Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an ancient plant that originated around the Mediterranean coast, in modern-day southern Europe and Turkey. With its tall stalks and bright yellow flowers, fennel is an eye-catching plant that is currently grown in temperate climates around the world.1 Known for its unique flavor, its bulbs are considered an excellent addition to a number of culinary dishes.
Fennel seeds contain a large quantity of the essential oil, which is traditionally extracted through steam distillation.2 In the case of fennel essential oil, the scent carries a highly licorice-like fragrance.
Fennel essential oil has been traditionally used for its carminative or anti-flatulent properties.1 In medieval times, it was recognized as being beneficial for digestion.3 The plant itself was prevalent in Eastern medicine, and the seeds have been prized by herbalists dating back to the ancient Romans.4
Fennel essential oil is also valued by the pharmaceutical industry for its antiseptic properties, and is a common ingredient in cough suppressants and digestive medicines.2 Traditionally, it was used as a diuretic to encourage the passing of urine4
Fennel Essential Oil Uses
Fennel essential oil is highly valued for its scent. It has been used to scent cosmetics and oils, and it is beneficial in self-care regimens. It blends well with spearmint, geranium, wintergreen, and peppermint essential oil. Below you will find some of the most popular uses of fennel essential oil.
With a distinctive and calming fragrance, fennel essential oil can be used to enhance a massage. Mix 1-2 drops of fennel essential oil with 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil such as almond or jojoba. Apply to the skin and gently massage over the body for an uplifting massage.
Considered to have an invigorating aroma, fennel essential oil’s fragrance is reminiscent of licorice. For traditional aromatherapy, add 2-4 drops to a diffuser for up to 30 minutes. Alternatively, apply a drop of fennel essential oil to a cloth and hold it up to your nose to enjoy its fragrance.
Natural Air Freshener
Essential oils can be used to make an easy, homemade air freshener. Add 15-20 drops of fennel essential oil to 5 fl. oz. of water in a spray bottle. Gently shake the bottle to mix the ingredients. Spray throughout your home as a natural, home fragrance.
Relieve Cramps and Digestive Symptoms
To combat abdominal pain, mix equal parts fennel and peppermint essential oils in to 2 Tbsp. of a carrier oil. Gently apply to the stomach and rub in a circular motion until the mixture is absorbed. Users can substitute peppermint for carrot seed essential oil if they prefer.
For a natural, and chemical-free perfume, 1-2 drops of fennel essential oil to a carrier oil and apply to your neck or wrists.
For a more diluted fragrance, add a drop of fennel essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water and mist your hairbrush before combing through your hair.
Add a couple drops of fennel essential oil to your bathwater for a relaxing and fragrant soak.
Benefits of Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel essential oil has been observed in scientific studies to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, help reduce symptoms of colic, act as a natural insect repellent, and to promote healthy kidney function.
In a 2007 study, agricultural scientists in Turkey found that fennel oil demonstrated antifungal properties, and may help eliminate fungus infections. The scientists tested the effects of fennel essential oil on Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, a plant fungus, by planting tomatoes seedlings in the fungi-infected soil, and adding concentrated fennel essential oil to one group.
At the end of the trial, fennel essential oil was observed to effectively combat the fungus. Compared to the control group, 53% more seedlings survived in the soil treated with fennel essential oil. They concluded that fennel essential oil may offer farmers the opportunity to use naturally-derived agents instead of synthetic fungicides.5 This might be effective for individuals who are looking for a natural fungicide for gardening.
In recent years, there has been a growing amount of research conducted on the efficacy of fennel essential oil in fighting certain strains of bacteria. Fennel essential oil has demonstrated antibacterial properties against some strains of food- and seed-borne bacteria, particularly Staphylococus aureus, a bacterium that causes food poisoning.6
Cultures of different pathogens were taken from the infected leaves of tomato and pepper plants and were then introduced to fennel essential oil. Scientists think it might be possible to use fennel essential oil as an effective disinfectant, or even as a food additive one day.6
Reducing Symptoms of Colic
To date, there is only one medical treatment for colic, which has been reported to cause side effects for up to 5% of treated infants. In a 2003 scientific study, researchers compared a fennel oil emulsion against a placebo supplement, to see if it could prove useful as a natural remedy for soothing colicky babies.7,8
The fennel oil emulsion was noted to eliminate colic (according to one criteria) by 65%, compared to 23.7% in the control group. While this data is promising, commercially available essential oils are not appropriate for consumption.7
Note: This was a clinically supervised research study. Never independently choose a course of therapy of any kind for you or your child as an alternative to seeking medical attention. Pregnant women should not partake in therapies that involve fennel oil.4
In a recent clinical study, aerosol and cream products containing fennel oil were tested on human volunteers to determine if the essential oil could naturally help ward off the insects. Volunteers were exposed to mosquitoes in both a laboratory setting and outdoors in a field, with both products tested after 90 minutes.9
The aerosol product containing fennel oil was shown to have an 84% insect repellency rate, while the cream provided 70% repellency. This was an even higher repellency rate than some commercially prepared repellants, 9 demonstrating that fennel essential oil may be an effective, natural alternative. Users may wish to reapply fennel oil products more often than every 90 minutes to help maintain coverage.
