Fennel seeds : proven health and beauty benefits, uses

The scientific name of Fennel is Foeniculum vulgare Mill. Other names include

ARABIC: Bisbas, Raziana.
CHINESE: Hsiao-hui, Hui xiang, Xiao hui xiang.
CZECH: Fenykl.
DANISH: Almindelig fennikel, Fennikel.
DUTCH: Venkel.
FRENCH: Fenouil.
GERMAN: Fenchel.
HINDI Badi, Badishep, Bari saunf, Bari sanuf, Sanuf, Saunf, Sonp, Sont.
ITALIAN: Finocchio commune, Finocchio selvatico.
JAPANESE: Fenneru, Uikyou.
KANNADA: Badi sopu, Badisepu, Sabbasige.
LAOTIAN: Phak si.
NEPALESE: Madesi sauf.
NORWEGIAN: Fennikel.
PERSIAN: Razianeh.
POLISH: Fenkuł, Koper włoski.
RUSSIAN: Fenchel’ obyknovennyj.
SANSKRIT: Madhurika, Shatapushpa.
SLOVENIAN: Sladki komarček.
SPANISH: Hinojo.
SWEDISH: Fänkål.
TAMIL: Perun siragum, Shombu, Sohikire.
TELUGU: Peddajilakurra, Sopu.
THAI: Phak chi, Phak chi duen ha, Phak chi lom, Thian klaep, Yira.

Raw fennel has a pronounced and distinct taste, close to anise or licorice. In olden times, fennel has been used both as an appetite suppressant and digestive aid, to counter witchcraft, as a culinary garnish, and varied medicinal uses. It is native to Europe, now widely cultivated in warm countries.

Fennel is a biennial plant with a thick rootstock, erect, much-branched, smooth, often 1 meter or more in height. Leaves are 2-, 3-, or 4-pinnate and about 20 centimeters long; the segments are filiform and 2 to 4 centimeters long. Umbels are 5 to 10 centimeters in diameter; the rays number 8 to 15, about 2 to 3 centimeters long, but longer in fruit, each with 20 to 30, pedicelled, yellow flowers. Fruit is ridged, very aromatic, oblong or ellipsoid, about 5 millimeters long. Seeds are somewhat dorsally compressed.


Medicinal Properties of Fennel

• Considered analgesic, anti-inflammatory, aromatic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hallucinogenic, stomachic.

• Warming, carminative, stomachic, antispasmodic, antidepressant, a weak diuretic, and a mild stimulant, galactagogue.

• Infused fruit considered carminative.

• Roots considered aperative and purgative.

• Shoots of young plants considered carminative and respiratory.

• Considered energizing, tranquilizing and anti-spasmodic.

• Studies have suggested antioxidant, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, bronchodilatory, estrogenic, diuretic, emmenagogue, antithrombotic, hypotensive, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, memory enhancing, and antimutagenic properties.


• Fruit yields a volatile oil, 2.9% to 6%, 50 to 60 % of which is anethol; fixed oil, 8.9%; pectin, 1.3%; pentosan, 5.12%.

• The oil of fennel includes 50 – 60% anethol, also the chief constituent of anise oil and 18-22 percent fenchone. (

• Volatile oil yielded 35 components, the major component of which was trans-anethole (70.1%). An acetone extract yielded nine components (68.9%) with major components of linoleic acid (54.9%), palmitic acid (5.4%), and oleic acid (5.4%).

• The essential oil of fruits yields d-α pinene, camaphene, d-α phellanderin, dipentene, trans-anethole, d-fenchone, estragolefoeniculin, anisaldehyde and several alkaline compounds which cause its peculiar smell.

Parts used

Whole plant, roots, seeds, oil of seed.


– The fruit, seeds and young leaves are used for flavoring sweets, dishes and dainties.

– The young leaves, raw or cooked, used as flavoring.

– The seeds have an anise-like flavor.

Folkloric traditional remedies and uses of fennel

– In the Philippines, infused fruit is carminative.

– Roots employed as aperative; also as purgative.

– Crushed fruit is inhaled to counter faintness.

– Infusion of fruit used for flatulence.

– Shoots of young plant used as carminative and respiratory.

– Juice of fruit used to improve eyesight.

– Decoction is gargled as a breath freshener or applied as an eyewash.

– Decoction of seeds help regulate menses.

– Used as diuretic and emmenagogue.

– Poultice has been used to relieve breast swelling in nursing mothers.

– Infusion of seeds used for stomatitis, abdominal cramps, colic, flatulence.

