Calm for Colic: Herbal oil shown to reduce symptoms

Most parents of an infant with colic will agree that the condition is often as hard on the parents as it seems to be on the child. Colic is a fairly common problem in which the baby is otherwise healthy but has periods of inconsolable crying, apparently caused by abdominal pain. Colic usually develops within a few weeks of birth and disappears by the baby’s fourth month.

According to a new study by researchers at the St Petersburg Medical Academy of Postdoctoral Education in St Petersburg, Russia, treatment with fennel seed oil can significantly improve symptoms, without the side effects that are a concern with certain drug treatments. They note that fennel seed oil has been shown to reduce intestinal spasms and increase motility of the small intestine, but no clinical studies have tested its effectiveness.

The researchers compared the use of fennel seed oil emulsion to a placebo in 125 infants, 2 to 12 weeks of age, who met definition of colic. As a marker for improvement, they looked for a decrease of cumulative crying to less than 9 hours per week.

The researchers found that “the use of fennel oil emulsion eliminated colic…in 65% of infants in the fennel treatment group, which was significantly better than 23.7% of infants in the placebo group.” They also noted that side effects were not reported for infants in either group during the trial and conclude, “our study suggests that fennel seed oil emulsion is superior to placebo in decreasing intensity of infantile colic.”

Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;9(4):58-61