Anethum foeniculum (Jansen, 1981)

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Aframomum corrorima
Jansen, Spices and medicinal plants in Ethiopia
Anethum foeniculum (Jansen, 1981)
Anethum graveolens

2.2 Anethum foeniculum L.

'Anethum': from the Greek 'anethon', a plant name of Aristophanes; probably derived from the Greek 'aëmi', which means 'I breathe', because of the strong odour of these plants. 'foeniculum ': diminutive of the Latin 'foenum ' = 'hay'; so, 'foeniculum ' means small hay, fine hay, because the dry leaves are hay-like. Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. ed. 1: p. 263 (1753). Type: 'Habitat in Narbonae, Aremoriae, Maderae rupibus cretaceis'. Specimen in Hort. Cliff. herbarium (BM) with on the sheet the inscription: 'Anethum fo eniculum dulce CB. P. ' (Jecto.!).


  • Foeniculum vulgare Mill., Gard. Dict. ed. 8, 1, alphabet. (1768).
  • Foeniculum capillaceum Gilib. , Fl. lithuan . 2: p. 40 (1782).
  • Foeniculum officinale All., Fl. Pedem. 2: p. 25 (1785).
  • Foeniculum foeniculum Karsten , Fl. Deutschl. 2: p. 462 (1895).
  • Anethum rupestre Salisb., Prodr.: p. 168 (1796).
  • Ligusticum foeniculum Crantz, Class. Umbell. Emend.: p. 82 (1767).
  • Meum foeniculum Spreng. in: Schult., Syst. veg. 6: p. 433 (1820).
  • Ozodia foeniculacea Wight & Arn., Prodr.: p. 375 (1834).
  • Selinum foeniculum E. H. L. Krause in: Sturm, Fl. Deutschl., ed. 2, 12: p. 115 (1904).


  • 1768: Miller, Gard. Dict. , ed. 8, 1: F. vulgare. (tax.)
  • 1830: De Candolle, Prodr. 4: p. 142. (tax.) 1847: Richard , Tent. fl. Abyss. 1: p. 325-326. (tax.)
  • 1859: Lenz, Botanik der alten Griechen und Ramer: p. 561-562. (use)
  • 1866: Alefeld, Landw. Flora: p. 155-156. (tax.)
  • 1872: Boissier, Flora Orient. 2: p. 975-976. (tax.)
  • 1874: Flückiger & Hanbury, Pharrriacographia: p. 274-276. (use)
  • 1897: Drude, in: Engler & Prantl, Die nat. Pflanzenfam. , ed. 1, B. 3, 8: p. 208. (tax.)
  • 1918: Rolet, Plantes à parfums et plantes aromatiques: p. 363-368. (agric.)
  • 1925: Thellung, Umbelliferae, in: Hegi, Illustr. FI. Mittel-Eur. , ed. 1, B. 5, 2: p. 1284-1290, (tax. + use)
  • 1933: Redgrove, Spices and condiments: p. 230-235. (agric.)
  • 1946: Baldrati, Piante officinali dell'Africa orientale, Centro Studi Colon. 32: p. 19. (use)
  • 1953: Gleisberg & Hartrott, Der Gehalt an atherischem 01 in den Früchten von F. vulgare nach der Losung von der Pflanze, Ber. Dtsch. Bot. Ges. 66: p. 19-30. (chem.)


