Scientific Name/Common Name: Foeniculum vulgare / Fennel
Part(s) Used: Seed
Constituents/Active Ingredients: Approximately 2-6% essential oil comprising up to 50-70% of a sweet compound called trans-anethole and up to 20% of a bitter compound called (+) -fenchone. The oil also contains methylchavicol, anisaldehyde, and some terpenoid hydrocarbons including alpha pinene, alpha phellandrene, and limonene as principal components. The seeds also contain a fixed oil, organic acids, flavonoids, tannins, and polysaccharides.
Overview: Fennel belongs to the family Umbelliferae. Fennel seed is commonly used as a food and spice around the world, especially in India where it is recognized for its digestive healing powers. The seed has many medicinal virtues and was used traditionally for alleviating digestive complaints, for stimulating milk flow in lactating mothers, externally as an eye lotion (decoction), and in functional visual disorders. A handful of fennel seeds have been used to treat heartburn for thousands of years. Fennel seed is recommended by many herbalists to prevent hormonal imbalances and treat menstrual difficulties (Amenorrhea). The German Pharmacopoeia recognizes fennel seed as a source of essential oils and bitters that aid digestion and treat dyspepsia, mild stomach cramps, bloating, and flatulence. The seed is also recommended as a taste enhancer, to counteract the mild cramps accompanying the use of laxatives, and to dissolve mucous in the upper respiratory tract. Fennel seed contains the compound creosol and up to 8,800 ppm of alpha-pinene, compounds that help to loosen bronchial secretions. The seed is also considered to be antimicrobial and antiseptic.
Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: For digestive complaints like gas, bloating, cramping; to relieve griping associated with use of laxatives; to freshen breath; as an expectorant to break up stubborn mucus in cough and colds; to relieve menstrual cramps.
Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:
Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Foeniculi fructus – Fennel (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 200-202.
Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. pp. 53; 55-56; 146; 290-91; 299-300; 335; 453-454. Rodale Press.
Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.