Can estragole in fennel seed decoctions really be considered a danger for human health? A fennel safety update

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012:2012:860542. doi: 10.1155/2012/860542. Epub 2012 Jul 29.


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.