Anethole – A clear, colorless to amber liquid. This terpene is found in specific essential oils and used to flavor various foods and cosmetic products. It has a very sweet smell and flavor reminiscent of licorice.1
Classification within Terpenes: Monoterpene
Anethole is found in star anise and aniseed naturally, as well as a few other plants. It is often extracted to be used as a flavoring agent in things like toothpaste, lipsticks, and even certain medicinal candies. Anethole’s scent profile is used in products that are meant to smell like licorice as well. It is also used to sweeten drinks in some applications as it is almost 13 times sweeter than traditional sugar and does not tend to have the same aftertaste or effects as other sugar substitutes.
It is the main ingredient that gives the Greek alcohol “Ouzo” the trademark flavor and scent as well as the popular French spirit “Absinthe.” 2
Many people choose to use it as a treatment for cuts and bruises as it has anti-fungal properties and can help prevent infection. To be used in this manner, it should be diluted with a carrier oil and applied once a day to the area that has been injured after it has been cleaned. The same properties allow it to combat the growth of yeast on the injured part of the body as well.
Uses in Aromatherapy
Mixing an essential oil high in anethole, such as fennel, at the right dilution with other essential oils and carrier oils have been shown to promote relaxation. They can be either used aromatically or applied topically through massage therapy. This oil is a good candidate for use in full body massage as well as aromatherapy.3
Breast Milk Production Aid
Fennel and aniseed are key ingredients in herbal teas and other products marketed for lactation support. Many ready-made creams for this purpose will already contain essential oils high in anethole.
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Anethole has been shown to help balance out fluid retention and curb appetite when used aromatically. This makes it a prime candidate for use in weight loss aromatherapy blends. Generally, these blends should be used with a diffuser, but they can also be applied to the skin using a carrier oil to gain the benefits of their scent all day long. Fennel, in particular, reduces fat and mucus inside the intestinal tract and is a well-known appetite suppressant. The effectiveness of this oil in terms of weight loss is greatly increased when blended with other oils to further reduce hunger, promote satiation, and stimulate metabolism.
When carefully taken in diluted form, anethole has been known to have mild diuretic properties. This application should only be undertaken with the knowledge of a trained health professional and with a food safe essential oil. Drinking fennel tea safely releases its essential oils which may aid in flushing toxins and promote perspiration of excess fluids.
During times of sickness and less than perfect health, essential oils that contain anethole can help clear mucus and have an expectorant effect on the body. Place a few drops in hot water and inhale the steam or use it in a warm air humidifier or diluted in an essential oil vaporizer. If you have been told by a doctor to avoid coughing too much, then you should avoid this use.
A use that dates back to ancient Egypt, using diluted amounts of fennel for oral ingestion or using its essential oil in an aromatherapy blend directly after eating has been shown to promote good digestion. It can be combined with cumin and aniseed to get the most out of the digestive properties it displays.4
Safety Profile of Anethole
Toxicity: Toxic in large amounts
Reactivity Profile: Light Reactive – Should be stored away from light
Air & Water Reactions: Slightly Water Soluble
Reactivity Warnings: None
Reactive Groups: Ethers, Hydrocarbons – Aliphatic Unsaturated
Incompatible Absorbents: Dirt, Earth 5
Additional Information about Anethole
There are a large number of medical uses that can be attributed to this compound. Everything from prevention of seizures to the ability to slow contractions in women who are not yet ready to give birth. Many people have found it to be useful in the prevention or treatment of lice as well. Finally, it has been used as a popular insect repellent for many years, acting as a replacement for those who are allergic to more traditional formulas.
Molecular Formula: 6 C10H12O
Molecular Weight: 148.205 g/mol
Boiling Point: 454.1 degrees F at 760 mm Hg