Foeniculum vulgare

scientific name: 
Foeniculum vulgare Mill.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Erect perennial, glabrous branched herb up to 2 m tall. Leaves alternate with swollen sheaths 3-10 cm long, pale-edged and three or four times pinnatisect, forming fine thread-like segments; inflorescence in terminal umbels 12 cm diameter, flowers yellow 1-2 mm in diameter; fruit ovoid 5-6 mm long, greenish-brown with prominent ridges.

This species is frequently confused with Anethum graveolens, in spite of the fact that the latter has a shorter petiolar sheath and its fruit features tightly winged ribs, the two side ribs being broader.





  leaf, juice, drops (instillation) in the ear1

abdominal pain:

  seed and/or leaf, decoction, orally2

stomach pain:

  seed and/or leaf, decoction, orally2


  seed and/or leaf, decoction, orally2

The leaf of Foeniculum vulgare is widely used for human consumption and the seed is an industrial source of essential oil.

For stomach pain, abdominal pain and flatulence:

Prepare a decoction with 0.3-0.6 grams of dried seed or 3-5 grams of fresh leaves in 250 mL (1 cup) of water, boil for 10 minutes minimum in a covered pot, filter, allow to cool, and drink 1 cup 3 times a day24-25.

For earache:

There is no available information for establishing a means of preparation and dosage other than that referred to by traditional use.

According to published and other information:

Use for stomach pain, abdominal pain and flatulence is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys and available published scientific information.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should stomach pain persist for more than 3 days, seek medical attention.

Use for earache is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys and toxicity studies.

Due to the potential health risks associated with earache, and to determine whether it is caused by middle and/or inner ear infection, an initial medical evaluation is recommended.  Its use is contraindicated if symptoms such as ear secretions and/or evidence of perforation of the tympanic membrane are present.

Before any application in the ear, strict hygienic measures should be observed in order to avoid contamination or further infection.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should earache last more than 2 days, seek medical attention.

Not for use during pregnancy, during lactation or by children under 3 years old.

The seed can cause hypersensitivity and allergic reactions.

TRAMIL Research21

The lyophilized leaf juice (500 g), applied topically (0.5 mL and 0.75 mL) on the shaved skin of 16 white Hantley guinea pigs, divided in two equal groups including males and females (450-500 g), did not cause skin irritation (primary irritation ratio less than 5) 24 and 72 hours after application.  No alterations were observed from histopathological analysis.

TRAMIL Research13

The decoction of the fresh leaf (15-25 g/L) and the infusion of the dried seed (5-10 g/L), administered up to 500 mL/day/person, was shown to have an aromatic anise-like flavor and induced neither objective nor subjective signs of undesirable effects in patients.

TRAMIL Research26

The decoction of the fresh leaf (30 g in 100 mL water; yield) in a single oral dose (maximum volume 2 mL/100 g: equivalent to 6 g of plant material/kg or 194 mg of total solids/kg) in female rats, using an acute toxicity model, did not provoke any deaths or evident signs of toxicity during the first 24 hours nor over a further 14 days of observation, nor were any histopathological alterations found.

Trabajo TRAMIL27(will be translated in 3rd Edition)

Elzumo de hoja fresca machacada y exprimida mediante gasa, por vía tópica (parche con 0,6 mL/6 cm2 de piel/4 horas), modelo de irritabilidad dérmica aguda de Draize, a 3 conejas albinos Nueva Zelanda, se retiró el parche a las 4 horas y se lavó el área, se hicieron las lecturas de eritema y edema a 1, 24, 48 y 72 horas, mostró un índice de 0.00 que clasifica como no irritante.

The ethanolic extract (95%) of the aerial parts, administered orally (100 mg/day) to female mice resulted in death.  In male mice, this dosage was non-toxic.  The alcoholic extract of the plant at doses of up to 3 g/kg did not show spermicidal effects22.

Plant preparations taken at high dosages have been reported to potentially stimulate convulsions17.  Repeated skin exposure to the seed may cause allergic dermatitis in prone individuals23.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use in children or in women during pregnancy or while breast feeding.

