Related entry: Oleum Foeniculi (U. S. P.)—Oil of Fennel
"The fruit of Foeniculum capillaceum, Gilibert"—(U. S. P.) (Foeniculum vulgare, Gaertner; Foeniculum officinale, Allioni; Anethum Foeniculum, Linné, Meum Foeniculum, Sprengel).
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYM: Common fennel, Fennel fruits, Fennel seeds, Sweet fennel, Roman fennel; Semen foeniculi.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 123.
Botanical Source and History.—FOENICULUM CAPILLACEUM (Foeniculum vulgare), or Common fennel, is a biennial or perennial plant, with a whitish, tap-shaped root, the whole herb being smooth, and of a deep glaucous green. The stems are 3 or 4 feet high, erect, solid, round, striated, smooth, leafy, and copiously branched. The leaves are alternate and triply pinnate; the leaflets acute; thread-like, long, more or less drooping; the petioles with a broad, firm, sheathing base. The flowers are in large, terminal, very broad, flat umbels, with very numerous smooth, angular, rather stout rays; partial rays much more slender, short, and very unequal. Bracts or involucres are wanting. Calyx none. Styles very short, with large, ovate, pale-yellow base. The fruit is ovate, not quite 2 lines long, about a line in breadth, pale, bright brown and smooth; the ridges are sharp, with but little space between each; the lateral ones being rather the broadest; they are terminated by a permanent conical disk. The Index Kewensis considers the species Foeniculum vulgare, Miller, to represent those variously described as F. capillaceum, F. officinale, F. dulce, F. Panmorium, and others. Fennel is a native of Europe, growing wild upon sandy and chalky ground, and flowering in July (L.).
FOENICULUM OFFICINALE, Mérat and De Lens, or Large fennel, is very much like the preceding, and the two are sometimes confounded; but its leaves are smaller, leaflets shorter, fruit paler, twice as heavy, much longer, somewhat curved, of a sweeter and more agreeable taste (L.), It inhabits the southern parts of Europe, and is naturalized in this country.
FOENICULUM DULCE, De Candolle, or Sweet fennel, and sometimes confounded with F. capillaceum, has somewhat the appearance of the latter, only it is not so large, seldom exceeding 12 inches in height, and the rays of its umbels being less in number by at least one-half; the fruit likewise varies considerably, being narrow, oblong, 3 lines long, pale, dull brown, smooth; ridges sharpish, with a space between each for a convex line, indicating the vittae, the lateral ones rather the broadest. It inhabits the same countries as the preceding variety, and is cultivated for culinary purposes.
At one time these plants were placed in the genus Anethum, Linné, but De Candolle and Gaertner removed them to the present genus on account of the dissimilarity of the seed.
The seeds or mericarps of these plants possess nearly the same peculiar, agreeable spicy odor and flavor. There are 3 kinds in commerce, the Sweet fennel, which is also known as Roman fennel, and is of a pale green color; the brown fruits are known as German or Saxon fennel, while those from the uncultivated plants of France are called Bitter or Wild fennel. These species differ also in the length of their seeds, the Roman being the longest, and in the character of their striations. An East Indian variety, termed Indian fennel, is derived from F. Panmorium, De Candolle, now held to be a variety of F. capillaceum of Gilibert. The latter is not common in American markets. Water, at 100° C. (212° F.), takes up their properties by infusion, but not so thoroughly as alcohol. FENNEL ROOT is employed somewhat in Europe. Its taste and odor is that of fennel, though milder.
Description.—"Oblong, nearly cylindrical, slightly curved, from 4 to 8 Mm. (1/6 to 1/3 inch) long, brownish or greenish-brown; readily separable into the 2 prominent mericarps, each with 5 light brown, obtuse ribs, 4 oil-tubes on the back, and 2 or 4 oil-tubes upon the flat face; odor and taste aromatic, anise-like"—(U. S. P.).
Chemical Composition.—The aromatic properties of these seeds are due to a volatile oil (see Oleum Foeniculi). The fruits also contain sugar, ash (about 7 per cent), and about 12 per cent of fixed oil; the root, sugar, starch, and volatile oil.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Carminative, stimulant, galactagogue, diuretic, and diaphoretic. Used in flatulent colic, and as a corrigent of unpleasant medicines. May be used in amenorrhoea and in suppressed lactation. Dose of powdered seeds, from 10 to 30 grains; infusion (grs. xl. to aqua Oss), 1 teaspoonful (infants) to wineglassful (adults).
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.