Fennel: a spring tonic herb for wellness

Fennel seed oil benefits are incredible for skin care. It is a very special essential oil that when added at correct limits in skincare formulations can be both ace in anti-aging skin care and at the same time toning. A tonic for maturer or sluggish skins and a soother and cleanser for oily skins or those prone to outbreaks, not to mention a cellulite buster, fennel is a natural skincare all-rounder.

Let's reveal the inner secrets of fennel, the herb, to explain why it's so versatile for our skincare, whether facial or body.  We round up some reasons why you should eat fennel bulb to give your skin radiance too.

Fennel, more than skin deep

Fennel is most well known as a curer of digestive ailments; a property of this umbellate (umbrella-shaped) flowering plant that's been referenced since ancient times (along with fennel's claim to increase the milk of nursing mothers!).

The Greeks named the plant Marathon, from maraino - to grow thin or fade - as it seems the herb was also used to cure the gut of those who overindulged in eating; theory has it that fennel dampens the appetite. It is indigenous to the Mediterranean (certainly thick on the waysides here in Malta), but grows both wild and cultivated across Europe and other temperate climates perhaps spread by the Romans throughout their empire.

St Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179), a medieval abbess known as a composer and for her extensive botanical and herbalist writings, said that fennel '...makes us happy with good digestion and good body odour'. The 17th century English herbalist Nicholas Culpepper echoed this, noting that fennel '...take(s) away the loathings which oftentimes happens to the stomachs of sick people'. With its licorice and aniseed aroma and taste, fennel is a distinctive but also versatile vegetable and herb in the Mediterranean kitchen.

Fennel detox for inner wellness

Fennel is a highly beneficial nutritional powerhouse with numerous hard-working vitamins and minerals within its leaves, bulb and seeds. Along with many veg, it's a good source of Vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese, iron, calcium and niacin (niacin is Vitamin B3).

What makes it special though is its ability to sooth digestive disorders thanks to its carminative properties. Women in pre and early menopause should make friends with fennel as its phytoestrogens can ease menopause symptoms. Fennel seed tea or fennel bulb as part of a detox juice (see below) is a great way to eat / drink it.

Fennel Seed Oil Skincare Benefits

Then there's fennel's volatile oil* (but not to ingest of course) which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and, in early studies to date, also been shown to be effective in cancer prevention.

But when it comes to external skincare, sweet fennel essential oil has some documented benefits within a carrier massage oil. Foeniculum Vulgare Oil is the essential or volatile oil extracted from the fennel seeds. It is a powerful essential oil so a little goes a long way, as they say.

Fennel seed oil benefits do come with a peppery, aniseed and aromatic scent and we therefore blend it with complementary, detoxifying and cleansing essential oils. Fennel contains other biologically-active phytochemicals ( plant-derived chemicals) including:

  • Quercetin, which houses powerful anti-oxidents  that help fight free radicals; those chemically-reactive compounds that damage cell membranes and DNA (which go to ageing our skin too). Hence, fennel being researched for its anti-cancer properties.
  • Limonene (around 1 - 5% of fennel seed oil) which is also found in citrus peel oils, acts as an anti-inflammatory and is being researched for its anti-cancer properties.
  • Beta-carotene  which can help impart Vitamin A (in retinols) so useful for skin elasticity. Beta-carotene has been associated with reducing melasma or discoloration of the skin.

To sum up

  • Anti-cellulite effects: fennel seed oil massage over hips and thighs in a carrier oil, and gently rubbed in with a body massage brush can help reduce the effects of 'orange peel'  skin.
  • Facial toner, soother & cleanser: fennel has mildy astringent properties and is a soothing tonic for the face in low amounts in combination with carrier oils and complementary essential oils like citrus, juniper or myrtle.  As can been seen from the phytochemicals above, fennel seed oil contains also plant-derived chemicals that can penetrate the skin and work more than skin deep.
  • Oily skin: with this skin type, fennel seed oil works in harmony with the skin's own oils to brighten sluggish oily skin rather than 'stripping' it of sebum (and therefore encouraging even more sebum production).
  • Mature skin: here, fennel seed oil's anti-oxident properties come into their own (see above) to help ageing skin counter act the effect of free radicals and discoloration.

*Fennel seed oil is a powerful oil and it is not recommended for use during pregnancy.  Again, as with all essential oils, consult the recommended usage and directions on any brand of essential oil you buy. Fennel may not be suitable for use if you have sensitive skin as it may cause some irritation. Those with epilepsy should avoid using fennel seed oil.