Known for its liquorice-like, anise scent, fennel seed oil was once extremely popular in Chinese, Egyptian, and Roman cultures.
Back then, the oil was believed to promote longevity and strength, and was primarily used to ward off evil spirits. As the years went on, it became a popular appetite suppressant, used to keep hunger at bay in times of scarcity.
These days, fennel seed oil is mostly used to support digestive health, but it also has healing, protective qualities that make it a truly holistic home treatment.
If you're interested in finding out what fennel seed essential oil can offer you, we'll be touching on all its benefits, uses, and histories to help you make the most out of your wellness routine.
What is Fennel Seed Essential Oil?
There are two distinctive types of fennel seed essential oil: bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare amara) and sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare dulce).
Sweet fennel, as the name suggests, is the sweeter of the two and is therefore considered more popular for use in aromatherapy.
Extracted from the crushed seeds of the fennel herb, fennel seed oil is usually pale yellow in colour and is indigenous to the Mediterranean region.
What are the health benefits of Fennel Seed Essential Oil?
Both sweet and bitter variations of fennel seed oil will produce the same great benefits for the body, so feel free to use the oil that suits you best.
Some of the benefits of fennel seed essential oil include:
- Helping to treat colic
- Aiding digestive health
- Helping to heal wounds
- Providing high levels of antioxidants
Can fennel seed essential oil be used to help treat colic?
Spasms in the gut can cause hiccups, coughing fits, and cramps, and can also contribute to symptoms of the condition colic.
Fennel seed oil can have antispasmodic effects on the gut that allow it to relax spasming muscles and soothe these symptoms. As a consequence of this, fennel seed oil has been used for many years as a home remedy for colic symptoms, and in 2003 a study took place that tested this practice.
Researchers who tested the oil on infants with colic found that fennel seed was able to reduce intestinal spasms and increase the movement of cells in the small intestines. This led to a dramatic improvement in their symptoms.
When diluted and applied topically to the abdomen, fennel seed oil may help to reduce the severity of symptoms in a number of spasmodic conditions.
Is fennel seed oil beneficial for digestive health?
People have long been using fennel seed oil to relieve gas and constipation, clear the bowels, and reduce bloating.
Beyond this, fennel seed oil is known to be one of the best oils for managing symptoms of IBS. It’s a particularly volatile oil, which means that it evaporates rapidly and can potentially provide faster relief as a result.
This allows the effects of the oil to quickly reach the gut and enact its soothing abilities.
While internal use of essential oils is never recommended (unless approved by a medical professional), topical application of fennel seed to the abdominal area can still achieve these same great effects.
Can fennel seed essential oil help to heal wounds?
A study in 2014 looked at the effects of various essential oils on bacterial infections and found that fennel seed oil had significant antibacterial effects. It was also found to be very effective at preventing wounds from becoming infected.
Applying a small amount of diluted fennel seed oil to the area around a wound can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and keep the wound clean, enabling faster healing.
It’s important not to apply fennel seed oil directly to an open wound without seeking medical advice first.
Is fennel seed oil high in antioxidants?
A study in 2009 found that fennel seed oil has high amounts of total phenolic contents, which gives it its strong antioxidant properties.
These antioxidant properties can contribute to wound healing and allow the oil to fight free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are toxins that may cause cell damage via oxidisation if left unchecked – the antioxidants in fennel oil fight against these free radicals and help to preserve cells.
How to use Fennel Seed Essential Oil
While the benefits of fennel seed essential oil are mostly topical, there are other ways to effectively use this oil throughout your day-to-day. Here are some of our favourite ways to use it.
Sweet and spicy with a noticeable licorice aroma, the unique scents of fennel seed oil are ideal for adding to an electric diffuser or oil burner.
Some sources claim that inhaling fennel seed may even improve signs of stress or anxiety, so it's definitely a worthy addition if you find yourself feeling these emotions on a regular basis.
As an antispasmodic, fennel seed oil offers many benefits for a massage. Antispasmodic oils can calm sore muscles as well as reduce pain.
On top of these effects, fennel seed can also be applied topically to the abdomen to help with symptoms of colic or with digestive issues like IBS.
Try diluting a few drops of fennel seed oil with your favourite carrier oil and massage into the skin as needed.
High in antioxidants, fennel seed oil may be able to offer protection against external irritants like sunlight or pollution when applied to the skin. It may also help with common skin issues such as signs of aging or dullness.
Dilute a few drops with a non-comedogenic carrier oil like grapeseed to feel these useful effects.
History of Fennel Seed Essential Oil
Historically, fennel seed has been used as a digestive aid to help maintain a slim and athletic figure.
Among the ancient Greeks, the seeds of the fennel herb were often consumed while training for the Olympics as a way to maintain strength, courage, and thinness. This same use was adopted by the ancient Romans to help satisfy cravings, as well as by devout Christians during periods of fasting.
In the Middle Ages, fennel seed became associated with witchcraft and warding off evil spirits. It was hung inside churches and on doors to protect inhabitants from the devil and his forces.
From its wide range of traditional uses, over the years the benefits of fennel seed have been distilled down into a smaller collection of well-documented, positive effects.
However, the diverse uses of the oil across the ancient world – from strengthening eyesight to curing snakebites – present many fascinating possibilities that it would be interesting to see properly researched in the future.