The fruit and the aerial parts have been widely studied and contain, among other components: essential oil, mainly comprised of: trans- and cis-anethole (68%), limonene, fenchone3.  The fruit contains flavonoids: foeniculin, juglanin, kaempferol, quercetin and derivatives, iso-quercitrin, rutin4; nitrogen compounds: acetylcholine (74 nmoles/g), choline (2674 nmoles/g)5; coumarins: psoralen, xanthotoxin6, methoxypsoralen, iso-pimpinellin7, scoparone and seselin8.

The leaf contains flavonoids: kaempferol, quercetin, iso-quercitrin9, cynaroside10 and guaijaverin11.

Proximate analysis of 100 g of leaf12: calories: 28; water: 90%; proteins: 2.8%; fat: 0.4%; carbohydrates: 5.1%; fiber: 0.5%; ash: 1.7%; calcium: 100 mg; phosphorus: 51 mg; iron: 2.7 mg; potassium: 397 mg; carotene: 2100 µg; ascorbic acid: 31 mg.

Proximate analysis of 100 g of seed12: calories: 345; water: 8.8%; proteins: 15.8%; fat: 14.9%; carbohydrates: 52.3%; fiber: 15.7%; ash: 8.2%; calcium: 1196 mg; phosphorus: 487 mg; iron: 18.5 mg; sodium: 8.8 mg; potassium: 1694 mg; carotene: 81µg; thiamine: 0.41 mg; riboflavin: 0.35 mg; niacin: 6.05 mg.

TRAMIL Research13

The decoction of the fresh leaf (15-25 g/L) and the infusion of the dried seed (5-10 g/L), administered orally to adult humans (120-240 mL) and used in clinical phytotherapy, evidenced positive results in controlling minor spasmodic symptoms in the digestive tract.

The methanolic extract of the aerial parts showed antifungal activity against Aspergillus sp.14.

The aqueous extract (10%) of the dried seed in vitro acted as a smooth muscle stimulant in rat jejunum, and as striated muscle stimulant in toad rectus abdominus5.

The acetone extract of the seed, administered orally to rat for 10-15 days, exhibited estrogenic effects15.

The ethanolic extract (80%) of the dried fruit (100 mg/kg), administered orally in the carrageenan-induced rat paw edema test, reduced experimental edema by 36%16.

The dried fruit is claimed to have carminative, aromatic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, diuretic and appetite stimulant activity17.

The essential oil is claimed to have eupeptic, carminative and antiseptic properties17-18.

Anethole and its two polymers –dianethole and photoanethole—are considered active estrogenic agents19.

According to the Soviet pharmacopeia, this genus is used as a digestion stimulant and expectorant20.




1 WENIGER B, ROUZIER M, 1986 Enquête TRAMIL. Service Oecuménique d'Entraide SOE, Port au Prince, Haïti.

2 GERMOSEN-ROBINEAU L, GERONIMO M, AMPARO C, 1984 Encuesta TRAMIL. enda-caribe, Santo Domingo, Rep. Dominicana.

3 HAGINIWA J, HARADA M, MORISHITA I, 1963 Pharmacological studies on crude drugs. VII. Properties of essential oil components of aromatics & their pharmacological effect on mouse intestine. Yakugaku Zasshi 83:624.

4 AKUNZEMANN J, HERRMANN K, 1977 Isolation and identification of flavon(ol)-O-glycosides in caraway (Carum carvi L.), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.), anise (Pimpinella anisum L.), and coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), and of flavone-C-glycosides in anise. I. Phenolics of spices. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 164:194-200.

5 HARANATH P, AKTHER M, SHARIF S, 1987 Acetylcholine and choline in common spices. Phytother Res 1(2):91-92.

6 ZOBEL A, BROWN S, 1991 Psoralens on the surface of seeds of Rutaceae and fruits of Umbelliferae and Leguminosae. Can J Bot 69(3):485-488.

7 CESKA O, CHAUDHARY S, WARRINGTON P, ASHWOOD-SMITH M, 1987 Photoactive furocoumarins in fruits of some Umbellifers. Phytochemistry 26(1):165-169.

