What Is Sweet Fennel Oil?
Sweet fennel oil comes from crushed fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare). The plant, which is a part of the Apiaceae family like carrot or parsley, 1 has an herby, slightly spicy smell that resembles aniseed. It is native to Southern Europe, but is also now grown in parts of Northern Europe, Australia, and North America. 2
Uses of Sweet Fennel Oil
Fennel was used in various ancient civilizations – by the Egyptians for food and medicine, and by the Chinese as a remedy for snake bites. During the Middle Ages, it was hung over doorways to drive away evil spirits.
In present times, sweet fennel oil is used mostly for medicinal purposes, such as killing parasitic worms and their spores in the intestines and excretory tracts, and as a laxative with no side effects.
It is also used for cosmetic purposes, especially as an ingredient in massage oils,3 perfumes, toothpastes, and soaps.4
Composition of Sweet Fennel Oil
The chemicals found in sweet fennel oil include anethole, fenchone, estragole, α-pinene and β-pinene, α-phellandrene and β-phellandrene, α-Terpineol, myrcene, campfer, and para-Cymol.5
Benefits of Sweet Fennel Oil
Sweet fennel oil acts as a stimulant for the nervous, digestive, and excretory system, and the endocrine and exocrine glands. It helps relieve dizziness, fatigue, and exhaustion.6
Other benefits you can get from using sweet fennel oil include:
- Carminative: eases indigestion and stomach pain
- Diuretic: removes excess water, sodium, uric acid, bile salts, and other toxic elements
- Splenic: protects the spleen from various infections
- Depurative: removes toxic substances in the blood
- Expectorant: provides relief from mucus and phlegm that lead to congestion of the nasal tract, pharynx, bronchi, and lungs
- Emmenagogue: relieves painful dysmenorrhea and helps prevent untimely or premature menopause in women
- Galactagogue: increases production of breastmilk in lactating mothers
Sweet fennel oil is also used to help treat insect bites, anorexia, hiccups, rheumatism, and spasms. The oil is also helpful in preventing wounds from becoming infected with tetanus.
How to Make Sweet Fennel Oil
Commercially available sweet fennel oil is made through steam distillation. However, you can make your own homemade sweet fennel oil infusion at home. Follow this recipe from Beauty Comes Home:7
Fennel seeds, depending on how much oil you want to produce
A carrier oil of your choice (olive, almond, sesame, or coconut oil)
- Grind the fennel seeds into a fine powder using the food processor.
- Put the powdered seeds inside a glass jar.
- Fill the jar with your carrier oil of choice.
- Cover the mouth and the sides of the jar with cheesecloth.
- Place under the sun for two weeks, stirring daily.
- After two weeks, use a strainer to extract the oil from the jar.
Make sure to store your finished product in a dark place and away from direct heat.8 When stored properly, this sweet fennel oil infusion can last for 24 months.9
How Does Sweet Fennel Oil Work?
Sweet fennel oil can be taken topically10 or via inhalation, although I strongly recommend against taking it internally.
Here are other ways to use this essential oil therapeutically:
- Massages and baths: Add two to three drops into your massage oil or your bath water.
- Facials: Blend a few drops with an unscented facial cream.
- Direct inhalation: Dilute three to four drops into a vaporizer or diffuser.
- Wounds: Apply one to two drops to the affected area.
Is Sweet Fennel Oil Safe?
Despite its many health benefits, I strongly advise you to take caution when using sweet fennel oil because it may also come with health hazards.
Sweet fennel oil’s trans-anethole component boosts estrogen production, which can be harmful for women who are pregnant, have breast or uterine cancers and tumors, or have a history of hormone-linked carcinoma or endometriosis.11
Likewise, if you have been diagnosed with epilepsy, peptic ulcer, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, or taking diabetes or anticoagulant medication, I suggest that you avoid sweet fennel oil, or any essential oil for that matter, to avoid serious complications.12
People with sensitive skin and children under the age of five should also stay away from this essential oil to prevent allergic reactions. Always check with your physician and/or take a skin patch test first to make sure that you can use sweet fennel oil without any problems.
Side Effects of Sweet Fennel Oil
Sweet fennel oil can have narcotic effects like convulsions, hallucinations, and mental imbalance, especially when consumed in large doses. It may also cause vomiting, seizures, and pulmonary edema.
Also, excessive topical use of sweet fennel oil may put you at risk to photosensitivity or dermatitis.13