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Overview InformationFennel is a perennial, pleasant-smelling herb with yellow flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean, but is now found throughout the world. Dried fennel seeds are often used in cooking as an anise-flavored spice. But don't confuse fennel with anise; though they look and taste similar, they are not the same. Fennel's dried ripe seeds and oil are used to make medicine.
Fennel is used by mouth for various digestive problems including heartburn, intestinal gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic in infants among othes. It is also used on the skin for excessive body hair growth in women, vaginal symptoms after menopause, and to prevent sunburn. But there is limited scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
In foods and beverages, fennel oil and fennel seed are used as flavoring agents.
In other manufacturing processes, fennel oil is used as a flavoring agent in certain laxatives, and as a fragrance component in soaps and cosmetics.
How does it work?Fennel might relax the colon and decrease respiratory tract secretions. Fennel also appears to contain an ingredient that may act like estrogen in the body.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Colic in breast-fed infants. Research shows that giving fennel to infants with colic may reduce crying by about an hour per day. But most of the studies conducted to date have flaws that make their results less reliable. Larger, higher quality studies are needed before fennel can be recommended for colic.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea). Taking fennel extract four times daily starting at the beginning of a period can reduce pain in girls and young women with painful menstruation called dysmenorrhea. However, other research shows conflicting results.
- Excess hair on women (hirsutism). Using fennel cream for 12 weeks may reduce hair on women with male pattern body hair.
- Menopausal symptoms. Early research shows that taking fennel essential oil improves menopausal symptoms.
- Sunburn. Applying fennel to the skin before ultraviolet (UV) exposure may reduce sunburn.
- Vaginal thinning. Applying a fennel cream once daily for 8 weeks reduces symptoms of vaginal thinning such as itching, dryness and pain with intercourse.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Airway swelling.
- Intestinal gas (flatulence).
- Mild spasms of the stomach and intestines.
- Stomach upset and indigestion.
- Swelling of the colon (colitis).
- Upper respiratory tract infection.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyFennel is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in the amounts commonly found in food. It is POSSIBLY SAFE when used as at appropriate doses for a short period of time. Fennel creams are also POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin. There is not enough evidence to know whether fennel is safe when used as medicine for longer periods of time. Although rare, other side effects might include stomach and intestinal upset. Seizures related to taking fennel essential oil by mouth have also been reported.
Some people can have allergic skin reactions to fennel. People who are allergic to plants such as celery, carrot, and mugwort are more likely to also be allergic to fennel. Fennel can also make skin extra sensitive to sunlight and make it easier to get a sunburn. Wear sunblock if you are light-skinned.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the safety of using fennel during pregnancy. It's best to avoid use.
During breast-feeding, fennel is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It's been reported that two breast-feeding infants experienced damage to their nervous systems after their mothers drank an herbal tea that contained fennel.
Children: Fennel products are POSSIBLY SAFE when used at appropriate doses by young infants for colic for up to one week.
Allergy to celery, carrot or mugwort: Fennel might cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to these plants.
Bleeding disorders: Fennel might slow blood clotting. Taking fennel might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
Hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Fennel might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use fennel.
Be cautious with this combination
Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs) interacts with FENNEL
Some birth control pills contain estrogen. Fennel might have some of the same effects as estrogen. But fennel isn't as strong as the estrogen in birth control pills. Taking fennel along with birth control pills might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you take birth control pills along with fennel, use an additional form of birth control such as a condom.
Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) interacts with FENNEL
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is an antibiotic. Fennel might decrease how much ciprofloxacin (Cipro) the body absorbs. Taking fennel along with ciprofloxacin (Cipro) might decrease the effectiveness of ciprofloxacin (Cipro). To avoid this interaction take fennel at least one hour after ciprofloxacin (Cipro).
Estrogens interacts with FENNEL
Large amounts of fennel might have some of the same effects as estrogen. But fennel isn't as strong as estrogen pills. Taking fennel along with estrogen pills might decrease the effects of estrogen pills.
Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.
Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) interacts with FENNEL
Some types of cancer are affected by hormones in the body. Estrogen-sensitive cancers are cancers that are affected by estrogen levels in the body. Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is used to help treat and prevent these types of cancer. Fennel seems to also affect estrogen levels in the body. Taking fennel along with tamoxifen might decrease the effectiveness of tamoxifen (Nolvadex). Do not take fennel if you are taking tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For colic in breast-fed infants: A 0.1% fennel seed oil emulsion has been given daily for one week.
- Gutierrez, J., Rodriguez, G., Barry-Ryan, C., and Bourke, P. Efficacy of plant essential oils against foodborne pathogens and spoilage bacteria associated with ready-to-eat vegetables: antimicrobial and sensory screening. J Food Prot. 2008;71(9):1846-1854. View abstract.
