Fennel herb, seed and supplement health benefit, Foeniculum vulgare is the botanical name
Feb 25 2014 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

For centuries, fennel fruits have been used as traditional herbal medicine in Europe and China. Fennel tea is the herb of first choice for the treatment of infants suffering from colic. Practically every part of the plant is edible. The seed is widely used in India as an after-dinner breath freshener and also to help in digestion.

Nature's Way - buy Fennel Seed, 100 Capsules, 480 mg
Fennel is an herb of the carrot family. The aromatic seeds are cultivated for both culinary and herbal uses and have a licorice-like taste and are offered at the end of a meal in Asia and in South America to sweeten the breath and aid digestion.

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Supplement Facts
Fennel (seed) 480 mg
Recommendation: As an addition to the daily diet, take one or two fennel capsules 1 to 3 times daily, preferably with food.

 

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Benefits
Fennel herb is helpful in colic, protects the liver from toxins, and has a slight pain reducing potential in dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps).

Anti-inflammatory benefit of the plant
Antiinflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant activities of the fruit of Foeniculum vulgare.
Fitoterapia. 2004.
Oral administration (200 mg/kg) of fennel fruit methanolic extract exhibited inhibitory effects against acute and subacute inflammatory diseases and type IV allergic reactions and showed a central analgesic effect. Moreover, it significantly increased the plasma superoxide dismutase and catalase activities and the high density lipoprotein-cholesterol level. On the contrary, the malondialdehyde (as a measure of lipid peroxidation) level was significantly decreased in fennel fruit methanolic extract group compared to the control group. These results seems to support the use of fennel fruit methanolic extract in relieving inflammation.

Antioxidant
Bioguided isolation and identification of the nonvolatile antioxidant compounds from fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) waste.
J Agric Food Chem. 2004.
A bioguided isolation of an aqueous extract of fennel waste led to the isolation of 12 major phenolic compounds. Eight antioxidant compounds were isolated and identified for the first time in fennel: 3-caffeoylquinic acid, 4-caffeoylquinic acid, 1,5-O-dicaffeoylquinic acid, rosmarinic acid, eriodictyol-7-O-rutinoside, quercetin-3-O-galactoside, kaempferol-3-O-rutinoside, and kaempferol-3-O-glucoside. The isolated compounds exhibited a strong antiradical scavenging activity, which may contribute to the interpretation of the pharmacological effects of fennel.

Colic in infants
The effect of fennel seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2003.
Despite its benign, natural course, colic is a significant problem in infants and imparts a psychological, emotional, and physical burden to parents. Dicyclomine hydrochloride is the only pharmacological treatment for infantile colic that has been consistently effective. Unfortunately, 5% of infants treated with dicyclomine hydrochloride develop serious side effects, including death. Fennel seed oil has been shown to reduce intestinal spasms and increase motility of the small intestine. However, there have not been any clinical studies of its effectiveness. To determine the effectiveness of fennel seed oil emulsion in infantile colic. The use of fennel oil emulsion eliminated colic, according to the Wessel criteria, in 65% of infants in the treatment group, which was significantly better than 23.7% of infants in the control group. There was a significant improvement of colic in the treatment group compared with the control group.  Side effects were not reported for infants in either group during the trial. Our study suggests that fennel seed oil emulsion is superior to placebo in decreasing intensity of infantile colic.

Liver protection
Hepatoprotective effect of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil.
Yuzuncu Yil University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology, Van, Turkey. Fitoterapia. 2003.
Hepatoprotective activity of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) essential oil was studied using carbon tetrachloride (CCl(4)) induced liver injury model in rats. The hepatotoxicity produced by acute CCl(4) administration was found to be inhibited by fennel with evidence of decreased levels of serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin. The results of this study indicate that fennel has a potent hepatoprotective action against CCl(4)-induced hepatic damage in rats.

Menstrual cramps
Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2013. Oral fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) drop effect on primary dysmenorrhea: Effectiveness of herbal drug. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to the occurrence of painful menstrual cramps of uterus and is considered as a gynecological complaint. The common treatment for this problem is medical therapy such as mefenamic acid [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)] and oral contraceptive pills, both of which work by reducing myometrial activity. Fennel contains an antispasmodic and anethol agents and may be helpful for management of primary dysmenorrhea. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of oral fennel drop for treating primary dysmenorrhea. Sixty college students suffering from primary dysmenorrhea were randomly assigned to two groups and followed up for two cycles. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 16. P < 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant. Parametric and non-parametric tests were adopted. Comparison of pain intensity in the two groups showed that there was no significant difference in pain relief between the two groups. Comparison of bleeding severity in the study group before and after intervention was demonstrated from the first day to the fifth day. It seems that fennel can be effective in reducing the severity of dysmenorrhea, but it has an unpleasant taste in view of most of the volunteers.

What's in fennel herb?
Many substances have been identified in fennel including estragole, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, flavonoid glycosides, flavonoid aglycons, quercetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, eriocitrin, rutin, miquelianin, rosmarinic acid, and caffeoylquinic acid. Most of these substances in fennel are antioxidants.

Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2013. The chemical composition of essential oils isolated from sweet fennel fruits available as herbal tea products. Sweet fennel fruits (Foeniculum vulgare subsp. vulgare var. dulce Mill.) are a spice with various uses in medicine, but also in food, pharmaceutic and cosmetic industries. Their biological activities as well as the flavoring properties are due to the essential oil. The volatile oil content of fennel herbal tea products varies widely (28.10-101.00 mL/kg dried fruits), but all the samples meet the requirements of the Ph Eur. 6th edition (min. 20 mL/kg dried fruits). Phenylpropanoid derivatives (52.12%-57.66%) and monoterpenes (39.25%-45.28%) represent the bulk of the fennel volatile oils. Trans-anethole, estragole, limonene, fenchone, a-pinene, y-terpinene and myrcene were the main compounds in all samples, but their levels vary greatly.

