client into the wet room and ask her to lie down on the plastic sheet-draped bed, placing her head on a bath pillow. Continue to play soft music in the background.

Step 5: Apply the sea mud mixture with a brush, starting at the toes and moving upward to the neck. Have the client lift her legs one at a time instead of flipping over because of the stickiness of the plastic.

Step 6: After completing the application, loosely cover the client with the plastic and cocoon her with a warm blanket from the hot towel cabi. The sea mud is working hard, penetrating the skin and joining the rest of the oils in the bloodstream while also exfoliating and conditioning the skin. If available, place nasal cannula on client and turn on oxygen. Dim the lights and make sure the client is extremely content and comfortable. Leave client alone with pleasant thoughts for a meditation time of 20 minutes.

Step 7: During this time, make the massage oil by filling the small bowl halfway with grape seed oil, adding five drops of the three essential oils and stirring until combined.

Step 8: Remove blanket and plastic sheets and, while client is lying on the table, shower off the mud using a handheld showerhead.

Step 9: Once the mud is removed, turn on the Vichy shower. Allow warm water to shower down on the freshly exfoliated, rejuvenated client. After approximately five minutes of this, the Vichy portion is complete. Place a warm towel on the client and allow the skin to absorb the moisture.

Step 10: Ask the client to lie down on a massage table covered with dry sheets. This portion of the service is not a massage, but simply a moisturization of the new skin. Moisturize client from head to toe with fennel massage oil, going lightly from front to back.

Step 11: Once complete, allow the client a little downtime before she dresses.

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