– Fennel water (aqua foeniculi) used for colic and flatulence in children.

– Hot infusion of fruit used for amenorrhea and suppressed lacteal secretion.

– Infusion of roots given for toothaches and postpartum pains.

– Hot infusion of roots given for amenorrhea

– Infusion of seeds used for flatulence in babies.

– Infusion of root used for urinary disorders.

– Oil used for flatulence.

– Oil of seeds used for intestinal deworming in 3-4 ml doses.

– Paste of seeds or fruit used in cooling drinks for fevers.

– Also used for increasing breast milk production, easing childbirth, soothing cough.

– Used to enhance libido.

– An ingredient of “gripe water” used for infantile colic.

– In Madras, fruits used for venereal diseases.

– In Mexico, decoction is used as galactagogue.

– In Antilles, used as a stimulant.

Cosmetic or beauty benefits and uses of fennel

– Infusion of ground seeds as a steam facial.

– Used as mouthwash and toothpaste.

– Used in skin-care products.

Anticellulite massage oil: In a dark bottle, 8 drops of fennel, 8 drops of juniper, 10 drops of grapefruit, 5 tsps of sweet almond oil and 5 drops of jojoba oil; massage to affected area daily.

Others uses

– Insect repellent.

– Crushed leaves used for dog fleas.

Preparation of infusion/ fennel tea

• Infusion: Pour a cup of boiling water into 1-2 tsp of crushed seeds; cover and infuse for 10 minutes. For flatulence, take a cup, half an hour before meals.

Scientific proven health benefits and uses of fennel


Mosquito repellent isolated from Foeniculum vulgare fruit: The fennel oil and E-9-octadecenoic acide are used as insect repellent components due to its lack of human toxicity.

Anti-Infantile Colic:

A randomized, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic. Fennel seed oil reduced intestinal spasms and increase small intestinal motility. Study on fennel seed emulsion was superior to placebo in decreasing intensity of infantile colic.

Bronchodilator Effect:

Relaxant effect of Foeniculum vulgare on isolated Guinea pig tracheal chains: Study showed bronchodilator effects of the ethanol extract and essential oil from FV.

Hepatoprotective / good for liver/ Fixed Oil:

Study investigation the hepatoprotective effect of Foeniculum vulgare fixed oil in rats: Results indicate that FV fixed oil has a potential hepatoprotective action against induced liver fibrosis in rats.

Hepatoprotective / Carbon Tetrachloride Hepatic Damage:

Study evaluated essential oil of Foeniculum vulgare in hepatotoxicity in chronic carbon tetrachloride induced liver fibrosis model in rats. Histopathological findings suggested F. vulgare essential oil prevents development of chronic liver damage.


Study results suggest Foeniculum vulgare extract can be effective in reducing the severity of dysmenorrhea.

Oculohypotensive Activity / Glaucoma:

Aqueous extract of Fv possess significant oculohypotensive activity, comparable to timolol. Further studies are warranted before Fv finds its place in the arsenal of antiglaucoma drugs.

Leaf and Seed Comparison:

Results of analysis of leaves and seeds of Fv showed the leaves contained higher concentrations of fat and flavonoids whereas the seeds were higher in saponins, protein, amino acids and other organic compounds.


The antioxidant potential of the herb might explain some of its empirical uses in folk medicine. The study found the shoots to have the highest radical-scavengiing activity and lipid-peroxidation capacity in agreement with the highest phenolic and ascorbic acid contents in this part. The shoots also showed a high concentration of tocopherols and were the only part plants found to have flavonoids.

Anti-Hirsutism / Toxicity Studies:

Idiopathic hirsutism is the occurrence of excessive male pattern hair growth in women with normal ovulatory menstrual cycle and normal levels of serum androgens. A double-blind placebo controlled study evaluated the clinical response of idiopathic hirsutism to topical Fennel extract. A 2% fennel cream showed better efficacy than 1% cream, and was more potent than placebo.

• Antimicrobial:

Study evaluated the antimicrobial effect of organic and aqueous leaves extracts of Foeniculum vulgare against S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, Enterococcus hirea, E. coli, and Candida albicans. All the extracts showed antimicrobial activity. The aqueous extract was more effective on Candida albicans.

Anti-Thrombosis / Essential Oil / Anethole:

F. vulgare essential oil, and its main component anethole, showed safe antithrombotic activity that may be due to its broad spectrum of antiplatelet activity, clot stabilizing effect and vasorelaxant action.

