Use of Fennel in Herbal Medicine
Category: Digestion Tincture
Part used: Seeds
How Fennel Seeds are Used in Herbal Medicine
Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region and has long been used as a remedy for digestive ailments and relieving bloating. Other herbs such as lemon verbena and star anise are often mixed with fennel seeds to treat an upset stomach.
Fennel seeds have a powerful aromatic flavour – with hints of both Anise and Liquorice. The seeds have a long thin shape and are usually brown in colour, and are also used as flavourings in food and beverages.
Traditional Use of Fennel
Although it is commonly known as a distinctive-tasting culinary herb, fennel seeds– or to be botanically accurate, the fruits, have been used for thousands of years to relieve colic, wind and bloating, ease abdominal cramps and control symptoms of infection, such as vomiting and diarrhoea1.
Constituents of Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds contain around 8% volatile oil (predominantly anethole), flavonoids, coumarins and sterols.
The Medicinal Benefits of Fennel
Several studies have shown convincing results that Fennel, or Foeniculum vulgare, has several medicinal properties. These include antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant, antithrombotic and hepatoprotective benefits, lending support to the rationale behind several of its therapeutic uses3.
Many studies have also highlighted fennel as a valuable plant for specifically managing women’s health.
May Ease Arthritic Pain
A study conducted on women patients with knee osteoarthritis found that those who took fennel supplements reported a reduction in pain and knee stiffness at the end of the two week trial4. Although more additional studies are needed, it indicates fennel could be used as a complementary treatment for osteoarthritic pain.
In one study, fennel and dill have been shown to inhibit the growth of some mycobacterium species, which indicates that they may be effective at treating mycobacterial infections5.
Fennel is thought to protect the stomach lining, particularly from alcohol-induced damage, and has a longstanding reputation as an aid to weight loss and to longevity.
Researchers have shown that fennel seeds have considerably good antibacterial activity against bacteria that causes indigestion and diarrhoea, which validates the plants use in homemade remedies6.
Reduce Symptoms of Menopause
The seeds have significant oestrogenic activity and can prove useful during menopause and afterwards in supporting oestrogen levels. Several clinical trials suggest that Fennel extracts reduce menopausal symptoms, including associated anxiety and lowered mood7.
Another study in 2019 highlighted the therapeutic effects of fennel oil on PMS, resulting in decreased pain, anxiety, depression as clinical symptoms of PMS8.
May Help Protect Against Cancer
Anethole, which is a known constituent of fennel, has been shown to modulate induced apoptosis (the death of cells) in human breast cancer cells9. A separate study also found that fennel extracts also inhibited the spread of human breast cancer cells10.
Supports Healthy Skin
A 2016 clinical study found that Fennel seed oil can help to prevent skin ageing and counter UV radiation/sunburn11.
Side Effects of Fennel Seeds
If you are taking any prescription medication, check with your doctor or healthcare specialist before taking fennel. Several studies have highlighted that Estragole, one of the main components of fennel, could be carcinogenic; however recent evidence has shown that estragole does not have a direct carcinogenic action3.
How to Take Fennel Seeds
Tinctures are often the strongest form of herbal remedies due to containing stronger active plant constituent concentrations, so the liquid is mixed with water. Our natural fennel tincture for digestion is non-alcoholic and vegan and will help to ease symptoms such as indigestion, bloating cramps and reflux. It also contains Angelica and Chamomile to help reduce wind and relax the internal muscles.
If you’ve made your own fennel tincture, mix 1 teaspoon with water twice per day.
You can make an infusion of fennel to help with bloating and indigestion by steeping 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds in boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Try adding a teaspoon of honey to sweeten if required.
The seeds can be chewed to freshen the breath and cleanse and disinfect the mouth, though Fennel seeds are more commonly prepared as an infusion or tincture.
- Badgujar S et al. Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology. Biomed Res Int. 2014 Jan 1: 842674.
- Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia Of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments. United Kingdom, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2016
- Rather, Manzoor A., et al. “Foeniculum Vulgare: A Comprehensive Review of Its Traditional Use, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, and Safety.” Arabian Journal of Chemistry, vol. 9, 2016, pp. S1574–83. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.arabjc.2012.04.011.
- Alazadeh, Marzieh et al. “Effect of sweet fennel seed extract capsule on knee pain in women with knee osteoarthritis.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice vol. 40 (2020): 101219. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101219
- Abed, K.F., Antimicrobial activity of essential oils of some medicinal plants from Saudi Arabia
Saudi J. Biol. Sci., 14 (2007), pp. 53-60
- Kaur, G.J., Arora, D.S. Antibacterial and phytochemical screening of Anethum graveolens, Foeniculum vulgare and Trachyspermum ammi . BMC Complement Altern Med 9, 30 (2009)
- Ghazanfarpour M et al. Effect of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) on symptoms of depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women: a double-blind randomised controlled trial. J Obstet & Gynae. 2018 Jan 2;38(1):121-6.
- Mahboubi, Mohaddese. “Foeniculum vulgare as Valuable Plant in Management of Women's Health.” Journal of menopausal medicine vol. 25,1 (2019): 1-14. doi:10.6118/jmm.2019.25.1.1
- Chen, Ching Hui, and Linda A deGraffenried. “Anethole suppressed cell survival and induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells independent of estrogen receptor status.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 19,8-9 (2012): 763-7.
- Syed, Fareeduddin Quadri et al. “Chloroform fraction of Foeniculum vulgare induced ROS mediated, mitochondria-caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway in MCF-7, human breast cancer cell line.” Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 218 (2018): 16-26. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2018.02.029
- Nam JH, Lee DU. Foeniculum vulgare extract and its constituent, trans-anethole, inhibit UV-induced melanogenesis via ORAI1 channel inhibition. J Dermatol Sci. 2016 Dec 1;84(3):305-13.