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Foeniculum vulgare Miller


Foeniculum officinale All., Anethum foeniculum L.

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Jintan Manis, Adas Pedas [1]
English: Fennel, Bitter Fennel, Wild Fennel [1]
Chinese:  Hui Xiang, Xiao Hui Xiang, Bei Hui Xiang [1]
Tamil:  Shombu [2]
Hindi:  Badi, Bari Sanuf [3]
Javanese: Adas, Adas Londa, Adas Landi [1]
Sundanese:  Hades [1]
Sumatran:  Adeh Manih [1]
Thai:  Yi Ra [1]
Arabic:  Bisbas [2]

General Information


This tall perennial herb of the family Apiaceae can be found in Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, India and Africa. It is native to the Mediterranean region and grows in dry stony calcareous soils near the sea. All parts of fennel smell strongly of aniseed and it has long been a popular culinary herb.[1]

Plant Part Used

Seeds or commonly called fruits, root, leaf and oil.[1]

Chemical Constituents

F. vulgare oil was found to contain trans-anethole (85.63%) as a major component, Estragole(5.27%), D-limonene (3.8%) and P-anisaldehyde (2.68%) from steam distillation of commercial essential oil.[4

In continuation of their research into the potential antioxidative properties as well as the chemical, antifungal activity of volatile oil and acetone extract of the fruits of Foeniculum vulgare, Singh et al. found that the volatile oil showed the presence of 35 components. trans-Anethole accounted for 70.1% and is the major compound of the oil. Moreover, its acetone extract showed the presence of nine components with Linoleic acid (55.0%) as the major compound. Among other components of the extract are Palmitic acid, Oleic acid, Undecane, trans-anethole, cis-anethole and Stigmast-5-en-3-ol.[5

A reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography method for the validation of major phenolic compounds in fennel plant material has been developed. The compounds present are 3-O-caffeoylquinic acid, Chlorogenic acid, 4-O-caffeoylquinic acid, Ericitrin, rutin, Miquelianin, 1,3-O-dicaffeoylic acid, 1,5-O-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid and Rosmarinic acid.[6

Recently, a phytochemical study on a non-volatile fraction of fennel fruit reported the isolation and structure determination of two new stilbene trimer diglucosides; foeniculoside X and foeniculoside XI, a new benzoisofuranone derivative (3’R)-5-hydroxy-3-(3’-hydroxybutyl)-isobenzofuran-1(3H)-one, besides nine other known compounds; cis-miyabenol C, trans-miyabenol C, trans-resveratrol 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, Sinapyl glucoside, Syringin 4-O-β-glucoside, Oleanolic acid, 7-α-hydroxycampesterol, (3β,5α,8α,22E) 5,8-epidioxy-ergosta-6,22-dien-3-ol and 2,3-dihydropropylheptadec-5-enoate.[7

In the chemical characterisation of different species, subspecies and varieties: Foeniculum vulgare variety vulgare (bitter fennel) leaves and seeds contain 50-60% estragole compared to 2-3% for F. vulgare variety dulce (sweet fennel). The former also contains much less or only 1-2% trans-anethole compared to about 60% for the latter.[8

The essential oil makes up about 6% of the fennel seed and contains mainly trans-anethole, d-fenchone and estragole, while others are d-α-pinene, d-α-phellandrene, dipentene, methyl chavicol, feniculun, p-anisaldehyde, and anisic acid.[9-10

Other chemicals include : 1,8-Cineole, 3-carene, 5-methoxypsoralen, 8-methoxypsoralen, alanine, α-terpinene, α-terpineol, α-thujene, Aluminum, anisic-ketone, apiole, arachidates, arginine, ascorbic-acid, aspartic-acid, avicularin, benzoic-acid, bergapten, β-phellandrene, β-carotene, β-sitosterol, β-pinene, Boron, caffeic-acid, Calcium, camphene, camphor, ceryl-alcohol, choline, Chromium, cinnamic-acid, cis-ocimene, citric-acid, Cobalt, columbianetin Copper, cynarin, cystine, dianethole, dillapiol, fenchyl-alcohol, ferulic-acid, fumaric-acid, gamma- terpinene, gamma-tocotrienol, gentisic-acid, glutamic-acid, glycine, glycolic- acid, histidine, imperatorin, iodine, Iron, isoleucine, isopimpinellin, isoquercitrin, kaempferol, kaempferol-3-arabinoside, kaempferol-3-glucuronide, linalool, Magnesium, malic-acid, Manganese, marmesin, methionine, myrcene, myristicin, Nickel, o-coumaric-acid, osthenol, p-cymene, p-hydroxybenzoic-acid, p-coumaric-acid, p-hydroxycinnamic-acid, pectin, petroselinic-acid, phenylalanine, Phosphorus, photoantheole, Potassium, proline, protocatechuic-acid, psoralen, quercetin, quercetin-3-L-arabinoside, quercetin-3-arabinoside, quercetin-3-glucuronide, quinic-acid, riboflavin, sabinene, scoparone, scopoletin, Selenium, serine, seselin, shikimic-acid, Silicon, sinapic-acid, stigmasterol-palmitate, syringic-acid, tartaric-acid, terpinen-4-ol, terpinolene, thiamin, threonine, Tin, tocopherol, trans-ocimene, trans-1,8-terpin, trigonelline, tryptophan, tyrosine, Umbelliferone, urease, valine, vanillic-acid, vanillin, xanthotoxin, zinc.[11]