Antifungal / Antioxidative:

Volatile oil yielded 35 components, the major component of which was trans-anethole (70.1%). An acetone extract yielded nine components (68.9%) with major components of linoleic acid (54.9%), palmitic acid (5.4%), and oleic acid (5.4%). Both volatile oil and extract showed strong antioxidant activity. The volatile oil showed strong inhibition against Aspergillus niger, A. flavus, Fusarium grainearum and F. monoliforme.

Anti-Obesity / Fruits:

Study evaluated F. vulgare fruit extracts in high fat diet fed albino rats for possible role in obesity and associated cardiovascular disorders. Results showed promising action against obesity and cardiovascular disorders. Results provide scientific rationale for folkloric use of F. vulgare in the treatment of obesity.

Anti-Obesity / Fruits:

Study evaluated an aqueous extract of F. vulgare in experimental (PCOS) polycystic ovary syndrome in female rats. Results showed the extract had beneficial effect on renal function in PCOS rats.

In-Vitro Cytoprotection / Anti-Tumor:

Study evaluated the in-vitro activity of methanolic extract of F. vulgare and Helicteres isora against human blood lymphocytes and antitumor activity against B16F10 melanoma cell line. F. vulgare showed good antitumor activity at 200µg/ml. F. vulgare can be considered to be both antitumor and cytoprotective to normal cells.

Anti-Diabetic / Essential Oil:

Study evaluated the essential oil of Foeniculum vulgare for hypoglycemic effect and antioxidant activity in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Essential oil corrected the hyperglycemia and pathological abnormalities in STZ-induced diabetic rats, partly through its antioxidative effect and restoring of redox homeostasis.

Volatile Secondary Metabolites:

Study of root and schizocarp essential oils and diethyl ether extracts yielded 89 different components. The most abundant were phenylpropanoids (69.5-85.5%) and monoterpenoids (11.7 to 26.9%). Dominant volatile metabolites of the schizocarps were fenchone and (E)-anethole; the roots, terpinolene and dillapiole.

Herb/Drug Interactions / Pregnancy Concerns:

Because of inhibition of cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4), pharmacokinetic parameters of drugs metabolized by this isoenzyme may be affected. A significant interaction between ciprofloxacin and F. vulgaris has been demonstrated. Also, because of estrogenic effect, use during pregnancy is not advised.

Decreased Oxidative Stress:

Study of fennel extracts showed it can decrease the serum level of oxidative factors in female mice and can be introduced as a novel medicine for treatment of infertility.

Infantile Colic / Seed Oil:

A Randomized, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effectiveness of fennel seed oil emulsion in infantile colic. Results showed the use of fennel oil emulsion eliminated colic, according to the Wessel criteria, in 65% (40/62) of infants in the treatment group. No side effects were reported in the trial.

Anxiolytic / Anxiety relief/ Fruit:

Study investigated the anxiolytic activity of ethanolic extract of F. vulgare fruit by elevated plus maze, rota rod, open field, and hole board test models. Results suggest anxiolytic activity. There was also a skeletal muscle relaxant effect on the rota rod testing.

Apoptotic Induction / Cervical Cancer Line / Leaves:

Study evaluated the apoptotic activity of crude methanolic extract of leaves in cervical cancer cell lines (HeLa). Results suggest apoptosis on cervical cancer cell line and inhibition of cell proliferation through DNA fragmentation.

Antioxidant / Immunomodulatory / Hematological Effects:

Study evaluated the effect of a hydroalcoholic extract on some hematological indices in male rats. Results showed increased red and white blood cells probably due to the presence of polyphenols and antioxidant activity and reduced negative effect of free radicals on blood cells.

Pharmacological Effects / Fruits:

Study showed the ethanol extract of ripe fruit contained ingredients that were active as diuretic, analgesic, antipyretic, antibacterial, and mitodepressive, with an active principle that enhanced bile flow.

Decreased Hair Thickness in Idiopathic Hirsutism:

A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluated the effect of 3% fennel gel in decreasing hair thickness in idiopathic mild to moderate hirsutism. Results showed the 3% fennel gel was effective in treating idiopathic hirsutism and did not have notable side effects. The mechanism of action could be due to an anti-androgenic effect of trans-anethole and di-anethole.

Osteoprotective / Osteogenesis Effect:

Study evaluated the effect of F. vulgare extract on proliferation and osteogenesis progress in human mesenchymal stem cells. Results showed the extract has osteoprotective effects through a positive affect on cell proliferation and mineralization.

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