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What is fennel?
Fennel is a bulbous plant native to southern Europe and western
Asia. It is a member of the celery family and is well-known
for its distinctive flavor. Although the entire plant is edible,
only fennel seeds and essential oils are used for their medicinal
Why do we need fennel? What is it
Fennel seeds contain an essential oil, which is composed
of anethole, fenchone, estragole, and other vital enzymes
and compounds. Anethole may have estrogen-like qualities and
can reduce spasms in smooth muscles, such as those in the
Recent studies have found that fennel seeds contain diuretic,
pain-reducing, fever-reducing and antimicrobial properties.
Some practitioners believe it can be used to aid indigestion
and increase the production of milk in nursing women.
Studies on fennel's essential oil are less clear. Some studies
have linked the oil to possible liver damage, while other
studies have found that a compound made from anethole protects
against liver toxicity.
How much fennel should I take?
The German Commission E Monographs recommend between 5-7
grams of fennel seeds daily. The plant can also be ingested
as a tincture (2-4 milliliters, three times daily).
What forms of fennel are available?
Whole fennel seeds are available at health food stores and
many supermarkets. Patients can also purchase fennel tinctures,
which contain a percentage of the oil in an alcohol base.
What can happen if I take too much
fennel? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What
precautions should I take?
While no significant adverse reactions have been reported,
in rare cases, fennel seeds can cause allergic reactions on
the skin and respiratory problems. Excess amounts of fennel
oil may cause nausea, vomiting and seizures. In addition,
anyone suffering from an estrogen-dependent form of cancer
should avoid any large quantities of fennel and consult their
At present, there are no well-known drug interactions associated
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal
Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, pp. 1456.
Mills SY. Out of the Earth:
The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Middlesex, UK:
Viking Arkana, 1991, pp. 4246.
Albert-Puleo M. Fennel and anise
as estrogenic agents. J Ethnopharm 1980;2(4):33744.
Tanira MOM, Shah AH, Mohsin
A, et al. Pharmacological and toxicological investigations
on foeniculum vulgare dried fruit extract in experimental
animals. Phytother Res 1996;10:336.
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg
A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs:
Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative
Medicine Communications, 1998, pp.