Applications To Health Promotion And Disease Prevention

Fennel seeds and seed oil (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) are used to promote health, in prevention of diseases, and as a flavoring agent in food items. The seeds are sweet, laxative, stomachic, and stimulant, and are used as an appetizer. They are also used to treat headache, madness, flu, eye problems, weakness of eyesight, as a brain tonic, and in deafness.

In Greco-Arab (Unani) medicine, fennel seeds are used to cure bloat, diarrhea, menstrual problems, and piles. For centuries, fennel seeds remained a traditional herbal medicine in Europe and China. Uses of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) seeds in different forms, purposes, and cultures are given in Tables 55.2—55.4.

Fennel seeds have a long history of being a galactagogue. Fennel seeds boiled with barley are helpful for lactating women. A poultice prepared from fennel seeds is helpful to treat inflamed breasts. Tea prepared from fennel seeds contains vitamins (B and C) and vital minerals (potassium, magnesium, and calcium), and is used as a herbal remedy to treat colic, release spasms in the digestive tract, and for the treatment of gas and bloating (Ahmad et al., 2004; Hussain et al., 2008). Fennel-seed tea has also prescribed to expel hookworms, and to get rid of intestinal bacterial infections (Kapoor, 2001).

Fennel seeds are effective diuretics, and help to relieve hypertension. The seeds are ingested in Hindu and Chinese cultures to speed up the removal of snake and scorpion poisons (Duke, 1985). Fennel water is mixed with NaOH and syrup, and used as "gripe


Food and flavor


Gripe water and syrup



Antioxidant/anticancer Anti-snake bite venom


Seeds used as flavoring, digestive and refreshing agent in different foods and drinks, such as rice, meat, vegetables, salad, sauces, soups, pastries, bread, tea, alcoholic beverage, etc., and many herbal medicines and toothpastes (Yamini et al., 2002; Hussain et al., 2008). Seeds improve breast growth because of phytoestrogen content, and thus may increase milk production (Kabir-ud-Din & Mahmood, 1937; Yeung, 1985).

Seed extract is included in gripe water, traditionally used to treat abdominal pain in children, and in syrups used as liver tonic (Hussain et al., 2008).

Dry and fresh umbels are added as spices in the subcontinent and China (Yeung, 1985; Hussain et al., 2008).

Methanolic extract of fennel seeds has inhibitory effects against inflammatory diseases and type IV allergic reactions, and also exhibited a central analgesic effect (Eun & Jae, 2004). Fennel seeds have been described to possess antioxidant activity (Cai et al., 2004). In China, fennel seeds have been reported to be effective against snake venom (Duke, 1985).

Fennel essential oil is added to soaps, creams, condiments, perfumes, and liquor (Yamini et al., 2002; Hussain etal., 2008).

TABLE 55.3 Disease Prevention and Treatment by the Use of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) Seeds in Eastern Medicine



464 Phlegm/cough Chest pain Atrophic vaginitis Asthma


Scalding of urine



Fever Piles


Amenorrhea/menstrual problems

Biliousness Madness


Aqueous extract of seeds is mixed with honey and advised for a cough, as an expectorant (Kabir-ud-Din & Mahmood, 1937).

Seed decoction is mixed with NaCl and used for the alleviation of chest pain (Chughtai, 1950).

Phytoestrogens in the seed extracts are helpful in treating atrophic vaginitis due to lack of estrogens, and pain in the female genital tract (Jadhav & Bhutani, 2005). Fennel seeds are soaked in the milky white secretions of calotropis (Calotropis gigentia L.) and dried in the shade. This preparation is helpful in treating asthma, at extremely low doses in view of its toxicity. Essential oils have the potential to relax bronchial smooth muscles (Chughtai, 1950).

Seeds are boiled in water, and when the volume is reduced to one-fourth, a small amount of common salt is added; this mixture is administered to resolve tympany and bloat (Chughtai, 1950; Yeung, 1985).

Paste of the seeds is also utilized in the scalding of urine (Chughtai, 1950). The seed decoction has antidiarrheal efficacy (Chughtai, 1950; Yeung, 1985). Seeds alone, or mixed with sweetener, are advised as a stomachic (Kabir-ud-Din & Mahmood, 1937; Yeung, 1985).

Seeds are used in drinks, having a cooling effect in fevers (Singh & Panda, 2005). The seed decoction plus sweetener is effective for piles (Chughtai, 1950). Fennel seeds are helpful in treating gonorrhoea (Chughtai, 1950). A hot infusion of seeds is useful in amenorrhea, and when lacteal secretion is suppressed. It is also advised as a diaphoretic. Fennel has been found useful in painful menstrual cramps (Yeung, 1985; Singh & Panda, 2005). Seeds are considered effective in treating biliousness (Kapoor, 2001). A decoction of fennel seeds mixed with sweetener is found useful for madness (Chughtai, 1950).

250 g fennel seeds in powder form plus equal amounts of sweetener and cow's milk are mixed and stored in clay pots. This is advised, with cow's milk, in the morning and evening, for deafness and as a brain tonic (Kabir-ud-Din & Mahmood, 1937; Chughtai, 1950).


