Fennel: Could this powerful essential oil be the future for anxiety disorder medications?

Researchers at the Addis Ababa University have found that the essential oil of Foeniculum vulgare, commonly known as Fennel, may have potential clinical applications in the management of anxiety. The objective of the study, which was published a week ago in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, was to evaluate the anxiolytic activity of the essential oil of F. vulgare on adult male mice.

The mice were divided into 6 groups, and received varying doses of Diazepam or the essential oil F. vulgare respectively. A selection of animal anxiety models were then used to measure subsequent effects, including the elevated plus maze (EPM), staircase test (SCT) and open field test (OFT), with the mice being evaluated for various parameters. These tests are commonly used models for screening central nervous system actions and provide information on anxiety and psychomotor performance.

In the EPM test, 100 and 200 mg/kg doses of Fennel essential oil significantly increased the percent of the number of entries and time spent in open arms compared to the control group. In SCT, these doses also reduced rearing significantly compared to the control group. Only the 200 mg/kg dose significantly increased the number of squares crossed at the centre in the OFT test. To summarise the findings, the lower doses of the essential oil of F. vulgare possess anxiolytic activity and the higher doses of the essential oil appear to have potentially sedative effects.

In today’s hectic society, anxiety disorders are becoming increasingly common and currently affect around one eighth of the worldwide population. Anxiety itself has become accepted as a normal feeling which most of us experience as part of our everyday lives. Due to the adverse side effects associated with the anti-anxiety drugs currently on the market, including anti-depressants, benzodiazepines and beta-blockers, there is a need to find new, alternative therapeutic products for the treatment of anxiety.

This multi-tasking essential oil is anti-diabetic, analgesic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiseptic, anti-parasitic and a natural anti-inflammatory and diuretic. In traditional medicine, F. vulgare is used to encourage menstruation and lactation. It also aids digestion, relieving flatulence. It is additionally said to be good for improving eyesight and curing coughs. Psychologically, fennel encourages courage and mental strength, relieves stress and has a calming effect when used in aromatherapy. Whilst the anti-anxiety activity of the crude extract of F.vulgare has been reported, up until now there had been no concrete evidence supporting the anti-anxiety activity of the essential oil of F.vulgare. These new findings are encouraging and suggest we are on the path to producing a more natural, effective medicinal treatment for this common epidemic.

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