Best known for its licorice-like flavor and smell, fennel essential oil can be used internally, topically or via inhalation to improve respiratory function and digestion.
The essential oil is captured by steam distillation of the seeds of the fennel plant and is a key part of aromatherapy and holistic medicine because of its diverse benefits.
The History of Fennel
The first mention of fennel in recorded history dates back to the Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher Pliny the Elder who believed that fennel was eaten by serpents to improve their eyesight after shedding their skin. He began to experiment with fennel in medicines he created in his own apothecary, using it as the backbone of more than 22 different medicines.
In the early 1300s, King Edward I of England used fennel as both a condiment and an appetite suppressant. More than eight and a half pounds of fennel were purchased each month for his personal use. Additionally, when the church mandated specific fasting days, people throughout England used fennel seeds to curb their appetites.
This became such an important tradition in England that when the Puritans sailed to the Americas, they carried fennel in the holds of ships and nibbled on fennel seeds wrapped in handkerchiefs during sermons to curb hunger.1
In medieval times, Europeans believed evil spirits roamed freely as soon as the sun began setting. Whole fennel plants were hung over doorways and fennel seeds inserted into keyholes in an effort to prevent these spirits from entering the home.
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Hippocrates, a Greek physician, believed fennel essential oils could improve the milk supply produced by wet nurses. Additionally, ancient Greeks boiled fennel in hot water, producing a beverage designed to help them lose weight. This was consumed before major campaigns of war as well as before the earliest Olympic events.2
The Romans, Chinese, and Hindus used fennel as an antidote to poison. All their royal families had stockpiles of fennel ready to be boiled into a beverage should they become poisoned, and their armies carried fennel as an antidote against poisonous mushrooms or snake bites.
A variety of terpenes make fennel oil as beneficial as it is, including:
Levels of the compound trans-anethole are particularly high in fennel oil, providing a considerable amount of its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.3
All of these biochemical agents are bioavailable, meaning they can be rapidly absorbed into the body and making for the quick availability of their benefits.
Uses for Fennel Essential Oil
As mentioned above, the biochemical agents in fennel oil are among some of the most potent, allowing for health benefits like aiding digestion, removing toxic buildup in the blood, and relaxing muscles. Some of fennel essential oil benefits include:
Speed Up Healing of Wounds
A number of the biochemical compounds in fennel oil contribute its antiseptic properties. These properties are beneficial when fennel oil is applied topically to a wound, cleaning and protecting it from infection.
Spasms are unwanted, uncontrolled, and abnormal contractions that occur in soft tissue throughout the body. Fennel oil begins working upon contact, relaxing nerves and muscles to not only calm down current spasmodic attacks but to help prevent future ones.4
Not only does fennel essential oil help in regulating the menstrual cycle, but it also can also help alleviate premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Fennel oil provides relief for headaches, cramps, dizziness, and mood swings.
Alleviate Stress and Anxiety
Use of fennel essential oil by inhaling it through a diffuser can be used for managing stress or reducing anxiety. The oil can also be used as a means of relaxation after a long day and is known to improve mental clarity and focus.5
Safety and Precautions
Trans-anethole has the potential to significantly increase estrogen production, so the use of fennel essential oil is discouraged for women who are pregnant or have a history of carcinoma or endometriosis linked to hormone production in the body.
Individuals diagnosed with epilepsy, hemophilia, peptic ulcers, or other disorders that result in excessive bleeding are strongly discouraged from using fennel essential oils, as are individuals on medication for diabetes or anticoagulants.
If used improperly, fennel essential oil may produce hallucinations and confusion, convulsions and spasms, skin sensitivity, or nausea and vomiting. Photosensitivity and increased dermatitis risk are associated with overdose of fennel essential oil.6
As with all other essential oils, it is advisable to consult with a primary care physician before using fennel essential oil. This is especially true if you are taking medication or anticipate having surgery in the near future.
Whether you use fennel to fight a cough, benefit your digestive system, or improve mental clarity and energy, this powerful, potent, and effective essential oil can prove beneficial in your daily routine. MONQ has made it simple for you to incorporate it into your daily life as fennel is found in our Happy personal diffuser to help bring a little more joy into your life.