- Hotta, M., Nakata, R., Katsukawa, M., Hori, K., Takahashi, S., and Inoue, H. Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPARalpha and gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression. J Lipid Res 2010;51(1):132-139. View abstract.
- Javidnia, K., Dastgheib, L., Mohammadi, Samani S., and Nasiri, A. Antihirsutism activity of Fennel (fruits of Foeniculum vulgare) extract. A double-blind placebo controlled study. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(6-7):455-458. View abstract.
- Joshi, H. and Parle, M. Cholinergic basis of memory-strengthening effect of Foeniculum vulgare Linn. J Med Food 2006;9(3):413-417. View abstract.
- Kim, D. H., Kim, S. I., Chang, K. S., and Ahn, Y. J. Repellent activity of constituents identified in Foeniculum vulgare fruit against Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae). J.Agric.Food Chem. 11-20-2002;50(24):6993-6996. View abstract.
- Kim, S. I., Chang, K. S., Yang, Y. C., Kim, B. S., and Ahn, Y. J. Repellency of aerosol and cream products containing fennel oil to mosquitoes under laboratory and field conditions. Pest.Manag.Sci 2004;60(11):1125-1130. View abstract.
- Kwon, Y. S., Choi, W. G., Kim, W. J., Kim, W. K., Kim, M. J., Kang, W. H., and Kim, C. M. Antimicrobial constituents of Foeniculum vulgare. Arch Pharm.Res 2002;25(2):154-157. View abstract.
- Lee, H. S. Acaricidal activity of constituents identified in Foeniculum vulgare fruit oil against Dermatophagoides spp. (Acari: Pyroglyphidae). J Agric.Food Chem. 5-19-2004;52(10):2887-2889. View abstract.
- LEVY, S. B. Bronchial asthma due to ingestion of fennel and fennel seed. Ann.Allergy 1948;6(4):415. View abstract.
- Liu, Z., Lu, C., and Chen, J. [Correlation comparison of uterotrophic assay and E-SCREEN assay for estrogenic activities]. Wei Sheng Yan.Jiu. 2004;33(4):458-460. View abstract.
- Modaress, Nejad, V and Asadipour, M. Comparison of the effectiveness of fennel and mefenamic acid on pain intensity in dysmenorrhoea. East Mediterr.Health J 2006;12(3-4):423-427. View abstract.
- Murone, A. J., Stucki, P., Roback, M. G., and Gehri, M. Severe methemoglobinemia due to food intoxication in infants. Pediatr.Emerg.Care 2005;21(8):536-538. View abstract.
- Namavar, Jahromi B., Tartifizadeh, A., and Khabnadideh, S. Comparison of fennel and mefenamic acid for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Int.J.Gynaecol.Obstet. 2003;80(2):153-157. View abstract.
- Orhan, I., Kartal, M., Kan, Y., and Sener, B. Activity of essential oils and individual components against acetyl- and butyrylcholinesterase. Z.Naturforsch.C. 2008;63(7-8):547-553. View abstract.
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- Abramson, C. I., Wanderley, P. A., Wanderley, M. J., Silva, J. C., and Michaluk, L. M. The effect of essential oils of sweet fennel and pignut on mortality and learning in africanized honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Neotrop.Entomol. 2007;36(6):828-835. View abstract.
- Agarwal, R., Gupta, S. K., Agrawal, S. S., Srivastava, S., and Saxena, R. Oculohypotensive effects of foeniculum vulgare in experimental models of glaucoma. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2008;52(1):77-83. View abstract.
- Aggarwal, B. B. and Shishodia, S. Molecular targets of dietary agents for prevention and therapy of cancer. Biochem.Pharmacol 5-14-2006;71(10):1397-1421. View abstract.
- Aggarwal, B. B. and Shishodia, S. Suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway by spice-derived phytochemicals: reasoning for seasoning. Ann.N.Y Acad.Sci. 2004;1030:434-441. View abstract.
- Aggarwal, B. B., Kunnumakkara, A. B., Harikumar, K. B., Tharakan, S. T., Sung, B., and Anand, P. Potential of spice-derived phytochemicals for cancer prevention. Planta Med 2008;74(13):1560-1569. View abstract.
- Alexandrovich, I., Rakovitskaya, O., Kolmo, E., Sidorova, T., and Shushunov, S. The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Altern.Ther.Health Med. 2003;9(4):58-61. View abstract.
- Arya, S. Controlling angiotensin-converting-enzyme-inhibitor induced cough by fennel fruit. Indian J Pharmacol 1999;31(2):159.
