Fennel - Some Benefits on Usage of Fennel
Common Trade Names
Bitter Fennel, Fennel Herb Tea, Sweet Fennel
Capsules: 455 mg
Volatile oil in water: 2% (Sweet Fennel), 4% (Bitter Fennel)
Also available as essential oil, seeds, teas, and tinctures.
Fennel oil is usually obtained from the seeds of Foeniculum vulgare. The plant is native to Europe and now also found in parts of Asia and Egypt. The root of this plant is also considered useful.
Chemical Components of Fennel
The seeds of F. vulgare contain 2% to 6% volatile oil, 20% fixed oil (composed of petroselinic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid), and high concentrations of tocopherols. Other components of the seeds include flavonoids, umbelliferone, kaempferols, stigmasterol, proteins, sugars, vitamins, and minerals. The herb has a high potassium and calcium content. The volatile oil consists of anethol, fenchone, estragole, limonene, camphene, and alpha-pinene. Other components of the herb include monoterpene hydrocarbons, sabinene, alpha-phellandrene, myrcene, terpinenes, terpinolene, fenchyl alcohol, anisaldehyde, and myristicin apiole.
Fennel and its volatile oil are reported to have antiflatulent and stimulant properties. Fennel oil with methylparaben has been shown to inhibit the growth of Salmonella enteriditis and, to a lesser extent, Listeria monocytogenes . The oil inhibited the twitch response in smooth muscle and tracheal and ileal muscles in guinea pigs . Aqueous fennel extracts increase ciliary function of frog epithelium. An acetone extract of fennel seeds produced an estrogenic effect on the genital organs of male and female rats.
Anethole has been found to inhibit tumor necrosis factor-induced cellular responses , and it is theorized that this action may suppress both inflammation and carcinogenesis. Further studies are needed to determine the clinical significance of this finding.
Despite fennel's claims to increase milk secretion, promote menses, facilitate birth, and increase libido, human data are lacking. Fennel has also been used historically to treat colic, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Traditional uses suggest the following doses:
For GI complaints, 0.1 to 0.6 ml P.O. daily of the oil, or 5 to 7 g daily of the fruit.
Tea: 2 to 3 g of fennel seeds steeped in 8 oz of water.
Tincture: 2 to 4 ml P.O. t.i.d.
GI: nausea, vomiting.
Respiratory: pulmonary edema (rare).
Skin: contact dermatitis, photodermatitis.
Other: tumors (an essential oil component, estragole, has caused tumors in animals).
Ciprofloxacin: Fennel significantly decreased the bioavailability of ciprofloxacin when administered concurrently in rats; further studies are needed to determine the extent of this effect in humans. Maintain adequate dosing interval.
Contraindications And Precautions
The use of fennel is not recommended in patients with estrogen-dependent cancers because anethole and other terpenoids found in fennel are believed to possess estrogen-like activity .
Also avoid its use in pregnant patients. Use cautiously in patients who are hypersensitive to other members of the Apiaceae family, such as celery, carrots, and mugwort.
Inform the patient that this herb cannot be recommended for any use because of insufficient evidence.
Inform the patient that the long-term risks of fennel use are unknown.
Advise the patient to avoid sun exposure if photo dermatitis occurs.
Advise the pregnant or breast-feeding patient to avoid using fennel.
Alert The fennel plant may be mistaken for poison hemlock, which contains the strong narcotic coniine. Ingestion of a small amount of hemlock causes vomiting, paralysis, and death. Inform the patient who may attempt to harvest this plant in the wild to avoid mistakenly retrieving poison hemlock.
Points of Interest
Fennel is used as a flavoring in liquors, baked goods, meat products, snacks, and gravies, and as a food. The highest concentration of fennel oil in foods cannot exceed 0.119%. In soaps, lotions, and perfumes, the maximum is 0.4%.
Because of a lack of clinical data, fennel cannot be recommended as treatment for any condition, although possibilities exist for further study.
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