The Benefits of a Drop of Oil in Your Favorite Dish
This week I decided to take a break from the hot topic of “healthism” and give us all a little “breather” by focusing on one of my favorite topics, essential oils. This led to a series on fennel oil.
My inspiration stemmed from my delight in alternating a drop of an herb or spice essential oil in some of my favorite dishes. I’ve been loving using fennel oil on my steamed veggies. Its sweet, refreshing taste perfectly contrasts the bitterness of my leafy greens. This oil is now a mainstay in my spice cabinet and won’t be kicked to the sidelines for another oil anytime soon.
In this blog, I will provide evidence of the history of safe use of this oil internally. Then, next week, I’ll conclude my in-depth analysis with a specific look at some of the considerations and precautions with ingesting essential oils while highlighting fennel oil.
Can You Really Ingest Essential Oils?!
I’ve written previously about cooking with essential oils for their flavor and wellness effects. They have long been used as flavorings (or “flavouring” if you’re European) in our food supply while they provide us with health benefits. A review article in the Arabian Journal of Chemistry discussed the use of fennel for its flavorful ability to support the respiratory, digestive, liver, and cardiovascular system and to keep unwanted microbes at bay. The article states:
Foeniculum vulgare (Apiaceae) commonly known as fennel is a well known and important medicinal and aromatic plant widely used as carminative, digestive, lactogogue and diuretic and in treating respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. Its seeds are used as flavourings in baked goods, meat and fish dishes, ice cream, alcoholic beverages and herb mixtures. Phenols, phenolic glycosides and volatile aroma compounds such as trans-anethole, estragole and fenchone have been reported as the major phytoconstituents of this species. Different pharmacological experiments in a number of in vitro and in vivo models have convincingly demonstrated the ability of F. vulgare to exhibit antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, antithrombotic and hepatoprotective activities, lending support to the rationale behind several of its therapeutic uses. Phenolic compounds isolated from F. vulgare are considered to be responsible for its antioxidant activity while the volatile aroma compounds make it an excellent flavouring agent. The present review is an up-to-date and comprehensive analysis of the chemistry, pharmacology, traditional uses and safety of F. vulgare.
I find it comforting to know that not only am I making my dishes more palatable, I’m also supporting my health! Furthermore, a little drop of a spice or herb oil can serve to prevent the harm from the detrimental effects of grilling meat.
A Spoonful of Honey Makes the Essential Oil Go Down
Essential oils also have a history of internal application for healing purposes. In fact, many are listed in the European Pharmacopeia. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) According to their website:
The purpose of the European Pharmacopoeia is to promote public health by the provision of recognised common standards for the quality of medicines and their components. Such standards are to be appropriate as a basis for the safe use of medicines by patients.
You can also find several essential oils listed for medicinal use by ingestion in the American Botanical Council’s summary of monographs from the German E Commission. The commission consists of an expert committee established by the German government in 1978 to determine the safety and efficacy of over 300 herbs and synergistic formulations. The American Botanical Council states:
The Commission E approved the internal use of fennel oil preparations for peptic discomforts, such as mild, spastic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, feeling of fullness, and flatulence; and also for catarrhs of the upper respiratory tract. Fennel honey was recommended for catarrhs of the upper respiratory tract in children.
ESCOP approves the use of fennel syrup or fennel honey for catarrh of the upper respiratory tract in children (ESCOP, 1997).
Essential oils have been used internally for flavoring and medicinally throughout the ages.
However, the safe and proper use of them is important. I do recommend to only swallow essential oils that are labeled for internal use and are of high quality. I also suggest getting assistance by someone with experience with essential oils to guide you in their use.
Please also use common sense and proper dosages! You can explore more articles on the safety, applications, and standards of essential oils, with summaries of peer-reviewed articles, on my website.
Next week, I’ll conclude my series on fennel oil. I hope these articles are giving you confidence to spice up your kitchen with oils as well as dried herbs!
Share your comments below!
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Expanded German E Commission (ABC). Fennel Oil: http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Fenneloil.html
The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. 1998. https://www.amazon.com/Complete-German-Commission-Monographs-Therapeutic/dp/096555550X
European Medicines Agency. Evaluation of Medicines for Human Use. Fennel Oil. http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_Community_herbal_monograph/2009/12/WC500018480.pdf
FDA. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Part 182- Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.20
The Internal Use of Essential Oils: An exploration (School for Aromatic Studies): https://aromaticstudies.com/the-internal-use-of-essential-oils-an-exploration/
A Procedure for the Safety and Evaluation of Flavouring Substances.
This review describes a procedure for the safety evaluation of flavouring substances. Over 2500 flavouring substances are currently in use in food. While toxicity data do not exist on all flavouring substances currently in use, within structurally related groups of flavouring substances many do have toxicity data and this information along with knowledge of structure-activity relationships and data on the daily intake provides a framework for safety evaluation. The safety evaluation procedure provides a scientifically based practical method of integrating data on intake, structure-activity relationships, metabolism and toxicity to evaluate flavouring substances in a timely manner. The procedure has been used recently by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) to evaluate a total of 263 flavouring substances.
Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Food Chem Toxicol. 1999 Feb-Mar;37(2-3):207-32. Available at: http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v35je21.htm
Plant essential oils and allied volatile fractions as multifunctional additives in meat and fish-based food products: a review. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25893282/
Foeniculum vulgare: A comprehensive review of its traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and safety. Arabian Journal of Chemistry. November 2016. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535212000792
Fennel. Natural Standard Database. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=311
Fennel Oil. Examine. https://examine.com/supplements/fennel-essential-oil/#summary1-1
[…] my first two posts on fennel oil, I discussed its many versatile actions. Last week, I highlighted its medicinal use across the continents and discussed the safety of ingesting […]