  • 1955: Bruch, Beitnïge zur Morphologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte der Fenchelwurzel, Beitr. Biol. Pflanz. 32: p. 1-26.
  • 1957: Mensier, Dictionnaire des huiles végétales, Encycl. Biol. 52: p. 243-244. (chem.)
  • 1959: Cufodontis, Enumeratio, Bull. Jard. Bot. État Brux. 29 (3) suppl.: p. 647-648. (tax.)
  • 1961: Garnier et al., Ressources médicinales de la flore française, 2: p. 900-903. (use)
  • 1961: Joshi, These new spices will pay you weil, lndian Fmg. 10(10): p. 26-28. (agric.)
  • 1962: Karsten et al., Lehrbuch der Pharmakognosie, ed. 9: p. 502-505. (use)
  • 1962: Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk, Medicinal & poisonous plants S. & E. Afr. , ed. 2: p. 1038. (use)
  • 1963: Siegenthaler, Useful plants of Ethiopia, Exp. Stn. Bull. 14: p. 12. (use)
  • 1963: Sundararaj et al. , Preliminary observations on fennel with special reference to floral biology, Madras Agric. J. 50: p. 235-238. (bot.)
  • 1964: Ramanujam, Extent of randomness of cross-pollination in some umbelliferous spices of India, Indian J. Genet. 24: p. 62-67. (bot.)
  • 1968: Tutin, Umbelliferae, in: Flora Europaea 2: p. 341. (tax.)
  • 1969: Parry, Spices, 1: p. 191-192; 2: 120-123. (use)
  • 1969: Rosengarten , The book of spices: p. 240-246. (use)
  • 1972: Anahosur et al., Control of seed mycoflora of fennel , Indian J. Agric. Sei. 42(11): p. 990-992. (phytop.)
  • 1972: Hedge & Lamond, Umbelliferae, in: Flora of Turkey 4: p. 376-377. (tax.)
  • 1973: Shishkin, Umbelliferae, in: Flora of the USSR, Engl. ed., 16: p. 390-391. (tax .)
  • 1974: Gessner & Orzechowski, Gift- und Arzneipflanzen von Mitteleuropa, ed. 3: p. 291-292. (use)
  • 1976: Amare Getahun, Sorne common medicinal and poisonous plants used in Ethiopian folk medicine: p. 58. (use)
  • 1976: Kloos, Preliminary studies of medicinal plants and plant products in Ethiopian markets, J. Ethiop. Pharm. Assoc. 2: p. 23. (use)
  • 1976-1977: Kloos, Preliminary studies of medicinal plants and plant products in markets of central Ethiopia, Ethnomedicine, B. 4, 112: p. 85-86. (use)
  • 1977: Gorini, Ortaggi da foglia: 2.9 Finocchio, Informatore di Ortoflorofrutticoltura 18(10): p. 3-6. (agric.) 1978: Cannon, Umbelliferae, in : Flora Zambesiaca 4: p. 605-607. (tax.)
  • 1978: Kloos et al., Preliminary studies of traditional medicinal plants in nineteen markets in Ethiopia: use patterns and public health aspects, Ethiop. med. J. 16: p. 33-43. (use)

Local names

  • insilal, ensilai, kamun (Amarinia);
  • kamuni, kamona (Gallinia);
  • ensellal, silan (Tigrinia).

Trade names

  • fennel, finkel, spingel (English);
  • fenouil, aneth doux, aneth fenouil (French);
  • Fenchel (German).


  • 1. Seed samples, offered for sale on Ethiopian markets under the local names are almost always mixtures of seeds of Anethum foeniculum, Anethum graveolens and Cuminum cyminum.
  • 2. Nigella sativa is sometimes called 'fennel-flower' in the literature.

Geographic distribution

In all probability, Anethum foeniculum originates from Southern Europe and the Mediterranean area. It is now worldwide, being cultivated and used since ancient times. Cultivation is reported from Algeria, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Crete, Malta, Rumania, Spain, the Netherlands, the United States and the Soviet Union (Rolet, 1918; Thellung, 1925; Rosengarten, 1969).


In Ethiopia, it is a common plant of the highland flora in all provinces and it is occasionally cultivated too (Cufodontis, 1959; Herb. WAG, Fr).


An erect perennial herb, up to 2 m high, with a strong light-brown to yellowish taproot, up to 2.5 cm diam. with many laterals; green parts often glaucous, making the plant look blue-green; all parts glabrous, sweet-smelling, especially after crushing.

