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Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Feb;5(2):319-28.

Foeniculum vulgare essential oils: chemical composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities.

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Universidade do Algarve, Faculdade de Engenharia e Recursos Naturais, Centro de Desenvolvimento de Ciências e Técnicas de Produção Vegetal, Campus de Gambelas 8005-139 Faro, Portugal.


The essential oils from Foeniculum vulgare commercial aerial parts and fruits were isolated by hydrodistillation, with different distillation times (30 min, 1 h, 2 h and 3 h), and analyzed by GC and GC-MS. The antioxidant ability was estimated using four distinct methods. Antibacterial activity was determined by the agar diffusion method. Remarkable differences, and worrying from the quality and safety point of view, were detected in the essential oils. trans-Anethole (31-36%), alpha-pinene (14-20%) and limonene (11-13%) were the main components of the essentials oil isolated from F. vulgare dried aerial parts, whereas methyl chavicol (= estragole) (79-88%) was dominant in the fruit oils. With the DPPH method the plant oils showed better antioxidant activity than the fruits oils. With the TBARS method and at higher concentrations, fennel essential oils showed a pro-oxidant activity. None of the oils showed a hydroxyl radical scavenging capacity > 50%, but they showed an ability to inhibit 5-lipoxygenase. The essential oils showed a very low antimicrobial activity. In general, the essential oils isolated during 2 h were as effective, from the biological activity point of view, as those isolated during 3 h.

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