Promote Healthy Kidney Function
Fennel has historically been used as a diuretic, and a recent study found that fennel extract had a positive effect on kidney function in animals. Animal subjects injected with an aqueous extract of fennel seed showed a beneficial effect over other control injections when their kidney tissue was tested. The scientists who conducted this study are enthusiastic about fennel’s potential to promote healthy kidney function, but called for further clinical research.10
Note: These controlled studies used specific parameters in the preparation of fennel essential oil and/or fennel extracts for scientific experimentation. Commercially available essential oils should not be consumed, particularly not without the advice of a health care professional.
Side Effects of Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel essential oil is generally well-tolerated and considered safe for inhalation and diluted, topical use. The ingestion of essential oils is not recommended as they can be harmful or toxic if swallowed. Always read and follow label instructions.
Using fennel essential oil is not advised for pregnant women.4 Persons with epilepsy, or patients with estrogen dependent cancers should avoid the use of fennel essential oil, including aromatherapy and topical use.12,13,14
Where to Buy Fennel Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through
expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Fennel. (2017). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://library.eb.com/levels/referencecenter/article/fennel/33984 – View reference
- Damayanti, A., & Setyawan, E. (2012). Essential oil extraction of fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) using steam distillation. International Journal of Science and Engineering. 3(2), 12-14. Retrieved from http://www.ejournal.undip.ac.id/index.php/ijse/article/viewFile/4059/3718
- Adamson, M. W. (2004) Food in medieval times. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT; London. Retrieved from http://www.reenactor.ru/ARH/PDF/Adamson.pdf
- Saddiqi, H. A., & Iqbal, Z. (2011). Chapter 55: Usage and significance of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds in Eastern medicine. In V. R. Preedy, R. R. Watson, & V. B. Patel (Eds.), Nuts and seeds in health and disease prevention (pp. 461-467). Academic Press: London; Burlington, MA; San Diego, CA. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-375688-6.10055-6
- Soylu, S., Yigitbas, H., Soylu, E. M., & Kurt, Ş. (2007). Antifungal effects of essential oils from oregano and fennel on Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 103(4), 1021-1030. doi:1111/j.1365-2672.2007.03310.x
- Soylu, S., Soylu, E. M., & Evrendilek, G. A. (2009). Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of essential oils of bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. vulgare) and dill (Anethum graveolens L.) against the growth of food-borne and seed-borne pathogenic bacteria. Italian Journal of Food Science, 21(3), 347-355. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284790594_Chemical_composition_and_antibacterial_activity_of_essential_oils_of_bitter_fennel_Foeniculum_vulgare_Mill_var_vulgare_and_dill_Anethum_graveolens_L_against_the_growth_of_food-borne_and_seed-borne_pat – View reference
- Alexandrovich, I., Rakovitskaya, O., Kolmo, E., Sidorova, T., & Shushunov, S. (2003). The effect of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 9(4), 58-61. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10656331_The_effect_of_fennel_Foeniculum_vulgare_seed_oil_emulsion_in_infantile_colic_A_randomized_placebo-controlled_study – View reference
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2016, April 27). Infantile colic. UMM Medical Reference Guide. Retrieved from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/infantile-colic
- Kim, S.-I., Chang, K.-S., Yang, Y.-C., Kim, B.-S., & Ahn, Y.-J. (2004). Repellency of aerosol and cream products containing fennel oil to mosquitoes under laboratory and field conditions. Pest Management Science. 60(11), 1125–1130. doi:1002/ps.921
- Sadrefozalayi, S., & Farokhi, F. (2014). Effect of the aqueous extract of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) on the kidney in experimental PCOS female rats. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 4(2), 110-117. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103710
- Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. (2014). General background: Antibiotic agents. Retrieved from http://emerald.tufts.edu/med/apua/about_issue/agents.shtml
- Skalli, S., & Soulaymani Bencheikh, R. (2011). Epileptic seizure induced by fennel essential oil. Epileptic Disorders. 13(3), 345-347. doi: 10.1684/epd.2011.0451.
- Koch, M. W. (2017). Phytoestrogens. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Retrieved from Research Starters database.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Aromatherapy. UMM Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. Retrieved from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy – View reference