  • Stem terete to subterete, up to 2.5 cm diam. at base, sulcate, profusely branched at all heights, blue-green with light-green ribs, yellowish at nodes, internodes often becoming hollow when older.
  • Leaves alternate, decompound, sheathed; sheath forming an open cylinder, at base embracing the stem, 2-15 cm long, with white scarious margins, whitish inside, sulcate and yellow-green outside; rest of petiole subterete, sulcate, 0-10 cm longer than the sheathing part; blade triangular in outline, up to 30 x 50 cm, the upper ones usually much smaller, bi- to hexa-pinnately divided into filiform, acute, blue-green lobes 1-14 cm long; primary pinnae odd-numbered, 3-19.
  • Inflorescence: a compound umbel, up to 20 cm diam. but usually smaller; peduncle terete to subterete, finely sulcate, light-green to blue-green, 3.5-15(-24) cm long; bracts and bracteoles absent; primary rays terete to subterete, finely sulcate, 5-30(-33) per umbel, (0.2-)0.5-7(-12.5) cm long, unequal in length, the longest situated at the outside of the umbel, blue-green; secondary rays terete, finely sulcate, (2-)10-30(-45) per umbellet, 0.5-9(-11) mm long, unequal in length, the shortest in the centre, light-green to blue-green; (seldom one of the primary rays starts lower than the common point, or one of the secondary rays continues to form an umbellet ofthe second order); all flowers bisexual and actinomorphic, often some central ones remaining rudimentary, protandrous (usually the styles and stigmas developing fully after shedding of corolla and stamens).
  • Calyx: vestigial, often visible at the top of the ovary as a slightly protruding adnate ring, seldom with some small teeth, light-green.
  • Corolla: petals 5, distinct, subovate in outline, up to 1.5 x 1 mm, top strongly inflexed, with a thin membranous outgrowth on the ventral side of the midrib from base to nearly the top, glabrous, yellow, margin entire, usually notched at apex.
  • Androecium: stamens 5, distinct, alternating with the petals; filaments conical, tapering from the fleshy base towards the filiform apex, up to 1.5 mm long, yellow, inflexed in bud; anthers dorsifixed, 2-celled, ovate, ca 0.5 x 0.5 mm, yellow, dehiscing by longitudinal slits.
  • Gynoecium: pistil 1, ovary inferior, subterete, ca 1-5 x 1-1.5 mm usually with 8, slightly protruding, narrow longitudinal subparallel ribs, bilocular with 1 pendulous ovule per locule, light-green, crowned by a white, persistent, conical, fleshy stylopodium of ca 0.5-1 x 1-1.5 mm; styles 2, persistent, fleshy, ca 0.5 mm long, spreading, white, with a small, slightly thickened, spherical, finely papillate, white or light-green apical stigma.
  • Fruit: usually an ovoid-oblong erect, but sometimes slightly curved, schizocarp, 3-8.5 x 2-2.5 mm, light-green to yellow-brown or grey-brown, splitting at maturity


Fig. 2. Anethum foeniculum L. -1. habit of plant part (~x); 2. male flowering stage of flower (6x); 3. female flowering stage of flower (6x); 4. fruit (6x); 5. cross- ection fruit (6x); 6. seedling (!x). -1. PJ 603; 2. WP 7388 (spirit mat.); 3. WP 7352 (spirit mat.); 4-5. PJ 881; 6. PJ 131 (spirit mat.).


into 2 mericarps fixed at the top to an erect, white, thin carpophore, which is split to the base; mericarps flat or slightly concave at the commissural side, convex at the dorsal side, usually with five longitudinal, subparallel, prominent ridges, triangular in transverse section, yellow to grey-brown, alternating with usually dark-brown or grey, not protruding oil-containing stripes (vittae); the two commissural ridges are usually flatter and wider than the other ones; the commissural side usually showing two dark-brown, longitudinal vittae.

Seed: testa adnate to the pericarp; embryo situated in the apical part of the mericarp, usually straight, up to 2 x 0.2 mm, white, with conical radicle and two small cotyledons; endosperm copious, greyish, fatty.