- Bub, S., Brinckmann, J., Cicconetti, G., and Valentine, B. Efficacy of an herbal dietary supplement (Smooth Move) in the management of constipation in nursing home residents: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Am.Med.Dir.Assoc. 2006;7(9):556-561. View abstract.
- Camacho-Corona, Mdel R., Ramirez-Cabrera, M. A., Santiago, O. G., Garza-Gonzalez, E., Palacios, Ide P., and Luna-Herrera, J. Activity against drug resistant-tuberculosis strains of plants used in Mexican traditional medicine to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. Phytother.Res 2008;22(1):82-85. View abstract.
- Choi, E. M. and Hwang, J. K. Antiinflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant activities of the fruit of Foeniculum vulgare. Fitoterapia 2004;75(6):557-565. View abstract.
- Dres, C, Johnson, C, and Loda, L. Enzymes and erythema reduction. SPC 1999;71(313):33.
- El Bardai, S., Lyoussi, B., Wibo, M., and Morel, N. Pharmacological evidence of hypotensive activity of Marrubium vulgare and Foeniculum vulgare in spontaneously hypertensive rat. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2001;23(4):329-343. View abstract.
- Fugh-Berman, A. Herbal Supplements: Indications, Clinical Concerns, and Safety. Nutr Today 2002;37(3):122-124. View abstract.
- Gilligan NP. The palliation of nausea in hospice and palliative care patients with essential oils of Pimpinella anisum (aniseed), Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce (sweet fennel), Anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile) and Mentha x piperita (peppermint). International Journal of Aromatherapy (INT J AROMATHERAPY) 2005;15(4):163-167.
- Ozcan, M. M., Chalchat, J. C., Arslan, D., Ates, A., and Unver, A. Comparative essential oil composition and antifungal effect of bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ssp. piperitum) fruit oils obtained during different vegetation. J Med Food 2006;9(4):552-561. View abstract.
- Picon, P. D., Picon, R. V., Costa, A. F., Sander, G. B., Amaral, K. M., Aboy, A. L., and Henriques, A. T. Randomized clinical trial of a phytotherapic compound containing Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia augustifolia for chronic constipation. BMC.Complement Altern.Med. 2010;10:17. View abstract.
- Platel K and Srinivasan K. A Study of the digestive stimulant action of select spices in experimental rats. Journal of Food Science and Technology 2001;38(4):358.
- Schone, F., Vetter, A., Hartung, H., Bergmann, H., Biertumpfel, A., Richter, G., Muller, S., and Breitschuh, G. Effects of essential oils from fennel (Foeniculi aetheroleum) and caraway (Carvi aetheroleum) in pigs. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl) 2006;90(11-12):500-510. View abstract.
- Shah, A. H., Qureshi, S., and Ageel, A. M. Toxicity studies in mice of ethanol extracts of Foeniculum vulgare fruit and Ruta chalepensis aerial parts. J Ethnopharmacol. 1991;34(2-3):167-172. View abstract.
- Singh, B. and Kale, R. K. Chemomodulatory action of Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) on skin and forestomach papillomagenesis, enzymes associated with xenobiotic metabolism and antioxidant status in murine model system. Food Chem.Toxicol. 2008;46(12):3842-3850. View abstract.
- Subehan, Usia, T., Iwata, H., Kadota, S., and Tezuka, Y. Mechanism-based inhibition of CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 by Indonesian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 5-24-2006;105(3):449-455. View abstract.
- Subehan, Zaidi, S. F., Kadota, S., and Tezuka, Y. Inhibition on human liver cytochrome P450 3A4 by constituents of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): identification and characterization of a mechanism-based inactivator. J Agric.Food Chem. 12-12-2007;55(25):10162-10167. View abstract.
- Tognolini, M., Ballabeni, V., Bertoni, S., Bruni, R., Impicciatore, M., and Barocelli, E. Protective effect of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil and anethole in an experimental model of thrombosis. Pharmacol.Res 2007;56(3):254-260. View abstract.
- Tognolini, M., Barocelli, E., Ballabeni, V., Bruni, R., Bianchi, A., Chiavarini, M., and Impicciatore, M. Comparative screening of plant essential oils: phenylpropanoid moiety as basic core for antiplatelet activity. Life Sci. 2-23-2006;78(13):1419-1432. View abstract.
- Vasudevan, K., Vembar, S., Veeraraghavan, K., and Haranath, P. S. Influence of intragastric perfusion of aqueous spice extracts on acid secretion in anesthetized albino rats. Indian J.Gastroenterol. 2000;19(2):53-56. View abstract.