Historical uses
Fennel plant, Foeniculum vulgare, and anise, Pimpinella anisum, are plants which have been used as estrogenic agents for millennia. Specifically, they have been reputed to increase milk secretion, promote menstruation, facilitate birth, alleviate the symptoms of the male climacteric (andropause), and increase libido. In the 1930s, some interest was shown in these plants in the development of synthetic estrogens. The main constituent of the essential oils of fennel and anise, anethole, has been considered to be the active estrogenic agent. However, further research suggests that the actual pharmacologically active agents are polymers of anethole, such as dianethole and photoanethole.
   Chewing fennel seeds can help with bad breath.

Full of Fennel - Every part of the plant can be eaten
Roots, bulbs and stalks can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Bulbs could also be eaten raw.
Fennel stems and leaves can be chopped and used in salads or soups.
Seeds can be used in liqueurs, tomato sauces, and pickles. Fennel seeds can also be chewed and kept in the mouth as a mouth freshener.
Fennel oil is used in liqueur, candy and perfume.

Fennel plant research
Fennel tea: risk assessment of the phytogenic monosubstance estragole in comparison to the natural multicomponent mixture.
Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2004.
For centuries fennel fruits have been used as traditional herbal medicine in Europe and China. For the treatment of infants and sucklings suffering from dyspeptic disorders, fennel tea is the drug of first choice. Its administration as a carminativum is practiced in infant care in private homes and in maternity clinics as well where it is highly appreciated for its mild flavor and good tolerance. Some sources advise consumers to reduce their intake of foods containing estragole and methyleugenol, e.g. tarragon, basil, anis, star anis, jamaica pepper, nutmeg, lemon grass as well as bitter and sweet fennel fruits for reasons of health. These warnings are based on experiments with rats and mice where estragole, a natural ingredient of fennel fruits, proved to be carcinogenic. Meanwhile, criticism arose amongst experts concerning the interpretation of these studies. The crucial points of criticism concern the transfer of data obtained in animal models to the human situation as well as the high doses of the applied monosubstance, which do not at all represent the amounts humans are exposed to as consumers of estragole-containing foods and phytopharmaceuticals. Furthermore, studies on estragole metabolism revealed at least quantitative differences between the estragole metabolism of mice and men. In addition, it has been shown that an agent when administered in its isolated form may have significantly different effects and side effects than the same agent applied as a constituent in naturally occurring multicomponent mixtures. Thus, a multicomponent mixture such as fennel tea contains various antioxidants known to be protective against cancer. These differences were not considered in the risk assessment. Considering the long traditional use of fennel tea and the total lack of epidemiological and clinical studies indicating a well founded cancerogenic potential, the probability of a serious risk connected with the consumption of fennel tea seems to be negligibly small.

Comparison of fennel and mefenamic acid for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.
Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2003.
To compare the effect of Foeniculum vulgare variety dulce (Sweet Fennel) vs. mefenamic acid for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. A cohort of seventy women, 15-24 years old from a local university and high-school, who complained of dysmenorrhea were enrolled in this study. Ten cases were excluded due to evidence of secondary dysmenorrhea. The remaining 60 patients were graded mild, moderate and severe on the basis of a verbal multidimensional scoring system. Thirty patients with mild dysmenorrhea were also excluded from the study. Each of the 30 cases with moderate to severe dysmenorrhea was evaluated for three cycles. In the first cycle no medication was given (control cycle), in the second cycle the cases were treated by mefenamic acid (250 mg q6h orally) and in the third cycle, essence of Fennel's fruit with 2% concentration (25 drops q4h orally), was prescribed at the beginning of the cycle. These cycles were compared day by day for the effect, potency, time of initiation of action and also complications associated with each treatment modality, by using a self-scoring system. Intensity of pain was reported by using a 10-point linear analog technique. In the study group the mean age of menarche was 12 years, the mean duration of menstruation was 6.6+/-1.4 days with the mean cycle days of 27. The findings observed during menses were as follows: headache in 26%, nausea in 63%, vomiting in 23%, diarrhea in 33%, fatigue in 93% and leaving the daily tasks undone was reported in 86% of the cases. Both of the drugs effectively relieved menstrual pain as compared with the control cycles. The mean duration of initiation of action was 67 min for mefenamic acid and 75 min for fennel. The difference was not statistically significant. Mefenamic acid had a more potent effect than fennel on the second and third menstrual days, however, the difference on the other days was not significant. No complication was reported in mefenamic acid treated cycles, but five cases (16%) withdrew from the study due to fennel's odor and one case (3%) reported a mild increase in the amount of her menstrual flow. The essence of fennel can be used as a safe and effective herbal drug for primary dysmenorrhea, however, it may have a lower potency than mefenamic acid in the dosages used for this study.

History
Fennel has a long history of herbal use and is a commonly used household remedy, especially those of the digestive system. The fennel seeds, leaves and roots can be used, but the seeds are most active medicinally and are the part normally used. An essential oil is often extracted from the fully ripened and dried fennel seed for medicinal use, though it should not be given to pregnant women.

Fennel leaf stalks and flower heads can be eaten raw or cooked. A similar aniseed flavor to the leaves. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavoring in cakes, bread, etc. They have a similar flavor to the fennel leaves and also improve digestion. The sprouted seeds can be added to salads. An essential oil from the fully ripened and dried fennel seed is used as a food flavoring in similar ways to the whole seed. The leaves or the seeds can be used to make a pleasant-tasting herbal tea.

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