Seedling: germination epigeal; taproot about same length as the aerial parts, yellow-brown, with many finer side-roots; hypocotyl terete, 2-25 mm long, brownish or purplish; cotyledons opposite, linear, attenuating towards slightly sheathing base, ca 20-60 x 1-2 mm, light-green, entire; next leaf decompound, petiole 3-10 cm long, sheath 0.5-2 cm long with white scarious margins, blade triangular in outline, up to 4.5-5.5 cm, usually divided into 5 or 7 pinnae, each divided into filiform to sublinear lobes 1-16 mm long.

Taxonomic notes

(1) Although Linnaeus (1753) named this taxon ’Anethum foeniculum’, fennel is now currently known as ’Foeniculum vulgare Mill.’. The genus ’Foeniculum’ was described by Miller (Gard. Dict. A br. ed. 4, 1754). Miller (1768) named this Linnaean species ’Foeniculum vulgare’ and justified separation of the genus ’Foeniculum’ from the genus ’Anethum’ as follows: '... as the seeds of fennel are oblong, thick and channelled, and those of dill [Anethum graveolens] flat and bordered, it is much better to keep them separate, than to join them in the same genus...' Miller accepted dill as a species in Anethum. The fruits of fennel and dill are different indeed, but hardly any other morphological difference can be detected between the two species. Even the fruit character is not always distinctive, as some intermediate fruit-forms exist. In my opinion, two species, that are so closely related (they cross easily), belong in the same genus, and their differences are better expressed at a specifie than at a generiè level. Although the name ’Foeniculum vulgare’ was generally adopted since Miller, we should return to Linnaeus's opinion, expressed in the name: ’Anethum foeniculum’. If A. foeniculum and A. graveolens are to be kept in different genera, the genus conception becomes so narrow that it would justify, often on better grounds than in this case, the creation of numerous new genera in almost all plant families.

(2) In Sp. Pl., Linnaeus (1753) described the species ’Anethum foeniculum’' as: ’Anethum fructibus ovatis’ and he referred to three of his own earlier works, to Roy. lugdb. 116, and to three 'names' of Bauh. pin. 14 7. The first Linnaean reference is to Hort. Cliff. (1738) where he had described the species as: ’Anethum fructo ovato’. Obviously, Linnaeus's opinion of the species had not changed between 1738 and 1753 and so the type-specimen should preferably be chosen from the Hort. Cliff. herbarium. In this herbarium (p. 106, No 2, BM), 5 specimens are present under ’Anethum fructo ovato’. Only one of the five specimens is accompanied by six loose


mature mericarps (half-fruits). The other specimens mainly bear flowers, sometimes with a few very young fruits. As that specimen bears also two leaves, one flowering umbel and one (young) fruiting umbel, it is the most complete specimen and the only one showing the character of the description.

In the LINN herbarium, four specimens are present under ’Anethum foeniculum’ (No 371.4-371.7), but all of them without mature fruits. In the van Royen herbarium (L), only a sterile specimen is present.

I designate as lectotype of the species ’Anethum foeniculum’ the specimen in the Hort. Cliff. herbarium (BM), p. 106, with on the sheet the inscription: ’Anethum foeniculum dulce CB. P.’

(3) In the literature, there is great diversity of opinion about the number of species, subspecies, varieties and forms of Foeniculum.

Miller (1768) distinguished three Foeniculum species: (1) F. vulgare: 'fennel with decompounded leaves, whose small leaves are shorter and end in many points, and a shorter seed'; (2) F. dulce: 'fennel with decompounded leaves, whose small leaves are very long and a longer seed'; (3) F. azoricum: 'dwarf fennel with a fleshy stalk, recurved seeds and an annual root'.

Thellung (1925) distinguished only one species (F. vulgare Mill.), with two subspecies: (1) piperitum (Ucria) Coutinho: perennial, 0.5-2 rn high, leaf-lobes shorter than 20 mm, leaf-sheaths 1-3 cm long, primary rays 4-12, fruit not sweet, dry places, Mediterranean region; (2) capillaceum (Gilib.) Holmboe: short living, leaf-lobes 20-50 mm, leaf-sheaths 2-5 cm long, primary rays 12-25, Mediterranean area. Thellung stated that many transitional forms between the two subspecies existed. In practice his division is pretty useless.

