Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), or vaginal thrush, refers to vaginal and vulval symptoms caused by the yeast Candida albicans. These include vaginal discharge, a burning sensation in the affected parts and an itchy rash on the vulva and surrounding skin. VVC is said to affect 75 percent of women at least once in their lifetime.
Many natural treatments are available for yeast infections like VVC. These range from probiotic foods and supplements to natural products with anti-fungal properties. According to researchers from Fayoum University and Cairo University in Egypt, the essential oil extracted from fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), a flowering herb that belongs to the carrot family, is a potent anti-fungal agent against VVC.
In a study published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine, they screened the anti-microbial activities of nine essential oils against isolates of C. albicans and found that fennel oil showed the highest anti-fungal activities among the tested oils. The oil even showed efficacy against drug-resistant strains of C. albicans, making it a promising natural treatment for VVC.
The anti-fungal properties of fennel oil
Microorganisms are known to form biofilms or consortia on different surfaces, such as those of the skin or teeth. To screen the biofilm production of C. albicans and its susceptibility to the anti-fungal, fluconazole, the researchers used tissue culture plate method and disk diffusion method, respectively.
They then screened the anti-fungal activities of nine naturally derived oils using strong biofilm-producer, fluconazole-resistant or dose-dependently susceptible clinical isolates of C. albicans ATCC 10231. These oils included fennel oil, chamomile oil (Chamaemelum nobile), jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis), black cumin oil (Nigella sativa), fenugreek oil (Trigonella foenum-graecum), cod liver oil (Gadus morhua), peppermint oil (Mentha piperita), clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum) and ginger oil (Zingiber officinale).
The researchers also performed microdilution assays to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of fennel essential oil, fluconazole and their combination against planktonic (single) and sessile (anchored) cells.
The researchers reported that 10 out of the 19 C. albicans strains they tested showed a strong ability to form biofilms. None of the tested clinical isolates was sensitive to fluconazole.
Fennel oil showed much higher anti-fungal activities against the tested C. albicans than any of the other oils. The MIC of fennel oil for planktonic cells range from 0.78 to 6.25 percent, with an MIC50 of 3.12 percent and an MIC90 of 6.25 percent. Meanwhile, concentrations of fennel oil between 6.25 to 25 percent resulted in 50 percent biofilm reduction.
Fennel oil and fluconazole also exerted synergistic effects in seven C. albicans strains, including drug-resistant ones. No antagonism was detected between the two anti-fungal agents.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that fennel oil, alone or in combination with fluconazole, is a promising treatment for VVC caused by drug-resistant strains of C. albicans. (Related: Compounds in lung moss can potentially treat even drug-resistant candida infections.)
Other health benefits of fennel essential oil
Fennel essential oil is derived from crushed fennel seeds using a process called steam distillation. This natural product is rich in phytonutrients that possess a variety of medicinal properties, such as antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative and appetite-promoting properties.
Here are some of the health benefits associated with fennel essential oil: (h/t to OrganicFacts.net)
- Helps heal wounds — Fennel essential oil is rich in antiseptic compounds that can prevent wounds from getting infected.
- Relieves spasms — Fennel essential oil can reduce spasmodic attacks, thanks to its relaxing effect on nerves, muscles and other parts of the body.
- Promotes smooth bowel movements — Fennel essential oil can help clear the intestines and provide relief from constipation.
- Kills worms — Due to its anti-parasitic properties, fennel essential oil can clear the intestines of parasitic worms.
- Promotes urination — Fennel essential oil can act as a diuretic and help remove excess water, bile salts, sodium and other toxins from the body through the urine.
- Fights chronic cough — Fennel essential oil can effectively expel mucus and phlegm from the lungs and is often used as an expectorant component of cough remedies.
Fennel essential oil is a powerful traditional medicine that can treat a variety of ailments. Thanks to its anti-fungal properties, it can also be used as a home remedy for sensitive conditions, such as vaginal thrush. For best results, consult with a certified essential oil practitioner or specialist to learn how best to use this natural product.
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