Compounds in fennel essential oil have been linked to cancer and epileptic seizures. Believe me, it’s true. Here’s more about this unique essential oil.
Fennel Essential Oil Properties
The main botanical name of fennel is Foeniculum vulgare. Look out for this name when buying the oil.
Color and smell
The oil is clear but may have hints of yellow in it. And it smells sweet, a little peppery, and licorice-like. It’s nice.
What’s in the oil?
The main chemical in fennel essential oil is trans-anethole. It dominates the oil and can make up anywhere from 8% to 80% of the oil.
Other predominant compounds include fenchone and estragole. The oil also contains small levels of alpha-phellandrene, alpha-pinene, beta-myrcene, limonene, and p-cymene.
Trans-anethole and estragole are not the best compounds to have in an essential oil. They may cause cancer and epileptic seizures. It’s true. So use caution with this oil.
Fennel Essential Oil Benefits
There are serious health risks when using this oil. But studies have found it is antioxidant, antimicrobial and insecticidal. And it may help with irritable bowel syndrome and painful period cramps.
It may fight free radicals
That is according to this 2009 study published in the Flavour and Fragrance Journal. It tested the oil and found it had good free radical scavenging and antioxidant activity.
That’s great! But this was a lab study, so we aren’t sure if the oil can fight free radicals on our skin or in our bodies. We need more research to know that for certain.
It is moderately antibacterial
We know this fennel essential oil benefit for sure.
These 2015 and 2014 studies proved fennel oil had moderate antibacterial activity. In fact, another study from the International Journal of Food Microbiology compared the activity of 14 oils on 10 bacterial strains. The oils used here included anise, cinnamon bark, fennel, oregano, orange, sage, and thyme.
The study showed oregano, cinnamon, and thyme were the most powerful oils. And fennel only had moderate antibacterial activity.
It is antifungal
While ajwain had the highest antifungal activity, fennel oil did show good results.
The oil kills bugs
Fennel also has moderate insecticidal benefits on bugs and their larvae.
For instance, check out this 2013 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It tested four essential oils (cumin, dill, fennel and parsley) on moth larvae. The main compounds of the oils were also tested on the larvae.
Interestingly, parsley, dill, trans-anethole and cuminaldehyde had the most impact on the larvae. So fennel has good insecticidal and larvicidal benefits, just not the best.
But these studies involved taking the oil orally. I am not an advocate of ingesting oils, but I’ve added the links to these studies for you to check out. If you do plan to use the oil, please consult your doctor first. You’ll see why this is so important in the next section.
Using Fennel Essential Oil
Personally, I don’t recommend using fennel essential oil.
Why? There are troubling reports about fennel oil, trans-anethole, and estragole.
Here is one such report from a 2011 study. It discussed the seizure of an epileptic woman, who controlled her condition well. What happened? She ate cake containing fennel essential oil. Then she experienced a terrible seizure that caused her to be unconscious for 45 minutes. That’s crazy!
The study pointed out the oil can cause seizures. And it urged persons with epilepsy to avoid all contact with the oil.
But that’s not all. Some studies suggest estragole can cause cancer. And it is especially dangerous for babies. But this 2012 study noted the low levels of estragole in fennel oil may not be harmful. The study suggested the other compounds in the oil may negate the carcinogenic nature of estragole.
That’s still not all! There may also be a link between trans-anethole and liver cancer in lab rats. But more research must be done to verify this.
That being said, high levels of trans-anethole can be irritating and toxic. So avoid this oil if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or epileptic. And do not use it on kids.
Last, but not least, talk to your doctor before using this or any other essential oil. If your doctor gives you the OK to use fennel oil, you can try these brands from Amazon.