Fennel Essential Oil
Native to Southern Europe, but also grown in various regions in the North of Europe and north America, fennel essential oil is derived from crushed fennel or Foeniculum vulgare seeds and has many therapeutic benefits that we will explore.
Fennel Oil Overview
Fennel essential oil is steam distilled from the seeds of the perennial fennel herb. It has a sweet, licorice like aroma that is certainly not to everybody’s taste but also many medicinal uses particularly related to digestion and respiratory complaints.
Fennel has been highly prized for centuries where it has been used in both cooking and traditional medicine around the world. These days it is an inexpensive and effective natural treatment for a range of digestive complaints, skin conditions and respiratory problems among others.
Fennel Oil Composition and Properties
Among its many chemical constituents, fennel essential oil contains a very high percentage of Methyl Chavicol or Estragole. It is also high in Alpha Pinene, Limonene and Trans-Anethole.
Like most essential oils, fennel oil comes equipped with a vast array of therapeutic properties that can help treat many health conditions. These properties include antifungal, antiseptic, carminative, diuretic and expectorant properties but there are many more besides.
Fennel essential oil blends well with lavender, geranium, rose and sandalwood and also with the citrus oils.
Fennel Essential Oil Benefits
1. Digestive Problems
Probably the best known use of fennel essential oil is to treat problems associated with the digestive system. A happy digestive system in full working order is absolutely essential to our overall health and fennel is an extremely effective natural remedy for stomach aches and pains, indigestion and bloating.
Fennel oil has carminative properties which work wonders in treating your digestive problems naturally which is why fennel oil has been used for so many centuries. As with many traditional remedies, it is great to see the modern world finally catching up with what our ancestors have long known and putting fennel oil to good use.
As well as having carminative properties which soothe the stomach, fennel essential oil is also a natural anti-spasmodic and people have long chewed on fennel seeds to ease cramps and hunger pangs.
Rubbing a few drops of fennel essential oil onto your stomach can help relieve stomach pain and cramping. Some people are happy to ingest the oil by adding a drop of two of fennel oil to a glass of warm water but there is not sufficient evidence that ingestion is totally safe.
2. Fungal Infections
Studies show that fennel essential oil is a very effective anti-fungal with the ability to treat a variety of fungal and yeast infections. It can help combat infections of the nails, skin and the hair as well as common yeast infections like candida albicans.
Recent research published in 2015 found that fennel essential oil was very effective against dermatophytes indicating that fennel essential oil had excellent anti-fungal potential to treat common skin, nail and hair fungus. (1)
- To treat nail or hair fungus, you can dilute your fennel oil with a suitable carrier oil and rub it gently into the affected areas.
- Alternatively, you can add a few drops of fennel essential oil to your regular shampoo or hand creams and add it to your daily routine.
As I am sure you are aware, there are numerous essential oils that can help you to overcome feelings of anxiety and stress. You might not be so familiar with the anxiolytic abilities of fennel oil especially when compared to far better known anti-anxiety oils like lavender or frankincense.
However, many people have used fennel oil to deal with stress and anxiety to great effect and recent research published in 2014 provides us with some justification. When mice were treated with either fennel essential oil or a common prescription drug-diazepam, researchers found that the animals treated with fennel oil was more effective on anxiety measurement tests than diazepam. (2)
The researchers conclude that fennel essential oil showed excellent promise for the future treatment of anxiety and of course the potential for adverse side effects is greatly reduced.
I know that some people will not enjoy the familiar licorice type scent of fennel oil but if you do like it and you want a natural treatment for your anxiety, then try diffusing it around the home or the office or add a few drops to your pillow before going to bed.
4. For Mental Focus
Try diffusing fennel oil at home or at work if you need to inspire focus and concentration. This might work especially well for students that are finding difficulties focusing on their school work or older people like me who find it difficult to get down to the day’s jobs.
There is some evidence that fennel oil really can help you to concentrate and improve your alertness. A Japanese study published in 2002 found that inhaling fennel essential oil stimulated sympathetic nerve system activities and adrenaline levels. (3)
5. Anti-bacterial Function
Several studies have demonstrated that fennel essential oil could combat bacteria responsible for gastric flu. (4) Another study showed that fennel oil was effective against bacteria which compromised the immune system like those commonly found in hospices and intensive care units. (5).
Research has also proven that it was effective against E.coli and A. aureus. Although this research was conducted in vitro, it is clear that fennel essential oil has a role to play when it comes to combatting a variety of bacterial strains that modern medicine is finding difficult to deal with.
Because of its antibacterial effects, you can apply fennel oil to minor cuts and wounds to prevent any infection from taking a hold and spreading further.
6. Respiratory Conditions
Fennel essential oil has expectorant qualities that make it one a good natural treatment for the common cold and related respiratory issues. If you are suffering from sinus issues or a build-up of phlegm in your throat then inhaling fennel essential oil directly from the bottle or your hands can help.