Tutin (1968) distinguished two subspecies of F. vulgare Mill.: (1) piperitum (Ucria) Coutinho; (2) vulgare: biennial, leaf-lobes usually more than 10 mm long, terminal umbel not overtopped by lateral ones, primary rays 12-25, fruit sweettasting.

Hedge & Lamond (1972), Shishkin (1973) and Cannon (1978) do not make any subdivision of F. vulgare, nor do they distinguish more than one Foeniculum species (F. vulgare Mill.).

(4) For Ethiopia, Cufodontis (1959) distinguished two Foeniculum species: F. piperitum (Ucria) Presl and F. vulgare Mill. The material I studied certainly belongs to one (perennial) species: Anethum foeniculum L. It does not make any sense to subdivide this species. The variability observed in Ethiopia is, in my opinion, due to environmental circumstances only. Specimens originating from the same plant, but collected in the dry season may differ considerably from specimens collected in the rainy season.

The numerous, more or less constant different 'forms' of Anethum foeniculum could be preferably described and studied at cultivar level, rather than at subspecific or varietal level. It may be noted that the taxonomical entity 'subspecies' should be used in subdividing a species only, when morphological characters are combined with geographical or ecological separation and is not appropriate to accommodate the variability caused by human interference within a cultivated species.

(5) Plants grown at Wageningen were more etiolated and less robust than those grown from the same seed samples of A. foeniculum in Ethiopia.


(6) The description is based on the following specimens:

Begemdir Hararge Kefa Shoa Sidamo Wollega Wollo Grown at Debarek market: WP 4971; Gondar market: WP 4999. Alemaya, College of Agriculture, cultivated: PJ 1402-1407, PJ 1820, PJ 1827-1828, PJ 4382--4385 , PJ 5131, PJ 5217-5218, PJ 5901-5902, PJ 7023; Alemaya in field: Bos 7483 , Bos 7902-7903, Bo 7897, Bos 8083; Alemaya, road to Kombolcha, 2 km from College gate: WP 415 , WP 519; 60 km SW of Alemaya: W. de Wilde 9819; Asbe Tefari: F. G. Meyer 8735; Assebot market: SL 702; Bati, in field: PJ 1760; Dire Dawa market: WP 110, WP 114, Bos 8371 , Bos 8385, PJ 1044, PJ 5931; Gursum market: PJ 4465; Harar market: WP 81, WP 4038B; Jijiga market: SL 360; Lange market: SL 280; Mieso market: WP 1438, WP 3515; Moulu market: SL 453. Jimma market: WP 3275-3276, WP 3278, WP 32808. Ambo, in garden: PJ 1214-1215; Debre Zeit in garden: WP 1%5; Nazareth, cultivated: PJ 2424-2425, PJ 4829--4830. 41 km from Soddo on road to Shashamane, in garden: WP 2874. Nekemt market: PJ 1194. Bati market: SL 1032 Wageningen WP 5869-5870, WP 6006-6008, WP 6020-6021, WP 6146-6147, WP 7344, WP 7347-7352, WP 7363, WP 7387-7388, WP 8654, WP 8660-8661, PJ 130- 134, PJ 596-597, PJ 603, Pl 654-655, PJ 758-760, PJ 834-839, PJ 878-881.

The following specimens, originating from Ethiopia, were seen (all in FT herbarium): 1. Baldrati 506; A. Bellini 182; A. de Benedictus 298; L. Buscalioni 631, 1642; E. Chiovenda 2252; R Corradi 2626, 2627; A. Fiori 1456; G. Giordana 807; Massa 785; F. G. Meyer 8735; G. Negri 705; A. Pappi 86, 99, 604, 5086, 5769; R. Pichi-Sermolli 693, 694, 695; F. G. Piovano 492; P. Rovesti s.n. (26-12-1931); G. Schweinfurth & D. Riva 1855; L. Senni 975; A. Terracciano & A. Pappi 535, 912, 2015, 2208.


