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Native to the Mediterranean region, it now grows abundantly in many regions of the world. Its history however, has its roots in ancient Greek and Roman times. The Latin word “foeniculum,” or “little hay” and is said to describe fennels feathery leaves, but may also describe a traditional use of feeding it to the goats to increase the quantity and fat content of their milk. There are reports of people eating fennel up to 2000 years ago, although at that time, the stem was more popular than the seed. Roman bakers would use the leaves under bread as it baked to provide flavor. Roman warriors ate fennel to provide courage, and wore a wreaths of its leaves. In the Middle Ages Fennel became an important supernatural remedy against witchcraft, and was hung over doors on Midsummer’s Eve to ward off evil spirits. A 2nd century physician, Galen, declared fennel one of the four warming seeds, with celery, parsley and asparagus being the others. It was later included as one of the “4 medieval warming seeds” with anise, caraway, and coriander, and was one the nine holy herbs the Anglo-Saxons used to combat the nine causes of disease. A poultice of powdered fennel seed was used in snakebites, and is still used as such today in China.
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