Traditional Use:

The fruits are known to be a refrigerant, an expectorant, a carminative, a digestive, a cardiac stimulant, a galactagogue, an antipyretic, an aphrodisiac and a tonic. It is also an alexipharmic, an ophthalmic, a stomachic, a haematinic, an antiemetic, an anthelmintic, a diuretic and a sudorific. The fruit is used to treat conditions like hyperdipsia, burning sensation, fever, coughs, anorexia, flatulence, colic, hernia, dysentery, haemorrhoids, vomiting, cardiac diseases, agalactia, strangury, dysuria, splenopathy, nephropathy, headaches, inflammations, skin disorders and general debility. This plant is applied in the form of paste on the abdomen after confinement and to relieve abdominal pains and rheumatism.[1

The seeds are helpful in treating tumours of the uvula, condylomata, indigestion, colic and for increasing lactation. Meanwhile, the root is used in the form of syrup to alleviate indurations of the spleen and liver, and as tincture for treating cramp, diarrhoea, gastralgia and urinary disorders.[1] It is added to gripe water for babies and to laxative preparations to prevent griping. 

The seeds, roots and leaves are recommended in teas and broth to treat obesity. The leaves are believed to act as a diuretic.[1

Chewing the seeds is a remedy for bad breath and is also used externally as a mouthwash or a gargle to heal gum diseases and sore throats. Topically, fennel powder is used as a poultice for snake bites. Since fennel also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, it is frequently used in natural toothpaste products.[9][12

In other manufacturing processes, fennel oil is used as a flavouring agent in certain laxatives and as a component in soaps and cosmetics.[10][12

In foods and beverages, fennel oil as a flavoring agent.[10][12

The essential oil obtained from the seed is used in aromatherapy and has bactericidal, carminative and stimulant effects.[13

The dried plant is an insect repellent while the crushed leaves are effective for keeping dogs free of fleas.[13]

Pre-Clinical Data


Larvacidal activity:

In an investigation of plant oil-derived larvicides used for mosquito control of Aedes aegypti and Anopheles dirus, i.e. vectors of dengue and malaria, respectively, the essential oil of Foeniculum vulgare plant was among those selected. The volatile oil exerted significant larvacidal potential against A. aegypti with LC50; 49.32 and A. dirus with LC50: 35.27,after exposure for 24 h.[4

Antifungal activity:

Using inverted petriplate method, the volatile oil of the fruits of F.vulgare was found complete 100% antifungal against A. niger, A. flavus, F. graminearum and F. moniliforme at 6 µL dose. F. vulgare volatile oil, which is rich in trans-anethole, possesses good antifungal activity.[5

Antioxidant activity: 

The acetone extract of the fruits of F. vulgare is rich in linoleic acid and can be used as natural antioxidant for increasing the shelf life of foodstuffs and protector for highly unsaturated linseed oil, replacing synthetic fungicides and antioxidants such as BHT and BHA, as well as for preventing cellular damage, the cause of aging and human diseases.[5

The antioxidant activity evaluation of crude extracts of fennel fruit and foeniculoside X, cis-miyabeol C, trans-miyabenol C, sinapyl glucoside and syringin 4-O-β-glucoside shows that the pure compounds have a higher activity than the crude extracts. However, in general, these results do not reveal strong antioxidant activities of isolated F. vulgare components.[7

Anti-inflammatory activity:

The antiinflammatory activity of F. vulgare fruit methanolic extract was evaluated by three screening protocols widely used for testing the non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs; namely, carrageenan-induced paw edema, arachidonic acid-induced ear edema and formaldehyde-induced arthritis. For the acute inflammation, the extract at dose of 200 mg/kg caused a significant inhibition of paw edema as compared to the control group 3 h after carrageenan injection. The extract also inhibited the ear-edema induced by arachidonic acid in mice. The results seem to suggest that F. vulgare extract has a significant antiinflammatory activity.[14

Anti-ulcerogenic and antioxidant activity:

