Wednesday August 22, 2018

The fennel ‘liver shield’

FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare) is a food spice commonly used in culinary cooking due to its pleasant aroma. However, aside from its use in food preparation, it is also used as a home remedy for dyspepsia, including stomach ache, bloating and flatulence. Its seeds are known for their modulating effect on menstruation (help promote it) and menopause (alleviate symptoms).

Its seed essential oil had been used in the treatment of pediatric colic. However, a growing interest has developed in the last decade over fennel’s ability to protect the liver from the toxic effects of medications, environmental pollutants and xenobiotics. Since the liver is the central organ of metabolism and clearing for bloodstream toxins, the liver is a crucial organ to protect. Oftentimes, liver problems go unnoticed until its deterioration is so severe symptoms start to manifest indirectly. This liver protective effect is usually associated with its seeds’ essential oil, which means that it is best taken as fresh instead of in its dried form.

There are three active components that comprise the largest volume of the essential oil. First, Fenchone comprises 80 to 90 percent in sweet fennel oil and only 61 to 70 percent in bitter fennel oil. Second, Limonene comprises 11 percent of the essential fennel oil. Third, Trans-anethole can be found up to five percent in sweet fennel oil and up to 20 percent in bitter fennel oil.

Seven researchers (Hanefi Ozbek and colleagues) from the Yuzuncu Yul University in Turkey observed that a dose of 0.3 mg per kg (mice weight), three times a week, in fennel essential oil can cut down the high levels in AST (less 67.5 percent), ALT (less 57.5 percent), ALP (less 15.5 percent), and bilirubin (less 16.3 percent) in blood, based on their laboratory study on mice. Weight increases due to liver diseases can also be cut by half after six weeks of treatment.

The use of fennel essential oil is, however, not safe at any dose. It had been documented in 2001 to kill 50 percent of test mice at a dose of 1.038 ml per kg. This means that, for a person weighing 60 kilograms, the intake of fennel essential oil must not reach 62 ml per day. This is, however, an injected dose, not ingested.

So, what is the difference between the effect of the fennel essential oil and its seed powder? I guess, that will be for another Wednesday. So check this column in the coming weeks.