- Wright, C. I., Van Buren, L., Kroner, C. I., and Koning, M. M. Herbal medicines as diuretics: a review of the scientific evidence. J Ethnopharmacol. 10-8-2007;114(1):1-31. View abstract.
- Zahrani SH, Amjady MA, Mojab F, and et al. Clinical effects of foeniculum vulgare extract on systemic symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea in students of Shaheed Beheshti University in Tehran [Farsi]. SBMU Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery Quarterly (SBMU FAC NURS MIDWIFERY Q) 2005;15(49):14.
- Zeller, A., Horst, K., and Rychlik, M. Study of the metabolism of estragole in humans consuming fennel tea. Chem.Res Toxicol. 2009;22(12):1929-1937. View abstract.
- Zidorn, C., Johrer, K., Ganzera, M., Schubert, B., Sigmund, E. M., Mader, J., Greil, R., Ellmerer, E. P., and Stuppner, H. Polyacetylenes from the Apiaceae vegetables carrot, celery, fennel, parsley, and parsnip and their cytotoxic activities. J Agric.Food Chem. 4-6-2005;53(7):2518-2523. View abstract.
- Abedi P, Najafian M, Yaralizadeh M, Namjoyan F. Effect of fennel vaginal cream on sexual function in postmenopausal women: A double blind randomized controlled trial. J Med Life. 2018;11(1):24-28. View abstract.
- Badgujar SB, Patel VV, Bandivdekar AH. Foeniculum vulgare Mill: a review of its botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, contemporary application, and toxicology. Biomed Res Int 2014;2014:842674. View abstract.
- Bae J, Kim J, Choue R, Lim H. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) tea drinking suppresses subjective short-term appetite in overweight women. Clin Nutr Res 2015;4(3):168-74. View abstract.
- Burkhard PR, Burkhardt K, Haenggeli CA, Landis T. Plant-induced seizures: reappearance of an old problem. J Neurol 1999;246:667-70. View abstract.
- Chakurski I, Matev M, Koichev A, et al. [Treatment of chronic colitis with an herbal combination of Taraxacum officinale, Hipericum perforatum, Melissa officinaliss, Calendula officinalis and Foeniculum vulgare]. Vutr Boles. 1981;20:51-4. View abstract.
- Cuzzolin L, Zaffani S, and Benoni G. Safety implications regarding use of phytomedicines. Eur.J Clin Pharmacol. 2006;62:37-42. View abstract.
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- Harb T, Matsuyama M, David M, Hill RJ. Infant Colic-What works: A Systematic Review of Interventions for Breast-fed Infants. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016;62(5):668-86. View abstract.
- Lund B, Storm TL, Lund B, et al. Bone mineral loss, bone histomorphometry and vitamin D metabolism in patients with rheumatoid arthritis on long-term glucocorticoid treatment. Clin Rheumatol 1985;4:143-9.. View abstract.
- Ostad SN, Soodi M, Shariffzadeh M, et al. The effect of fennel essential oil on uterine contraction as a model for dysmenorrhea, pharmacology and toxicology study. J Ethnopharmacol 2001;76:299-304.. View abstract.
- Pitasawat B, Champakaew D, Choochote W, et al. Aromatic plant-derived essential oil: an alternative larvicide for mosquito control. Fitoterapia 2007;78:205-10. View abstract.
- Portincasa P, Bonfrate L, Scribano ML, et al. Curcumin and fennel essential oil improve symptoms and quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2016 Jun;25(2):151-7. View abstract.
- Rahimikian F, Rahimi R, Golzareh P, Bekhradi R, Mehran A. Effect of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (fennel) on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Menopause. 2017;24(9):1017-1021. View abstract.
- Rosti L, Nardini A, Bettinelli ME, Rosti D. Toxic effects of a herbal tea mixture in two newborns. Acta Paediatrica 1994;83:683. View abstract.
- Savino F, Cresi F, Castagno E, et al. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a standardized extract of Matricariae recutita, Foeniculum vulgare and Melissa officinalis (ColiMil) in the treatment of breastfed colicky infants. Phytother Res 2005;19:335-40. View abstract.
- Trabace L, Tucci P, Ciuffreda L, et al. "Natural" relief of pregnancy-related symptoms and neonatal outcomes: above all do no harm. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;174:396-402. View abstract.
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- Yaralizadeh M, Abedi P, Najar S, Namjoyan F, Saki A. Effect of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) vaginal cream on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Maturitas 2016;84:75-80. View abstract.
- Zhu M, Wong PY, Li RC. Effect of oral administration of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) on ciprofloxacin absorption and disposition in the rat. J Pharm Pharmacol 1999;51:1391-6. View abstract.
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