Foeniculum. U. S. (Br.)
Fennel. Foenic. [Fennel Seed]
Preparations: Oil of Fennel
"The dried, ripe fruit of cultivated varieties of Foeniculum vulgare Miller (Fam. Umbelliferae), without the presence or admixture of more than 4 per cent. of foreign matter." U. S." Fennel Fruit is the ripe fruit of Foeniculum vulgare, Mill., collected from cultivated plants, and dried." Br.
Foeniculi Fructus, Br.; Semen Foeniculi, Fennel Fruit (Seed), Sweet Fennel Fruit; Fenouil doux (Fruit), Fr. Cod.; Fruits (Semences) de Fenouil, Fr.; Fructus Foeniculi, P. G.; Fenchel, Fenchelsamen, G.; Finocchio, It.; Hinojo, Sp.
The plant producing fennel seed was attached by Linnaeus to the genus Anethum, but was separated from it by De Candolle, and placed, with three or four others, in a new genus styled Foeniculum, which has been generally adopted by botanists. The Anethum Foeniculum of Linnaeus embraced two varieties, the common or wild fennel, and the sweet fennel, the latter being the plant usually cultivated in the gardens of Europe. These are considered by De Candolle as distinct species, and named respectively Foeniculum vulgare and Foeniculum dulce, but the correctness of the opinion of the great Swedish botanist is now generally admitted.
Foeniculum vulgare is a stout, glabrous biennial or perennial, aromatic herb, with leaves dissected into numerous filiform segments. The flowers are in large, flat, terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays, and destitute both of general and partial involucres. The corolla consists of five petals, which, as well as the stamens, are golden yellow. The fruit is ovate, and of a dark color, especially in the grooves. The plant is a native of Europe, growing wild upon sandy and chalky ground throughout the continent, and is also abundant in Asia, possibly extending as far as China. It is extensively cultivated in Europe as well as in this country. It has escaped from gardens and is somewhat naturalized in Maryland and Virginia. In India fennel is said to be obtained from F. panmorium DC., which is probably, however, only a variety of the official plant. Sicilian fennel is affirmed to be the fruit of F. piperitum.
F. dulce De Cand., Sweet Fennel bears a general resemblance to F. vulgare, but differs in having its stem somewhat compressed at the base, its radical leaves somewhat distichous, and the number of rays in the umbel only from 6 to 8. It is also a much smaller plant, being only about a foot high; its flowers appear earlier, and its young sweet shoots or turiones are eaten in Italy boiled or as a salad. According to Index Kewensis it is identical with F. vulgare.
Properties.—The roots of fennel were formerly employed in medicine, but are generally inferior in virtues to the fruit, which is now the only portion recognized by any of the pharmacopoeias. It is stated that manufacturers of the oil usually distil the whole plant.
The official description is as follows: "Mericarps usually separate, each being broadly elliptical, more or less curved, from 4 to 10 mm. in length and from 1 to 3.5 mm. in breadth, some having a slender stalk from 2 to 10 mm. in length; dorsal surface convex, yellowish-green to grayish-brown, with three prominent, longitudinal primary ribs and at the summit a short, conical stylopodium; commissural surface with three narrow, light brown, longitudinal areas separated by two dark brown or brownish-black areas containing the vittae or oil-tubes; odor and taste aromatic and characteristic. Under the microscope, transverse sections of Fennel show a pentagonal mericarp, four of the edges being nearly equal and slightly concave, the other or commissural surface being much longer and more or less undulate; cells of the seed-coat closely united with those of the pericarp, giving the section two very distinct areas, the inner and larger portion (endosperm) more or less rounded-pentagonal and somewhat reniform, composed of polygonal cells, filled with aleurone grains containing rosette aggregates of calcium oxalate and a thin protoplasmic layer enclosing a fixed oil; the outer or pericarp layer distinguished by large elliptical vittae with thick, brown walls, occurring singly and alternating with the primary ribs, and two vittae on the dorsal surface, making usually six vittae in all, there sometimes being, however, one or two vittae additional; in the central portion of each of the ribs occurs a nearly circular, fibro-vascular bundle with a few tracheae and numerous thin-walled, strongly lignified sclerenchymatous fibers. The powder is yellowish-brown consisting of irregular angular fragments; tissues of endosperm, colorless, the cells filled with aleurone grains, each containing a rosette aggregate of calcium oxalate, about 0.002 mm. in diameter; fragments containing yellowish-brown vittae, from 0.1 to 0.2 mm. in width; sclerenchymatous fibers few, strongly lignified and with numerous, oblique, simple pores; parenchyma cells with more or less thick walls and simple pores and occasionally reticulately thickened; tracheae few and either spiral or annular; in mounts made with hydrated chloral T.S., numerous globules of a fixed oil separate. Fennel yields not more than 9 per cent. of ash." U. S.