- A more effective alternative is to add a few drops of fennel oil and the same amount of peppermint oil to a hot sink of water and inhaling its therapeutic vapors.
7. For the Skin
When you think about the essential oils that benefit your skin, there are many that come to mind before you would ever think of fennel oil. Having said that, fennel oil has the ability to tone and moisturize your skin beautifully as well as being able to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and bags around the eyes.
Before applying fennel oil to your skin make sure that you dilute it with a suitable skin friendly carrier oil as applying it neat may cause an adverse reaction.
Fennel and Lemon Body Butter Recipe
This is a very easy recipe that you can use to give your entire body a treat
- Take either half a cup of virgin coconut oil or a quarter cup of coconut and a quarter cup of jojoba oil.
- Add half a cup of shea butter and heat it slowly until all the ingredients are nicely combined.
- Allow it to cool slightly and whip it well in a mixer.
- Now add ten drops of fennel essential oil and 10 drops of lemon essential oil.
- Whip it all together well again and store in a cool place ready to use.
8. Weight Loss
Ok, here we go again with another weight loss potion. I understand your skepticism but there is some evidence that fennel oil can help support weight loss especially when used as part of an overall diet plan.
It actually contributes to weight loss in several ways being an effective metabolic enhancer and also reducing hunger by suppressing the appetite. A German study found that overweight participants who supplemented with fennel seed oil consumed less food with the obvious knock on weight benefits.
Another Korean study published back in 2006 found that simply inhaling fennel essential oil improved food digestion and also reduced the calorific intake of rats.
Don’t expect simply diffusing fennel oil to help you lose weight quickly. Losing weight and keeping it off is a long term goal which usually requires some serious dietary and lifestyle changes. Still, fennel oil may be a contributory factor which helps you to reach your goal more quickly.
9. Breast Milk Production
Fennel essential oil has galactaogue properties meaning that it can increase the quantity of breast milk that a feeding mother can provide.
10. Menstrual Issues
Fennel essential oil contains a chemical compound called anethole which can reduce certain symptoms of menstruation such as pain, cramping and excess bleeding. Animal studies have demonstrated that fennel essential oil had a significant impact on painful cramping known as dysmenorrhea and had the potential to relieve menstrual pain complications in women. (7)
11. Vaginal Atrophy
A 2016 Iranian study on postmenopausal women concluded that a 5% fennel cream could manage vaginal atrophy symptoms. There was a decrease in vaginal pH and an increase in the maturation vaginal index (MVI). I’m not even going to try and explain this index but check the research link below for more information—we are not making this up! (8)
How to make your own Fennel Essential Oil
You should be able to buy fennel essential oil commercially without any trouble but you can also try making your own by following a few very basic steps. Once made, you can feel very proud of yourself and either use it at home or package it nicely to make a unique gift.
What you will need
- Fennel seeds
- A suitable carrier oil of your choosing – olive, coconut, sweet almond and jojoba are all excellent choices but there are many more to choose from.
- A food processor
- A glass jar
- A cheesecloth
Now that you have all your ingredients and tools at the ready, follow this procedure…
- Grind your fennel seeds into a very fine powder with your food processor.
- Put the ground seeds into your glass jar.
- Now fill the jar with your chosen carrier oil.
- Cover the mouth and sides of your jar with the cheesecloth.
- Place the jar under the sun for at least two weeks but make sure that you stir it well each day.
- Once the fortnight is up, extract the finished oil from your jar with a strainer.
- Store the finished product in a dark, cool area. So long as you store it properly, you can use it for up to two years.
How to Use Fennel Essential Oil
You can safely apply dilute fennel oil topically and although some people recommend ingesting a small amount, it is generally not advisable to take it internally.
- Inhalation: there are several ways to inhale fennel oil. You can inhale it directly from your bottle or a handkerchief or diffuse it in your diffuser machine.
- Massage: dilute the oil with a suitable carrier oil and massage it into your abdomen to treat menstrual pains or digestive problems.
- Essential oil bath: add 4 or 5 drops of fennel oil to your tub of hot water and let its goodness soak into your body.
Side Effects and Safety
As you can see, fennel essential oil has many natural health benefits but you should certainly exercise caution when using the oil.
- The anethole content of fennel oil boosts the production of estrogen which may be dangerous for pregnant women as well as women who have uterine or other estrogen related cancers.
- People who suffer from epilepsy should avoid fennel oil.
- Hemophiliacs should avoid taking the oil as should those with other bleeding conditions and those on diabetes or anticoagulant medications.
- Children under the age of 6 should avoid fennel oil.
- People with sensitive skin should exercise caution before applying fennel oil topically and should always dilute their oil before performing a patch test.
Plant Therapy has a good fennel essential oil.