• Clinical data 90%
  • Efficacy 80%
  • Security 70%
  • Toxicity 30%

Foeniculum vulgare
Fructus Foeniculi


Anethum foeniculum Clairv., A. foeniculum L., A. rupestre Salisb., Feniculum commune Bubani, Foeniculum azoricum Mill., F. capillaceum Gilib.,  F. dulce DC., F. foeniculum (L.) H. Karst., F. offi cinale All., F. panmorium DC., F. piperitum DC., F. sativum Bertol, Ligusticum divaricatum Hoffmannsegg et Link, L. foeniculum Crantz, Meum foeniculum (L.) Spreng., Ozodia foeniculacea Wight et Arn., Selinum foeniculum (L.) E.H.L. Krause. Apiaceae are also known as Umbelliferae.

General appearance

Cremocarp, oblong 3.5–10.0 mm long, 1–3 mm wide, externally greyish yellow-green to greyish yellow often with pedicel 2–10 mm long. Mericarps usually free, glabrous, each bearing fi ve prominent slightly crenated ridges.

Major chemical constituents

The major constituent is the essential oil (2–6%), which contains transanethole (50–82%), (+)-fenchone (6–27%), estragole (methylchavicol) (3–20%), limonene (2–13%), p-anisaldehyde (6–27%), α-pinene (1–5%) and α-phellandrene (0.1–19.8%) (9, 12, 14, 21, 22).

Medicinal uses of Foeniculum vulgare

Uses supported by clinical data
Uses described in pharmacopoeias and well established documents
Foeniculum vulgare: symptomatic treatment of dyspepsia, bloating and fl atulence. As an expectorant for mild infl ammation of the upper respiratory tract. Treatment of pain in scrotal hernia, and dysmenorrhoea.
Uses described in traditional medicine
Treatment of blepharitis, bronchitis, constipation, conjunctivitis, diabetes, diarrhoea, dyspnoea, fever, gastritis, headache, pain, poor appetite and respiratory and urinary tract infections. As an aphrodisiac, anthelminthic,
emmenagogue, galactagogue and vermicide.


Experimental pharmacology

Analgesic and antipyretic activities

Intragastric administration of 500 mg/kg body weight (bw) of a 95% ethanol extract of Fructus Foeniculi to mice reduced the perception of pain as measured in the hot-plate test, and decreased yeast-induced pyrexia. Intragastric administration of 500.0 mg/kg bw of a 95% ethanol extract of the fruits to rats had signifi cant (P < 0.05) analgesic activity in the hot-plate reaction test. In mice with yeast-induced pyrexia, treatment with 500.0 mg/kg bw of the same extract reduced rectal temperature from 36.5 ºC to 34.7 ºC 90 minutes after administration.

Antimicrobial activity

An essential oil from the fruits inhibited the growth of Alternaria species, Aspergillus fl avus, A. nidulans, A. niger, Cladosporium herbarum, Cunninghamella echinulata, Helminthosporium saccharii, Microsporum gypseum, Mucor mucedo, Penicillium digitatum, Rhizopus nigricans, Trichophyton roseum and T. rubrum in vitro. In another study, an essential oil was not active against Aspergillus species in vitro but a methanol extract of the fruits inhibited the growth of Helicobacter pylori (the bacterium associated with gastritis and peptic ulcer disease) in vitro, minimum inhibitory concentration 50.0 μg/ml. An essential oil from the fruits inhibited the growth of Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Lentinus lepideus, Lenzites trabea, Polyporus versicolor, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, and Kloeckera apiculata, Rhodotorula rubra and Torulopsis glabrata in vitro. An ethyl acetate extract of the seeds inhibited the growth of Shigella fl exneri, and an 80% ethanol extract of the seeds inhibited the growth of Bacillus subtilis and Salmonella typhi at concentrations of 250.0 μg/ml in vitro.

Antispasmodic activity

An ethanol extract of the fruits, 2.5–10.0 ml/l, 1 part fruits:3.5 parts 31% ethanol, inhibited acetylcholine- and histamine-induced guinea-pig ileal contractions in vitro. An essential oil from the fruits reduced intestinal spasms in mouse intestine, and was 26% as active as papaverine. Intragastric administration of 2.0 3.0 g/kg bw of an infusion of the fruits to cats inhibited acetylcholine- and histamine-induced ileum spasms by 50%. An essential oil from the fruits, 25.0 μg/ml and 10.0 μg/ml, respectively, inhibited oxytocin- and prostaglandin E2-induced contractions of isolated rat uterus and reduced the frequency of the latter but not the former.

Cardiovascular effects

Intravenous administration of a 50% ethanol extract of the fruits (dose not specifi ed) reduced blood pressure in dogs. An aqueous extract of the fruits, 10% in the diet, reduced blood pressure in rats. The effect was abolished by pretreatment of the animals with atropine. An unspecifi ed extract of the seeds had diuretic effects in rabbits after intragastric administration. The effect was blocked by pretreatment of the animals with morphine.
Intragastric administration of 500.0 mg/kg bw of a 95% ethanol extract of the fruits to rats induced diuresis. The effect was comparable to that observed in animals treated with 960.0 mg/kg bw of urea, and was almost double that in controls.

Estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities

Intragastric administration of 2.5 mg/kg bw of an acetone extract of the seeds daily for 15 days to male rats decreased the protein concentration in the testes and vas deferens, and increased it in the seminal vesicles and prostate gland. The same dose of the same extract administered to female rats daily for 10 days increased the weight of the mammary glands, while higher doses induced vaginal cornifi cation, increased the weight of
the oviduct, endometrium, myometrium, cervix and vagina, and induced estrus. A follow-up study demonstrated that the acetone extract induced cellular growth and proliferation of the endometrium, and stimulated metabolic changes in the myometrium of rats. These changes appearedto favour the survival of spermatocytes and the implantation of the zygote in the uterus. Conversely, intragastric administration of 2.0 g/kg bw of an aqueous extract of the seeds per day for 25 days signifi cantly (P < 0.025) reduced female fertility in mice compared with controls. No effect was observed in male mice. Intragastric administration of 0.5 mg/kg bw or 2.5 mg/kg bw of an acetone extract of the fruits per day for 10 days to ovariectomized female rats had estrogenic effects. Intragastric administration (dose not specifi ed) of an essential oil from the fruits to goats increased the amount of milk produced and the fat content of the milk. Lactating mice fed the fruits in the diet (concentration not specifi ed) produced pups that ate a larger quantity of fennel-containing foods, suggesting that the constituents of the fruits may be passed in breast milk. Intragastric administration of 250.0 mg/kg bw of unspecifi ed extracts of the fruits induced estrus and increased the size of the mammary glands and oviducts in adult ovariectomized rats, and exerted an antiandrogenic effect in adult male mice. It also increased the weight of the cervix and vagina of ovariectomized rats, and increased the concentration of nucleic acids and protein in cervical and vaginal tissues. The hyperplasia and hypertrophy of the cervix and vagina were similar to changes seen during estrus in normal female rats. Subcutaneous administration of anethole (dose not specifi ed) to sexually immature female rats increased uterine weight and induced estrus. However, in ovariectomized mice the same treatment was not estrogenic. Intramuscular injection of 100.0 mg/kg bw or 500.0 mg/kg bw of anethole per day for 7 days to rats induced a signifi cant decrease in dorsolateral prostate weight (P < 0.05). Intragastric administration of 50.0 mg/kg bw, 70.0 mg/kg bw or 80.0 mg/kg bw of trans-anethole to rats had anti-implantation effects, with the maximum effect (100%) at the highest dose. The compound showed estrogenic effects, and did not demonstrate anti-estrogenic, progestational or androgenic effects.

Expectorant and secretolytic effects

Application of an infusion of Fructus Foeniculi, 9.14 mg/ml, to isolated ciliated frog oesophagus epithelium increased the transport velocity of fl uid by 12%, suggesting an expectorant effect. Administration of 1.0–9.0 mg/kg bw anethole and 1.0–27.0 mg/kg bw fenchone by inhalation to urethanized rabbits produced a decrease in the specific gravity of the respiratory fl uid and enhanced the volume output of respiratory tract fluid.

Gastrointestinal effects

Intragastric administration of 24.0 mg/kg bw of the fruits increased spontaneous gastric motility in unanaesthetized rabbits; at a dose of 25.0 mg/kg bw the fruits reversed the reduction of gastric motility induced by pentobarbital.

Sedative effects

Intragastric administration of an essential oil from the fruits (dose not specifi ed) to mice reduced locomotor activity and induced sedation.
A single intraperitoneal administration of 200.0 mg/kg bw of an ether extract of the seeds enhanced barbiturate induced sleeping time in mice. However, intragastric administration of 200.0 mg/kg bw of the extract per day for 7 days decreased barbiturate-induced sleeping time.


Intragastric administration of 3.0 g/kg bw of a 95% ethanol extract of the fruits induced piloerection and reduced locomotor activity in mice. Acute (24-hour) and chronic (90-day) oral toxicity studies with an ethanol extract of the fruits were performed in rodents. Acute doses were 0.5 g/kg, 1.0 g/kg and 3.0 g/kg per day; the chronic dose was 100.0 mg/kg per day. No acute or chronic toxic effects were observed. The acute median lethal dose (LD50) of anethole in rats was 3.8 mg/kg bw after intragastric administration. Intragastric or subcutaneous administration of 10.0–16.0 g/kg bw of a 50% ethanol extract of the fruits to mice had no toxic effects. The oral LD50 of an essential oil from the fruits in mice was 1326.0 mg/kg bw. Chronic use of high doses of trans-anethole in rodent dietary studies has been shown to induce cytotoxicity, cell necrosis and cell proliferation. In rats, hepatotoxicity was observed when dietary intake exceeded 30.0 mg/kg bw per day. In female rats, chronic hepatotoxicity and a low incidence of liver tumours were reported with a dietary intake of trans-anethole of 550.0 mg/kg bw per day, a dose about 100 times higher than the normal human intake. In chronic feeding studies, administration of trans-anethole, 0.25%, 0.5% or 1% in the diet, for 117–121 weeks had no effect on mortality or haematology, but produced a slight increase in hepatic lesions in the treated groups compared with controls. Unscheduled DNA synthesis was not induced in vitro by anethole, but was induced by estragole, an effect that was positively correlated with rodent hepatocarcinogenicity. However, the dose of estragole used (dose not specifi ed) in the rodent studies was much higher than the dose normally administered to humans. Low doses of estragole are primarily metabolized by Odemethylation, whereas higher doses are metabolized primarily by 1′-hydroxylation, and the synthesis of 1′ hydroxyestragole, a carcinogenic metabolite of estragole.

Clinical pharmacology

No information available.

Adverse reactions

In rare cases, allergic reactions such as asthma, contact dermatitis and rhinoconjunctivitis have been reported in sensitive patients.


The fruits are contraindicated in cases of known sensitivity to plants in the Apiacaeae. Owing to the potential estrogenic effects of the essential oil from the seeds and anethole (44, 45, 50), its traditional use as an emmenagogue, and the lack of human studies demonstrating effi cacy, Fructus Foeniculi should not be used in pregnancy. Pure essential oils should not be given to infants and young children owing to the danger of laryngeal spasm, dyspnoea and central nervous system excitation.


The pure essential oil from the fruits may cause infl ammation, and has an irritant action on the gastrointestinal tract.

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