Anise

Anise has been used for 2,000 years for both its trademark flavor and its medicinal benefits, especially for the digestive system

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Anise, aniseed
  • Scientific namePimpinella anisum
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionSouthern Europe, Eastern or Central Europe
  • Main producer(s)Poland, Russia
  • Main Economic UseCulinary
Anise

Anise was domesticated by humans over two millennia ago, with researchers believing it was first cultivated as a food crop in China. The importance of anise throughout history dates back to the Roman Empire, where it was used as a spice and fragrance. It began being cultivated in England as a food crop in the 1500s, and has since spread throughout the world, becoming a staple spice and popular herbal remedy in many different cultures.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntispasmodic, Estrogenic
  • Key constituentsAnethole
  • Ways to useCapsules, Cold infusions, Hot infusions/tisanes, Liquid extracts, Essential oil, Dried
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Anise

The antispasmodic and estrogenic properties of anise have been used since ancient times. Its traditional medical uses include:

  • Treating and preventing gastrointestinal issues. Anise have been used for centuries to relieve stomach problems, such as gastric ulcers, nausea, and constipation.
  • Relieving menstrual cramps and menopause symptoms. Its antispasmodic and estrogenic actions help relieve menstrual problems, as well as menopause symptoms caused by estrogen deficiency.

Scientific studies indicate that anise can also help:

  • Treating cough and respiratory ailments. The expectorant action of anise promotes secretion from the mucous membrane of the air passages, facilitating the expulsion of phlegm.

In terms of micronutrients, anise is rich in B complex vitamins - namely niacin (B3) and folate (B9), as well as minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper.

Traditional treatments include the dried and crushed seeds of anise infused in hot water as a carminative, antiseptic, diuretic, digestive, and aphrodisiac, as well as a remedy for insomnia and constipation. In Arabian traditional medicine, anise seeds and oil have been used for the treatment of various conditions including dyspepsia, nausea, abdominal colic, seizures and epilepsy.

How It Works

The main constituents of anise are estrarole, anethole, eugenol, anisaldehyde, methylchanicol, coumarins and terpenes. These compounds have shown antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which are thought to be the reason for anise protective effects on the gastric mucosa. Although the exact mechanism of action is yet to be known, anise provides a muscle relaxant effect (antispasmodic) and contributes to maintain the structural integrity of the gastric epithelium against irritating substances.

Additionally, the expectorant action of anise is attributed to anethole - a natural alcohol that also provides anise its distinct flavor and sweetness - which can stimulate the upward waving motion of ephitelial cells in the respiratory tract, helping to expel phlegm.

Furthermore, dianethole and photoanethole - derivatives of anethole - seem to be responsible for the estrogenic action of anise. They bind to cells' estrogen receptors, triggering a response similar to the one caused by estrogen.

ANISE IS COMMONLY USED TO ALLEVIATE GASTROINTESTINAL COMPLAINTS BECAUSE IT PROTECTS STOMACH LINING.

Chamomile and guelder rose also possess antispasmodic properties, and similar estrogenic benefits can be found in herbs like alfalfa and dong quai.

Anise Side Effects

There are no reported side effects of regular anise consumption. However, the ingestion of as large quantities of anise essential oil may cause nausea, vomiting, seizures and pulmonary edema.

People who are allergic to plants similar to anise may experience reactions that range from mild to severe and can include symptoms as rhinitis, angioedema, asthma, urticaria, eczema, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Cautions

Since anise has an estrogenic action, women with breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids should avoid its consumption.

Because of its anticoagulant action, people taking anti-thrombotic medication or about to undergo surgery should consult to a doctor before consuming anise.

While normal consumption of anise is considered safe during pregnancy, excessive use in concentrated forms is not recommended for women who are pregnant since it can cause miscarriage.

How to Consume Anise

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsSeed
  • Edible usesFlavoring, Beverage
  • TasteSweet, Spicy

There are many ways to consume anise in order to enjoy its nutritional and medicinal benefits. Because of its strong taste, it is usually not consumed raw, but it is commonly used as an addition to meals and desserts. However, medicinal forms offer a higher concentration of anise's properties.

Remedies

Main preparations: Capsule, liquid extract, essential oil

  • Anise capsules. They concentrate the carminative and anti-inflammatory properties of anise. It can be taken before meals to facilitate digestion or after meals to relieve gastrointestinal distress.

  • Anise liquid extract. Obtained through an absorption process, anise liquid extract has both oil and alcohols in its composition, and it is used to treat a variety of conditions, such as digestive and respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and menstrual pain.

  • Anise essential oil. Anise oil is obtained by the distillation of anise seeds, and all properties and licorice flavor of the plant are concentrated in this form. It is often used to relieve rheumatic and arthritic pains, and also has relaxant and sedative effects.

Foods

Main ways: Fresh and dried seeds, liquid extract, liquor

  • Anise fresh and dried seeds. Anise seeds have an aromatic scent and a distinctive licorice flavor. They can be crushed and taken as a tea (there are also tea bags available) to treat H. pylori and respiratory tract infections, as well as dyspepsia and stress.