In Europe, fennel is said to be best suited for cultivation in areas where grapes can be grown: on light sunny well-manured and well-drained limy soils (Thellung, 1925; Redgrove, 1933). For Italy, Gorini (1977) reported that the optimum monthly average temperature to grow fennel is 15-18°C and the minimum temperature is 7°C. He stated that plants thrive best with long days and warmth during early stages of growth.

In India, fennel is grown at altitudes up to 2000 m (Sundararaj et al., 1963).

In Ethiopia fennel is a common perennial weed of the highlands, growing at altitudes of 1500-2500 m (Herb. WAG). The Ethiopian plants are resistant to light frosts and to long dry periods. According to Ramanujam et al. (1964), 80-90% cross-pollination occurs in fennel, although Sundararaj et al. (1963) reported th at 100% self-pollination and fertilization may occur, if cross-pollination is prevented. As the flowers of A. foeniculum are protandrous, cross-pollination seems natural.


Fennel is easily propagated by seed. According to Redgrove (1933), the plant can be propagated too by dividing its (mainly underground) parts. The plant will grow


almost anywhere, but it does best on well-manured well-drained light sunny limy soils (Redgrove, 1933). The seeds are usually sown in drills, 40-80 cm apart. Within the rows the seedlings are thinned to 20-40 cm apart. Per ha, up to 10 kg seed is required (Rolet, 1918). Fennel seed keeps its viability for ca 3-4 years under normal circumstances. Germination is usually ca 60-70% (Gorini, 1977). The seed germinates in about two weeks. According to Gorini (1977), the germination time is prolonged by low temperatures (at 7°C 25 days; at 25°C 8-15 days). The plants will flower ca 3-4 months after sowing and the fruits can be harvested ca 5-7 months after sowing. Gorini (1977) advised dressing with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the ratio N:P:K = 1.7:1:1.

As the fruits of fennel do not mature at the same time, harvest is spread over several weeks. The first harvested umbels usually give the best fruits and the best quality oil. The fruits should be dried carefully in the shade. If dried in the sun, essential oil is lost. The total yield may be 1000-2000 kg of fruits per ha, but in the first two years, the yield usually is considerably less. The plants are usually destroyed after three or four years, as a degeneration seems to result after some time in smaller fruits (Thellung, 1925; Rosengarten, 1969). Several cultivars, however, are grown as an annual crop. Anahosur et al. (1972) observed a lot of fungi internally and externally on fennel seed, causing necrosis of the leaves, and rotting of seeds and seedlings. Sulphur effectively controlled all of them. Several other fungal diseases of fennel have been reported:

  • Black spot, caused by Phoma foeniculacea Sacc. (also present in Ethiopia).
  • False mildew, caused by Plasmopara nivea Schroet.
  • Early dying of the plant, caused by Sclerotinia libertiana Fuckel.
  • Root-rot caused by Rhizoctonia violacea Tul.

The caterpillars Mamestra persicariae L. and Depressaria sp. are reported as pests of fennel. In India, severe attacks of aphids and losses up to 40% caused by larvae of the chalcid fly Systole albipennis Walk. eating the seed-embryo have been observed (Rolet, 1918; Thellung, 1925; Redgrove, 1933; Gupta, 1962; Stewart & Dagnatchew, 1967).

In Ethiopia, fennel is hardly cultivated, as the plant grows abundantly in the wild. When found as a weed, some plants may be left on the fields or they may be cultivated around ho uses for direct use. Plants cultivated in Alemaya, took ca 10 months before they were harvestable. Once the plants were well established, they continued flowering and fruiting throughout the year, with an optimum after the first rains of a new season. A severe attack of an unidentified fungal disease was observed in the cultivated plants, though the plants growing in the wild usually looked remarkably healthy.