8 MENDEZ J, CASTRO-POCEIRO J, 1981 Coumarins in Foeniculum vulgare fruits. Rev Latinoamer Quim 12:91-92.

9 SALEH N, EL-NEGOUMY S, EL-HADIDI M, HOSNI H, 1983 Comparative study of the flavonoids of some local members of the Umbelliferae. Phytochemistry22(6):1417-1420.

10 LATTANZIO V, MARCHESINI A, 1981 Determination of plant phenols by gel filtration. J Food Sci 46:1907-1909.

11 HARBONE J, BOARDLEY M, 1984 Use of high-performance liquid chromatography in the separation of flavonol glycosides and flavonol sulphates. J Chromatogr 299(2):377-385.

12 DUKE JA, ATCHLEY AA, 1986 Handbook of proximate analysis tables of higher plants. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press. p75.

13 CARBALLO A, 1995 Plantas medicinales del Escambray cubano. Informe TRAMIL. Laboratorio provincial de producción de medicamentos, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.

14 LEIFERTOVA I, LISA M, 1986 The antifungal properties of higher plants affecting some species of the genus Aspergillus. Folia Pharm (Prague) 2:29-54.

15 MALINI T, VANITHAKUMARI G, MEGALA N, ANUSYA S, DEVI K, ELANGO V, 1985 Effect of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. seed extract on the genital organs of male and female rats. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 29(1):21-26.

16 MASCOLO N, AUTORE G, CAPASSO F, MENGHINI A, FASULO MP, 1987 Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytother Res 1(1):28-31.

17 DUKE JA, 1988 Handbook of medicinal herbs. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press.

18 PINKAS M, BEZANGER-BEAUQUESNE L, 1986 Les plantes dans la thérapeutique moderne. Paris, France: 2 éd. Ed. Maloine.

19 ALBERT PULEO M, 1980 Fennel and anise as estrogenic agents. J Ethnopharmacol 2(4):337-344.

20 HURTADO M, CARBALLO A, 1990 Las plantas medicinales TRAMIL en la farmacopea soviética. Centro de Investigaciones de Fitoterapia y Medicina Tradicional, Topes de Collantes, Cuba.

21 ALFONSO H, 1992 Evaluación de la toxicidad dérmica deMomordica charantia L., Foeniculum vulgare Mill yCassia occidentalis L. en cobayos. Informe tramil. Centro Nacional de Salud Animal CENSA, La Habana, Cuba.

22 SHAH A, QURESHI S, AGEEL A, 1991 Toxicity studies in mice of ethanol extracts ofFoeniculum vulgare fruit andRuta chalepensis aerial parts. J Ethnopharmacol 34(2/3):167-172.

23 SEETHARAM K, PASRICHA J, 1987 Condiments and contact dermatitis of the finger-tips. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 53(6):325-328.

24 ASSOCIATION SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE, 1983 British herbal pharmacopœia. Bournemouth, England: British Herbal Medicine Association.

25 CARBALLO A, 1995 Cálculo de concentración y dosis de las drogas vegetales TRAMIL: Mensuraciones farmacognósticas y aproximaciones técnico-clínicas. Laboratorio provincial de producción de medicamentos, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.

26 MARTINEZ MJ, MOREJON Z, LOPEZ M, BOUCOURT E, FUENTES V, MORON F, 2005 Clases tóxicas agudas (CTA) de una decocción de hoja fresca de Foeniculum vulgare Miller.Informe TRAMIL. Laboratorio Central de Farmacología, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas “Dr. Salvador Allende”, La Habana, Cuba.

27 MARTINEZ MJ, LOPEZ M, MOREJON Z, BOUCOURT E, FUENTES V, MORON F, 2005 Irritabilidad dérmica primaria del zumo filtrado de hojas frescas machacadas de Foeniculum vulgare Mill.Informe TRAMIL. Laboratorio Central de Farmacología, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas “Dr. Salvador Allende”, La Habana, Cuba.


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.