I first found this plant in Baguio City, north Philippines, where it was sold as a Fennel and sometimes a Dill, among other herbs on flower stalls. Even though it's young stems look to me more like the ones of some artemisias (like Artemisia abrotanum), I couldn't deny my senses. It smells and tastes like some kind of fennel or a dill, with closest resemblance to endemic Bulgarian Fennel but with more pungent smell note and bitterness characteristic for Artemisia abrotanum and related artemisia species is also clearly noticeable. As it grew bigger I've suspected it to be some uncommon kind of artemisia even more, with it's typical artemisia stems structure. But it was a supprise when I saw it bloom, as It's flowers differ from artemisias flowers, and look more like... Eupatorium ( many plants from this genus are used in traditional medicine in many countries ). So after quite of a time, since I've bought it and started to carefully use in my kithen, I've finaly indentify this plant as a Eupatorium capillifolium - Dogfennel. But, wait a minute. Many people are describing Dogfennel to have rather unpleasant smell. While I've found mine, just like plants growers and sellers in the Philippines to be nice. Esspecialy its flowers, with sweet, honey and coumarin aroma reminding me that of the flowers of Sweet Clover. The answer for that might be that it is in fact different chemotype of Dogfennel, called - False Fennel, named in latine Eupatorium capillifolium var. leptophyllum or just Eupatorium leptophyllum.
Both plants looks like indentical and are short live perennials, native to southeast of North America, where sometimes it become obnoxsious weed. There's a lack of information about culinary or medicinal use of Eupatorium leptophyllum and scarce about Eupatorium capillifolium. Both are quite pretty, easy to maintain, and sometimes planted as a ornamental plants, that can be bought under the name '' Elegant Feather '' ( which relate to its especially beautiful during and after flowering ). Misslabeling of those Eupatoriums as Fennel or Dill is a serious crime, Fennel is generally beneficial to liver, while Dogfennel consumed freely can severly damage liver, as it contain toxic alkaloids.
Eupatorium capillifolium have also other common names - Summer Cedar and Cypressweed.
Dogfennel has proven to be potent insecticide, esspecialy for Lace Bug (Stephanitis pyrioides ) and weak fungicide. This plant is also placed in houses for its insect repelent action.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Eupatorium capillifolium is perrenial but short living bush, that can reach over 2m height. It like sunny places, cope well with seasonal drought and poor soils but thrive in wet, compost soils. Dogfennel can be propagated from seeds and rootstock. It is hardy to -10'C. Young leaves and shoots can be used in kitchen, but during flowering time it might taste more bitter and less aromatic ( also probably contain more pyrrolizidine alkaloid ). It is best to be used fresh.
Dogfennel contain pyrrolizidine alkaloid that is damaging liver, therefore it cannot be consumed continously or in big quantities. Many people though (including myself) found it safe to be used sporadicaly, in small doses, as a tasty fennel-like spice, good for sandwiches, salads, boild potatoes etc. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and anyone with weak liver should avoid this herb.
Eupatorium capillifolium is not widely used in herbalism, but it has long local traditions of medical applications atribute mainly to its antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lumbee Indians have been using Dogfennel for reproductive system ailments, like male sexual organ and gland disorders, also consider it to be sex tonic and aphrodisiac. They made tea from Dogfennel for fever. Crushed leaves are applied on fungal infections on skin and reptile and insect bites, it is also used as a insect repellant, especially against mosquitoes. Native Americans used this plant also to treat epilepsy and sore throat.
In Cuba decoction of E. capillifoliun is used to stop dysentery and other intestinal problems, it is also used to treat arthritis and considered hemostatic.
There are different chemotypes of Eupatorium capillifolium, and of course different climate and soil shape different chemical balance in plants. That is why tested plant material from USA, Cuba and Mexico have big differences in amounts of its main biochemicals, which contain : thymol methyl ether, 2,5-dimethoxy-p-cymene, myrcene, cymene, ocimene, limonene, camphene, germacrene , astragalin, hyperoside, phellandrene, borneol, limonene, taraxasterol and costic acid.
Dogfennel can not be consumed in big quantities or over long period of time, as it contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are harmfull to the liver. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as anyone with weak liver should avoid this herb.
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