Foeniculum vulgare (Mill.)
Synonyms and Common names: Fenkel, Finkle, Fennel fruit, foeniculi fructus
German = Fenchel, French = Fenouil, Spanish = Hinojo, Italian = Finocchio
Description: Fennel is a short-lived perennial indigenous to Europe and cultivated in India, China and Egypt. It is a greyish-green, hairless plant with vertically-grooved, branched stems which smell of aniseed when crushed. The three- to four-pinnate dark green leaves have feathery lobes and the yellow flowers, appearing from July to September, occur in four to thirty simple umbels in a compound umbel. The fruits are ovoid-oblong and ridged. Fennel prefers to grow on bare ground in coastal areas.
Parts used: The fruit. The herb and fresh bulb can be cooked.
Collection: The seeds are harvested when ripe in autumn.
Constituents: up to 8% volatile oil (including about 80% antheole, up to 5% estragole, and fenchone), flavonoids (rutin, quercetin and kaempferol glycosides), coumarins (bergapten, imperatorin, xanthotoxin and marmesin), sterols, fixed oils and sugars.
Actions: stomachic, carminative, aromatic, orexigenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, diuretic, galactagogue
Indications: flatulent dyspepsia, anorexia, flatulent colic in children; topical eyewash for conjunctivitis and blepharitis; gargle for pharyngitis
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Foeniculum is primarily used in the treatment of mild, spasmodic gastrointestinal complaints such as flatulence and colic in children, and indigestion, bloating and heartburn in adults. Both the seeds and the root are appetite stimulants and sooth the digestion. The volatile oil has both carminative and spasmolytic actions, and has been shown to increase liver regeneration experimentally.
Foeniculum is a useful remedy for upper respiratory catarrh and has a calming effect on bronchitis and coughs. It is also diuretic, and is used to treat urinary calculi. The volatile oil is bactericidal and anti-fungal, and has been shown to be effective in vitro against Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. It is also slightly oestrogenic, and is a well-known means of promoting the flow of breast milk.
Externally, the oil relieves muscular and rheumatic pains, and the infusion may be used in a compress to treat conjunctivitis and blepharitis. The seeds have a traditional reputation as an aid to weight loss and longevity.
Combinations: Foeniculum can be combined with Chamaemelum, Acorus and Alpinia in flatulent colic; with Barosma and Arctostaphylos in bacterial cystitis; or with Rosmarinus, Salvia and Hamamelis as a gargle in inflammation of the mouth and throat.
Caution: No contraindications or interactions with other drugs are known. Diabetics should be aware of the sugar content of fennel syrup.
Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)
Regulatory Status: GSL Schedule 1
Dried fruits: 0.3-0.6g or as infusion
Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 70% alcohol, 0.8-2ml
Fennel Oil B.P.C. (1949) 0.03-0.2ml
Aq. Foenic. Conc. B.P.C. (1934) 0.3-1ml
Aq. Foenic. Dest. B.P.C. (1934) 15-30ml
Additional Comments: Fennel is used as a flavouring in drinks and sweets and has been used as a vegetable and medicine since ancient times. Pliny recommended Fennel for ‘dimness of vision’, while Gerard wrote ‘Fennel seede drunke assuageth the paine of the stomache, and the wambling of the same, or desire to vomite, and breaketh winde’. It was believed to have magical powers in the Middle Ages and was hung over doors to keep out witches. It was also considered to be a remedy for snakebite. In the past, the poor ate Fennel to satisfy hunger pangs on fast days and to make unsavoury food palatable. Fennel sprigs used to be placed in horses’ harnesses to keep flies away. Chinese medicine prescribes fennel for food poisoning, hernias, abdominal pain and indigestion.
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