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Foeniculum vulgare

Foeniculum vulgare

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Fennel, fennel seed, fennel oil, sweet fennel, bitter fennel, holmboe, wild fennel, fenkel

Original Habitat

Fennel is native to the Mediterranean area and grows wild throughout areas such as Italy.[1] However, it is now cultivated throughout the world and is easily grown in even novice kitchens. In addition to its use as an essential oil, it’s widely used as a medicinal and flavouring herb.[2] Fennel is a perennial plant when it grows in the wild and can reach upwards of two meters with leaves from 100 to 600 millimetres long.  Fennel requires well-drained sunny locations for optimum growth.

Plant Part Used



The essential oil of F. vulgare is used in many foods and beverages. Its use in the fragrance industry is somewhat limited. In therapeutic aromatherapy, it is primarily found in formulations.[3]


The steam-distilled essential oil of F. vulgare is clear in color and somewhat thin in viscosity. Essential oil from fennel will oxidise quickly when stored in light.[4] The low note, warm, sweet aroma of fennel oil is due to its volatile components such as estragole and fenchone.[5]

Chemical Constituents

Methyl chavicol [5][6][7][8]  

Medicinal Uses

Gastrointestinal stimulant++

Antimicrobial- Fennel has shown some limited antimicrobial activity.[9] In a laboratory setting, F. vulgare oil demonstrated antibacterial activity against pathogens such as S. typhimurium and S. dysenteriae among others.[10]

Antioxidant- Fennel essential oil was examined for its antioxidant activity as a free radical (DPPH), hydroxyl radical, and superoxide anion scavenger. Wild fennel demonstrated the strongest radical scavenging activity, while the edible and medicinal oils had lower activity.[2]

Anti-platelet Activity- Studies have shown that F. vulgare oil has anti-platelet activity. In an animal model observing the effects of anethole on guinea pig plasma, researchers noted anti-platelet, vasorelaxation and anti-thrombic activity.[11]

Antifungal- A subspecies of fennel demonstrated dose-dependant antifungal activity against mycelia growth [12] as well as against P. infestans .[7]

Hepaprotective Activity- In rats with CCl4-induced hepatic injury, the essential oil of fennel was found to be protective against further hepatic damage.[13]

Bronchodilation- In guinea pigs, fennel essential oil showed relaxant effects in the trachea of methacholine-induced contractions, possibly via a potassium channel opening effect.[14]

Estrogenic Activity- Traditionally, the active anethole from fennel oil was thought to have estrogenic activity; however, recently it has been shown that these actions are due to the polymers of anethole, such dianethole and photoanethole.[15]

Traditional Use

Menstrual complaints, increased libido+++
Increased lactation++
Upper respiratory infections+++
Digestive complaints, flatulence, spastic colon+++

 Larvicidal- Fennel essential oil has demonstrated larvacidal activity against at least two strains of mosquito larvae and proved superior to other oils tested.[16][17]

Acaricidal- The chemical constituents responsible for the acaricidal activity against dermatophagoides are thought to be fenchone and p-anisaldehyde. These actives warrant further research against house dust mites.[18]

Infant Colic- Infants aged 2 to 12 weeks were included a randomized placebo-controlled study to study colic. The infants received either a F. vulgare oil emulsion or placebo in oral administration. The results illustrated a decrease in crying in the fennel group versus the placebo group. Neither group reported any side effects.[19]

Sympathetic Nervous System Activity- Using the inhalation method, fennel essential oil increased sympathetic activity in healthy adults when compared to an odourless substance. One measurement showed an increase in systolic blood pressure when this oil was inhaled. Other essential oils tested demonstrated similar results.[20]  

Contraindications and Precautions

Fennel essential oil has been shown to alter blood pressure in healthy adults. Caution should be taken. [20]

This oil may cause dermatitis in some individuals.

While used and recommended for pregnant and lactating women and children, this oil should not to be used without professional supervision.


[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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  1) Safety


1.         Piccaglia R. Characterization of some Italian types of wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.). J Agric Food Chem. Jan 2001;49(1):239-244.

2.         Faudale M. Antioxidant activity and phenolic composition of wild, edible, and medicinal fennel from different Mediterranean countries. J Agric Food Chem. 26 Mar 2008;56(6):1912-1920.

3.         Lis Balchin M. Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professional. Pharmaceutical Press. NY; 2006:190.

4.         Misharina TA. Antioxidant properties of essential oils: autoxidation of essential oils from laurel and fennel and effects of mixing with essential oil from coriander.[Article in Russian] Prikl Biokhim Mikrobiol. Nov-Dec 2005;41(6):693-702.

5.         Díaz-Maroto MC. Volatile components and key odorants of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) oil extracts obtained by simultaneous distillation-extraction and supercritical fluid extraction. J Agric Food Chem. 29 Jun 2005;53(13):5385-5389.

6.         Coşge B. Characteristics of fatty acids and essential oil from sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill. var. dulce) and bitter fennel fruits (F. vulgare Mill. var. vulgare) growing in Turkey. Nat Prod Res. 2008;22(12):1011-1016.

7.         Soylu EM. Antimicrobial activities of the essential oils of various plants against tomato late blight disease agent Phytophthora infestans. Mycopathologia. Feb 2006;161(2):119-128

8.         Mimica-Dukić N. Essential oil composition and antifungal activity of Foeniculum vulgare Mill obtained by different distillation conditions. Phytother Res. Apr 2003;17(4):368-371.

9.         Schelz Z. Antimicrobial and antiplasmid activities of essential oils. Fitoterapia. Jun 2006;77(4):279-285.

10.        Khaldun AO. Antibacterial action of ether oils of some plants [Article in Russian] Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol. May-Jun 2006;(3):92-93.

11.        Tognolini M. Protective effect of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil and anethole in an experimental model of thrombosis. Pharmacol Res. Sep 2007;56(3):254-260.

12.        Ozcan MM. Comparative essential oil composition and antifungal effect of bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ssp. piperitum) fruit oils obtained during different vegetation. J Med Food. Winter 2006;9(4):552-561.

13.        Ozbek H. Hepatoprotective effect of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil. Fitoterapia. Apr 2003;74(3):317-319.

14.        Boskabady MH. Possible mechanism(s) for relaxant effects of Foeniculum vulgare on guinea pig tracheal chains. Pharmazie. Jul 2004;59(7):561-564.

15.        Albert-Puleo M. Fennel and anise as estrogenic agents. J Ethnopharmacol. Dec 1980;2(4):337-344.

16.        Pitasawat B. Aromatic plant-derived essential oil: an alternative larvicide for mosquito control. Fitoterapia. Apr 2007;78(3):205-210.

17.        Traboulsi AF. Repellency and toxicity of aromatic plant extracts against the mosquito Culex pipiens molestus (Diptera: Culicidae). Pest Manag Sci. Jun 2005;61(6):597-604.

18.        Lee HS. Acaricidal activity of constituents identified in Foeniculum vulgare fruit oil against Dermatophagoides spp. (Acari: Pyroglyphidae). J Agric Food Chem. May 2004;19;52(10):2887-2889.

19.        Alexandrovich I. The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Altern Ther Health Med. Jul-Aug 2003;9(4):58-61.

20.        Haze S. Effects of fragrance inhalation on sympathetic activity in normal adults. Jpn J Pharmacol. Nov 2002;90(3):247-253.

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