FENNEL (rāzīāna <*rāzīānag, arabicized as rāzīānaj), the aromatic sweetish potherb and medicinal plant Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (= Anethum foeniculum L., etc.; fam. Umbelliferae).
A Persian synonym for rāzīāna in some classical Persian sources (e.g., Jorjānī, p. 599; Tonokābonī, p. 144; Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʾīn, s.v. rāzīām) and in some contemporary regional uses is bādīān (e.g., in Afghanistan, Hooper, p. 120; in Bardsīr [in Kermān] and in Arāk, Parsa, VIII, p. 82), which, however, properly designates anise (for the three botanical acceptations of bādīān, see Aʿlam, s.v.). Other synonyms are rāzīām (obsolete), rājūma (in Jahrom; Parsa, p. 82), bād-toḵm (lit., “wind [=flatus] seed”; “in the idiom of Sīstān,” according to Bīrūnī/Kāsānī, I, p. 314), and bādīān-e sabz (lit., “green bādīān”; Parsa, p. 82.; said of fennel seeds in Tehran and Hamadān, according to Hooper, p. 120). Some classical writers (e.g., Heravī, p. 165; Anṣārī, p. 184; the author of Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, s.v. rāzīām) have recorded the names rāzīāna(j)-e rūmī/šāmī (Byzantine/Syrian fennel) for anīsūn “anise.”
In Persia, fennel is cultivated “a little” (Ṭabāṭabāʾī, I, p. 722) mainly for its medicinal seeds, which are also called rāzīāna. Wild fennel has also been reported from places in Māzandarān and Kermān (Moẓaffarīān, p. 105).
The medicinal virtues attributed to fennel by Arabic- or Persian-writing authors of the Islamic period are, on the whole, traceable to old Greek sources, particularly to Dioscorides and Galen. (For the relevant quotations from these and other early medical writers, see Rāzī, no. 378, pp. 535-39; Ebn al-Bayṭār, II, pp. 134-35). The most important of these properties, as presented by Heravī (4th/10th cent.; p. 165), are as follows: Rāzīānaj is “moist hot” and “dry” in the first degree; its seeds are hotter and drier; it is galactopoietic, diuretic, emmenagogue (consequently, abortifacient), and carminative (cf. the appellation bād-toḵm above); a decoction of the seeds used as eye salve prevents cataract, and strengthens the eyesight. Modern local medicinal uses of fennel include the following: A decoction of the seeds is given at Torbat-e Ḥaydarīya (Khorasan) for colic and for gastric troubles (Parsa, p. 82); among Kurds in Persia, the seeds are used as galactopoietic against children’s insomnia, and for belly ache (Ṣafīzāda, p. 92); an infusion of fennel root with the seeds of bishop’s weed (zenyān) is prescribed as carminative, and an infusion of the root alone for toothache and to relieve postpartum pains (Field’s note, in Hooper, p. 120). A miraculous virtue reported from Adam for fennel seeds by the Moroccan scholar Šarīf Edrīsī (d. 1166 C.E.) from “the author of al-Felāḥat al-nabaṭīya” and uncritically repeated in some Islamic sources (e.g., Ebn al-Bayṭār, II, pp. 134-35; Anṣārī, p. 184; Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, s.v. rāzīām), is this: Anyone who daily ingests one dirham of fennel seeds with one dirham of sugar for the three months from the first of Aries to the first of Cancer every year “certainly will not fall ill all his life long, and his senses will be all right until death.” In fact, Ad(a)mī (vocalization uncertain), confused by our authors with the Biblical Adam, is one of the ancient Kasdānī (Nabatean, Babylonian) authorities whom the famous Ebn Waḥšīya (author or translator?) often quotes in al-Felāḥat al-nabaṭīya (but the present writer could not locate this particular statement in Toufic Fahd’s edition of this work, I, Damascus, 1993).
Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):
Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-ṣaydana; Pers. tr. and adaptation by Abū Bakr b. ʿAlī Kāsānī as Ṣaydana, ed. M. Sotūda and Ī. Afšār, 2 vols., Tehran, 1358 Š./1979.
H. Aʿlam, “Bādīān,” in Dāneš-nāma-ye jahān-e eslām, Tehran, 1375 Š./1996, pp. 183-84.
ʿAlī b. Ḥosayn Anṣārī Šīrāzī, Eḵtīāraā-e badīʿī (qesmat-e mofradāt), ed. M.-T. Mīr, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992.
Ebn al-Bayṭār, al-Jāmeʿ le mofradāt al-adwīa wa’l-aḡḏīa, 4 vols. in 2, Būlāq, 1291/1874.
Abū Manṣūr Mowaffaq Heravī, Ketāb al-abnīa ʿan ḥaqāʾeq al-adwīa, ed. A. Bahmanyār and Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
D. Hooper, Useful Plants and Drugs of Iran and Iraq, with notes by Henry Field, ed. B. E. Dahlgren, Chicago, 1937.
Zayn-al-Dīn Esmāʿīl Jorjānī, Ketāb al-aḡrāż al-ṭebbīya wa’l-mabāḥeṯ al-ʿalāʾīya, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966 (facs. ed. of a ms. in the Central Library, University of Tehran).
W. Moẓaffarīān, The Family of Umbelliferae in Iran. Keys and Distribution, Tehran, 1983.
A. Parsa, Flore de l’Iran VIII, Tehran, 1960.
Moḥammad b. Zakarīyāʾ Rāzī, al-Ketāb al-ḥāwī, ed. M. ʿAbd-al-Moʿīd Khan, XX, Hyderabad, 1967.
Ṣ. Ṣafīzāda, Ṭebb-e sonnatī dar mīān-e Kordān, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982.
M. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Gīāh-šenāsī-e kārbordī I: Gīāhān-e zerāʿathā-ye bozorg, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986.
Moḥammad-Moʾmen Ḥosaynī Tonokābonī (Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn (Toḥfa-ye Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Tehran, 1360 Š./1981.
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: January 26, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 5, p. 504