Fennel seeds (half fruits) are officially described in the Br. Pharm. as follows:
"Small, oblong, straight or slightly curved, from three to ten millimetres long, and from two to four millimetres in diameter. Greenish or greenish-brown. Each of the two mericarps with five prominent principal ridges and six large vittae. Aromatic odor; taste strong, sweet and camphoraceous. Ash not more than 11 per cent." Br.
There are ten chief varieties of fennel known in commerce, the fruits differing very much in size and considerably in taste. They are as follows: French (sweet); French (bitter); German; Puglis; Indian; Russian; Macedonian; Galician; Persian and Japanese. For histological differences of the different commercial varieties see monograph by Hartwich and Jama in B. P. G., 1909, p. 306. Rosenthaler (B. P. G., 1913, p. 570) has made a pharmacognostical study of a Chinese fennel.
Commercial fennel varies greatly in quality, this being either due to lack of care in harvesting or deliberate adulteration. It may contain sufficient sand, dirt, stem tissues, weed seeds, or other material beyond the 4 per cent. limit prescribed by the Pharmacopoeia that it amounts to adulteration. The fruits, especially the powder, may be deficient in volatile oil, inferring that they have been partly exhausted. Exhausted or otherwise inferior fennel is occasionally improved in appearance by the use of a factitious coloring. (See Spaeth, in Ph. Zentralh., 1908, p. 545; and 1913, p. 736.)
Schimmel & Co.'s Semi-Annual Report for April, 1897, gives as additional varieties of fennel—Aleppo, oil amounting to 0.75 per cent.; Macedonian, 3.4 to 3.8 per cent.; Moravian, 3 per cent.; Milanese, 4.2 per cent.; Roumanian, 4.6 per cent.; Spanish, amount not stated; and Syrian (Damascus), 1.6 per cent. Of these, the Syrian may be the same as that called Persian by Umney, and the Roumanian the same as that called Russian. Several additional varieties are also mentioned by Umney (P. J., 1897, lviii, p. 226), who states that the European varieties were almost entirely displaced by the East Indian seed and that the latter would probably be supplanted by the Japanese variety.
The odor of fennel seed is fragrant, its taste warm. sweet, and agreeably aromatic. It yields its virtues to hot water, but more freely to alcohol. The essential oil may be separated by distillation with water. (See Oleum Foeniculi.) From 960 parts of the seed Neumann obtained 20 parts of volatile and 120 of fixed oil.
Uses.—Fennel seed was used by the ancients. It is one of our most grateful aromatics, and in this country is much employed as a carminative, and as a corrigent of other less pleasant medicine, particularly senna and rhubarb. It is recommended for these purposes by the absence of any highly excitant property. An infusion may be prepared by introducing two or three drachms of the seeds into a pint of boiling water. In infants the infusion is frequently employed as an enema for the expulsion of flatus.
Dose, of the bruised or powdered seeds, twenty grains to half a drachm (1.3-2.0 Gm.).
Off. Prep.—Aqua Foeniculi, U. S. (from oil), Br.; Infusum Sennae Compositum, U. S.; Pulvis Glycyrrhizae Compositus, Br.; Pilulae Antiperiodicae, N. F.; Pilulae Antiperiodicae sine Aloes, N. F.; Species Laxativae, N. F.; Tinctura Antiperiodica, N. F.; Tinctura Antiperiodica sine Aloe, N. F.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.