Usage and Significance of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. Seeds

TABLE 55.3 Disease Prevention and Treatment by the Use of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) Seeds in Eastern Medicine—continued



Hookworms Brain tonic

Restlessness/delirium Sleepiness Headache/giddiness Flu and cold

Digestive/abdominal disorders, and as diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, antispasmodic, and stomachic Eye ache/eyesight


Liver tonic

Digestive disorders in camels Respiratory ailments in camels

Indigestion and halitosis in camels



Seed oil acts as an anthelmintic against hookworms (Kapoor, 2001). A spoon of seed powder is taken with water daily as a brain tonic, for constipation, and as a stomachic (Chughtai, 1950).

Fennel seeds are boiled in water, and when the water has reduced by a half then one-fourth of cow's milk is added. It is useful for drowsiness (Chughtai, 1950). A seed decoction taken with common salt helps in lessening sleepiness (Chughtai, 1950).

Seed powder mixed with sweetener and used daily in the evening for some days is advised for headache/giddiness (Chughtai, 1950).

Seeds are soaked in half a liter of water. After 3 hours, the mixture is boiled and sweetener added. This is effective in flu and colds (Chughtai, 1950). Fennel oil is mildly carminative, and is helpful in infantile colic and flatulence. It also relieves griping abdominal pain and distention (Yamini et al., 2002; Ahmad et al., 2004; Hussain etal., 2008).

Fennel seed aqueous extract is advised for eye problems. Seed powder is taken daily with cow's milk to improve eye sight. A seed infusion may be used in cases of conjunctivitis and blepharitis (Kabir-ud-Din & Mahmood, 1937; Chughtai, 1950; Singh & Panda, 2005; Hussain etal., 2008).

A semi-hot aqueous extract of fennel seeds mixed with sweetener is drunk to clear the voice. Fennel seeds are widely used in India as an after-dinner breath freshener (Chughtai, 1950).

Seeds are helpful in opening obstructions of the liver, spleen, and gall bladder, and to relieve painful swellings and yellow jaundice. They also protect the liver from toxins. Fennel has been reported to enhance hepatic degeneration (Chughtai, 1950).

200 g fennel seeds are brewed in water and drenched (Muhammad et al., 2005). 250 g fennel seeds are used to treat respiratory problems ((Muhammad et al., 2005).

125 g fennel is given on a weekly basis for prevention of indigestion and halitosis (Muhammad et al., 2005).

Fennel seed extract has been found to be effective in animal studies in the treatment of glaucoma (Agarwal et al., 2008).

F. vulgare is crushd along with Coriandrum sativum and the mixture is mixed with vanaspati and sugar, then taken orally, to treat scabies (Saikia et al., 2006).

water" to relieve flatulence in infants (Hussain et al., 2008). An infusion or decoction of dried fennel seeds is considered helpful for the digestion of fatty food. Other beneficial effects of fennel seeds include weight loss by enhancing the metabolism, soothing sore throats, and loosening/expelling phlegm from the respiratory tract. In the subcontinent, licorice-flavored fennel seeds are served after meals to cleanse the breath. Fennel seed powder is also added in carminative mixtures in Pakistan, and used as spices in Assam, Bengal, and Oriysa, India. Fennel seeds are added in different fish dishes, vegetable products, meat and teas in the subcontinent and China (Yamini et al., 2002; Hussain et al., 2008). They can also be used with purgatives to alleviate their side effects. A decoction of a fine powder of crushed seeds is used to wash the eyes to reduce irritation and eye strain.

Fennel seeds and their oil have common use in soap and confectionery items, as well as in liqueurs, sweet pickles, sweet rice, bread, meat sauces, and candies (Hussain et al., 2008). They are also used as a flavoring agent in natural toothpastes. Fine fennel-seed powder is also used as a flea repellent in stables.

TABLE 55.4 Greco-Arab and Traditional Preparations of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) Seeds in Eastern Medicine

Preparation (Local Names)



Safoof akseer paichus



Ghota Decoction

Jildi Marham

Ethno-remedy for reproductive disorder in large ruminants Ethno-remedy for reproductive disorder in large ruminants

Fennel, coconut and sweetener in 1 : 1 : 2 ratio

Fennel seeds and coriander (1 : 1) are ground, then cow's milk and sweetener are added.

About 375 g fennel seeds are boiled in 1 l water. When it is reduced to one-third, 0.5 kg sweetener is added and the mixture is heated until it makes a paste.

Violet, black pepper, and coriander are dissolved in water and strained

Fennel seeds, mint, clove, and rose petals are boiled in water. When volume is reduced to one-half, it is mixed thoroughly, strained, and offered to the patient in small quantities

Fennel seeds, sugar, tamarind bark and cloves (5:6:4:2) are mixed as a paste Amomum subulatum Roxb. (100 g) + Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (250 g) + Trachyspermum ammi (L.) (50 g) Sprague. exTurrill. + Papaver hybridum L. (250 g) are mixed and administered orally for 3 consecutive days Piper nigrum L. + Amomum subulatum Roxb + Foeniculum vulgare Mill. + Cinnamomum Zylanicum Nees. 50 g of each component of preparation is mixed in jaggery and administered orally in four equal doses over 4 days.

Administered with fresh water for diarrhea and dysentery Effective for allergy

Advised thrice a day as expectorant, and for throat problems

Taken with sweetener for nose bleeds

Useful for cholera

For chronic skin diseases

Remedy is used to treat anestrous in cattle and buffaloes (Dilshad et al., 2008).

Remedy is useful to treat rectal prolapse in cattle and buffaloes (Dilshad et al., 2008).

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