1. Culinary uses

Since ancient times, fennel has been used as a spice because of its pleasant smell and taste (Lenz, 1859). The fruits are used, for instance, to flavour bread, cheese, meat, soups, sweet pickles, fish, liqueurs and confectionary. The essential oil of the


fruits is used as an adaptable flavouring agent in manufacturing, for instance of soaps, perfumes, liqueurs and other alcoholic beverages, sauces, cough drops, licorice sweets and cakes (Redgrove, 1933; Rosengarten, 1969; and many other sources). The fresh leaves are used to flavour fish sauces and to garnish fish; fennel is often called 'the fish herb'. In France, the young tender stems of a sweet cultivar of fennel are eaten raw as a salad (Rosengarten, 1969). In many European countries the large petiole-sheaths of a fennel cultivar are cooked as a vegetable (Rosengarten, 1969; and many other sources). In Ethiopia the ground fruits of fennel are a constituent of some 'wot' sauces. Perhaps more important is its use, together with young stems and leaves, in the preparation of alcoholic beverages like 'katikala', 'areke' and 'tedj', to which it gives a typical flavour (Asrat, 1962; Telehun, 1962; Amare, 1976).

2. Medicinal uses

In many countries the fruit and oil of fennel are still officinal. The recorded medicinal uses of fennel in the literature have such a wide range that it may be considered as a panacea. Fennel seems to be effective as a spasmolyticum, a carminativum, as an expectorans and as a lactogogum (Garnier et al., 1961; Karsten,

Photograph 3. Anethum foeniculum, mericarps (3 x), PJ 879.


1962). A watery oil-solution is used externally as eye-bath and as a gargle (Karsten et al., 1962).

In southern Europe, the root is used as a diuretic, the herb as a poultice for mammary inflammation, and as a remedy for jaundice and menstrual troubles (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). A decoction of the fruits is used as a sleeping draught for small children (Thellung, 1925).

In South Africa a tincture of the fruits is used against diarrhoea, cramp and stomach ache (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). High doses of the oil may be dangerous. They can cause hallucinations, epilepsy, and extreme stimulation (Garnier et al., 1961).

In Ethiopia a decoction of the roots mixed with the beverage 'talla' is used against gonorrhoea (Siegenthaler, 1963; Amare, 1976). Local doctors use the roots on the umbilical cord of newborn babies. The leaves are boiled in coffee and tea or chewed as a diuretic against gonorrhoea and as a laxative against stomach ache (Kloos, 1976, 1976/1977). The fruits are used as a diuretic and as a medicine against headache, stomach ache and coughs. In some areas of Ethiopia fennel-leaves are spread on the floor on festal days for their pleasant fragrance.

Chemical composition

According to Thellung (1925) fennel fruits contain water 10-13%, crude protein 16%, fats 9-12%, sugar 5%, invert sugar (not starch) 14%, nitrogen-free extract 19%, fibre 14%, essential oil 2-6% and ash 8-10%. The essential oil is extracted by steam-distillation mainly from the fruits. It is colourless or light-yellow, clear, aromatic, bitter at first, later sweet of taste. The most important components are anethol (50-70%) and D-fenchone (10-20% ). D-fenchone causes the bitter taste (Thellung, 1925; Mensier, 1957). Rolet (1918) stated that before distillation the fruits should be soaked in water for 15 hours. The semi-drying essential oil may be used to obtain lauric acid, used in detergents and to obtain adipic acid, used in nylon, lubricants and plasticizers (Cobley & Steele, 1976). Redgrove (1933) recorded that the quality and the content of essential oil of the fruit depended on the origin of the fennel. French sweet fennel fruits contained ca 2.5% essential oil of fine flavour. Russian and Galician fruits contained ca 4-6% of an inferior flavoured oil and Indian fruits were deficient of essential oil. According to Redgrove (1933), the dried distilled fruits contain ca 14-22% protein and 12-18% fat and may be used as cattle feed. Gleisberg & Hartrott (1953) proved that the content of essential oil in the fruits did not rise with storage of the fruits for some months after harvest, as had been generally believed. They observed a higher oil content in immature fruits than in mature ones. According to Measier (1957) the fatty oil of fennel fruits is composed of palmitic acid (4%), petroselinic acid (60%), oleic acid (22%) and linoleic acid (14%).