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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 860542, 10 pages
Review Article

Can Estragole in Fennel Seed Decoctions Really Be Considered a Danger for Human Health? A Fennel Safety Update

1Center for Integrative Medicine, Careggi and Department of Preclinical and Clinical Pharmacology, University Hospital of Florence and “M. Aiazzi Mancini”, University of Florence, Viale G. Pieraccini 6, 50139 Florence, Italy
2Interuniversitary Centre of Molecular Medicine and Applied Biophysics (CIMMBA), Department of Pharmacology, University of Florence, 50139 Florence, Italy

Received 30 March 2012; Accepted 20 June 2012

Academic Editor: Cassandra Quave

Copyright © 2012 L. Gori et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) mature fruit (commonly known as seeds) and essential oil of fennel are widely used as flavoring agents in food products such as liqueurs, bread, cheese, and an ingredient of cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. Moreover fennel infusions are the classical decoction for nursing babies to prevent flatulence and colic spasm. Traditionally in Europe and Mediterranean areas fennel is used as antispasmodic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, secretomotor, secretolytic, galactagogue, eye lotion, and antioxidant remedy and integrator. Topically, fennel powder is used as a poultice for snake bites. In Asian cultures fennel was ingested to speed the elimination of poisons. As one of the ancient Saxon people's nine sacred herbs, fennel was credited with the power to cure. Fennel was also valued as a magic herb: in the Middle Ages it was draped over doorways on Midsummer's Eve to protect the household from evil spirits. Recently because of estragole carcinogenicity, fennel has been charged to be dangerous for humans especially if used as decoction for babies. But this allegation do not consider the remedy is prepared as a matrix of substances, and recent researches confirm that pure estragole is inactivated by many substance contained in the decoction.