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The herb fennel has a long history of use as both food and medicine. Traditionally, it is said to act as a carminative, a term that means that it helps the body expel gas. Other traditional uses include increasing breast milk production, easing childbirth, soothing cough, promoting menstrual flow, soothing indigestion, and enhancing libido. Fennel is also a common ingredient in “gripe water,” a traditional (and highly alcoholic) preparation used for treating infant colic .
Animal and test-tube studies hint at a number of potential medicinal effects of fennel or its constituents, such as relaxing smooth muscles, stimulating the flow of bile, and reducing pain. 1 However, only double-blind , placebo-controlled studies in humans can actually show a treatment effective. Only one such study of this type has been performed for fennel.
This trial enrolled 125 infants with colic , who received either placebo or fennel seed oil at a dose of 12 mg daily per kg of body weight. 2 The results were promising. About 40% of the infants receiving fennel showed relief of colic symptoms, as compared to only 14% in the placebo group, a significant difference. Another way to view at the results involves looking at hours of inconsolable crying. In the treated group,...
As a widely consumed food spice, fennel is thought to have a high safety factor. However, according to one placebo-controlled study with rats, fennel impairs the absorption of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (Cipro). 3 Fennel might be expected to interfere similarly with other drugs in the ciprofloxacin family, the fluoroquinolone drugs. Allowing 2 hours between taking ciprofloxacin and fennel should reduce the potential for an interaction, but may not eliminate it. For this reason, it may be advisable to avoid taking fennel during therapy with ciprofloxacin or other antibiotics in this family.
Maximum safe doses of fennel in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.