The antiulcerogenic and antioxidant effects of an aqueous extract of the aerial parts of F.vulgare plant on ethanol-induced gastric lesions in rats were examined. It was found that pre-treatment with the extract significantly reduced ethanol-induced gastric damage. Also, the same pre-treatment significantly reduced the malondialdehyde levels, while significantly increased reduced glutathione, nitrite, nitrate, ascorbic acid, retinol and β-carotene levels. These results show that the extract has an obvious gastroprotective effect and antioxidant properties.[10

Insecticidal activity:

In a laboratory study that assessed the potential of plant extracts as commercial insect control agents, a methanolic extract of F. vulgare fruit was examined against black carpet beetle larvae, Attagenus unicolor japonicus, a common destructive pest. The result shows that F. vulgare fruit extract gave 67% and 100% mortality at 5.2 mg/cm2 21 and 28 days after treatment, respectively. This proves that the plant has potential insecticidal activity as traditionally claimed and suitable for use in integrated pest management.[15]

Hepatoprotective activity:

F.vulgare essential oil has shown a protective effect against the liver injury induced by CCl4 in rats. The study suggested the activity is due to the presence of d-limonene and β-myrcene which have been shown to have effects on liver.[16]

Antihirsutism activity:

In a double-blind placebo controlled study to evaluate the clinical response of idiopathic hirsutism to Fennel extract cream on hair growth on 45 women patients, it apparently showed reduction in hair diametre and good patient satisfaction. However, a further larger randomised trials with a standardised Fennel extract is required before it can be accepted as a cosmeceutical.[17]


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

Skin contact with the sap or essential oil may cause photosensitivity or dermatitis in some people. Ingestion of the oil can cause vomiting, seizures and pulmonary oedema.[9

Fennel seeds may induce periods in menopausal women. People who are allergic to carrots or celery may have an adverse reaction when taking the seeds. They may induce nausea and vomiting, fluid in the lungs and may cause photosensitivity.[12]

Use in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Fennel seeds have chemicals that act like the female hormone estrogen and have been used for centuries to increase lactation.[2]

In pregnant women, the seed oil can cause miscarriage.[2][11]

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

Preparations other than fennel tea or the herb itself should not be given to small children.[3]


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

Women with breast and uterine cancer should avoid taking fennel seeds.[12]


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



Pregnancy due to the emmenagogue effect (empirical), and due to the phytoestrogenic activity as by the acetone extract of its seeds in rats.[18]

CNS toxicity following consumption of fennel tea, especially nursing mothers and/or their breastfed infants in human case reports.[18]

Case Reports

No documentation

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  1) Essential Oil


  1. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur. Compendium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. 2002; 1:358.
  2. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database. Sorting Foeniculum names. .html accessed on 7 June 2007.
  3. Prescription Drug & Health Information. fennel.html accessed on 16 October 2007.
  4. Pitasawat,B. et al. Aromatic plant-derived essential oil: An alternative larvacide for mosquito control. Fitoterapia. 2007; 78:205-210.
  5. Singh,G. et al. Chemical constituents, antifungal and antioxidative potential of Foeniculum vulgare volatile oil and its acetone extract. Food Control. 2006;17 : 745-752.
  6. Krizman,M. et al. Determination of phenolic compounds in fennel by HPLC and HPLC-MS using a monolithic reversed-phase column. J. Pharma. Biomed. Anal. 2007; 43: 481-485.
  7. De Marino, S. et al.. Phenolic glycosides from Foeniculum vulgare fruit and evaluation of antioxidative activity. Phytochemistry. 2007; 68:1805-1812.
  8. Muckenstrum, B. et al. Phytochemical and chemotaxonomic studies of Foeniculum vulgare. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 1997; 25: 353-358.
  9. Wilkinson,J. et al. Medicines.The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London. 2003; pp 43.
  10. Birdane,F.M. et al. Beneficial effects of Foeniculum vulgare on ethanol-induced acute gastric mucosal injury in rats. World J. Gastroenterol. 2007; 13(4):607-611.
  11. Wealth of the Rainforest- Pharmacy to the world from Raintree Nutrition. accessed on 26 July 2007.
  12. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, accessed on 12 October 2007.
  13. Plants for a future database report, vulgare
  14. Choi, E-M. & Hwang, J-K. Antiinflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant activities of the fruit of Foeniculum vulgare.Fitoterapia. 2004;75:557-565.
  15. Han, M-K, et al. Insecticidal and antifeedant activities of medicinal extracts against Attagenus unicolor japonicus (Coleoptera: Dermestidae).J. Stored Products Res. 2006; 42:15-22.
  16. Ozbek,H. et al. Hepatoprotective effect of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil. Fitoterapia. 2003; 74 :317-319.
  17. Javidnia, K. et al.. Antihirsutism activity of Fennel (fruits of Foeniculum vulgare) extract. A double-blind placebo controlled study. Phytomedicine, 2003; 10:455-458.
  18. Eclectic Institute. accessed on 27 September 2007.

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