  • Did you know?

    Pimpinella anisum extract should not be confused with star anise extract, which can be toxic for infants.

    Anise liquid extract. The antispasmodic effects of anise liquid extract have been traditionally used to relief infants' colic.

  • Anise liquor. Anise is widely used to flavor alcoholic beverages around the world. In the Mediterranean, it is very common to drink anise liquor with or after meals to support digestion.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Big online retailers, Farmers' markets, Specialized health stores, Online herb stores, Local herbal store

Fresh anise is available year round in major food markets. Although anise seeds are mostly bought in fresh state, several other forms are also available such as dehydrated, powdered, and in the form of supplements.

Raw anise is easy to find in most grocery stores or local markets around the world. Whole seeds are the easiest form of raw anise to find. In the U.S., the most widely available varieties of anise are yellow anise and Florida anise. Powdered anise seeds, or other forms of it, are not as common but may still be found in specialized stores or ethnic markets.

Anise supplements are mainly found in specialized health stores. In addition, there is a wide variety of anise supplement choices available through online retailers. Each brand of anise supplement may come with different concentrations.

FRESH ANISE IS AVAILABLE YEAR ROUND IN MAJOR FOOD MARKETS.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cycleAnnual
  • Harvested partsSeeds
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLight (sandy), Medium (loam), Well-drained
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic), 6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral)
  • Growing habitatCool temperate regions, Mediterranean regions
  • Planting timeSpring
  • Plant spacing average0.15 m (0.49 ft)
  • Growing timeFour months

Anise is regarded as a rather difficult to cultivate. Although it grows well under standard temperate climates, it doesn't endure well transplantation or excessive manipulation.

Growing Guidelines

  • Anise grows best in well-drained and fertile soil. Fertilization should only be considered when the soil is poor. It also requires plenty of daily sunlight.

  • Anise plant thrives within a life zone of 46 - 73°F (8 - 23°C), with 16 - 67 inches (0.4 - 1.7 m) of precipitation and a soil pH of 6.3 - 7.3 (neutral to slightly alkaline).

  • The ideal spacing between plants is 6 - 12 inches (15 - 30 cm). Plant stems are often weak, but a line of string along each side of the row will prevent them from flopping over.

  • Plants should be watered only late in the afternoon or at night.

  • Anise may flower as early as six weeks after sowing, but ripening of the seeds may take up to four months of growth, and requires summer heat.

Detailed information about growing anise can be found in the herb garden section.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

Anise is a flowering plant that may grow up to three feet (1 m) tall and can be identified by its feathery and pinnate green leaves, and white oblong-shaped flowers. These flowers produce a small schizocarp fruit, which constitutes the most commercially important part of the plant.

  • Classification
    Pimpinella anisum is a member of the Apiaceae family, also known as the carrot or parsley family, which contains approximately 3,700 species; many of them are well-known culinary herbs, such as carrot, celery, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, Queen Anne's lace, parsley, and parsnip.
  • Varieties and subspecies of anise
    Over the course of history, different varieties and subspecies of anise have been cultivated through selective breeding in different regions of the world. The Spanish Anise, sold as Alicante Anise, is the largest and best adapted for medicinal use, as it yields about 3% oil. There are two North American varieties of anise: yellow anise and Florida anise.

Economic Data

The largest producers of anise are Russia and Poland. Anise contains anethole, an essential oil that is used in various industries, particularly in the culinary industry. This oil is used in producing everything from candy to bread, as well as in many East Asian dishes. However, because this oil is also found in an unrelated herb, star anise, which is less expensive to produce, the production of essential oil of anise was only eight tons by the turn of the 21st century.

Other Uses of Anise

  • Flavoring. Anise is widely used in the kitchen, as well as in the food and pharmaceutical industries to flavor pastries, cheese, bread, beverages, drugs, and cosmetics.

  • Breath refresher. In many cultures around the world, anise can be chewed to relieve bad breath.

  • Fishing. Anise essential oil can be used for manufacturing liquid scents that can work as effective bait for attracting fish.

  • Aromatherapy. Anise essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy. Its fresh, sweet, spicy scent is used to relieve nausea, as well as a morning stimulant.

Bibliography

  • Medicinal Plants of the World, pp. 180, 240
  • USDA Nutrient Database, Nutrient Report 02002: Spices, anise seed
  • Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Fennel and anise as estrogenic agents
  • Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History, p. 478
  • Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Inmmunology, Occupational rhinoconjunctivitis and food allergy because of aniseed sensitization, 2002
  • Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Characterization of allergens in Apiaceae spices: anise, fennel, coriander and cumin, 1997
  • World Journal of Gastroenterology, Aqueous suspension of anise “Pimpinella anisum” protects rats against chemically induced gastric ulcers, 2007
  • Herb Society of America, Anise Pimpinella anisum
  • ISRN Pharmaceutics, Review of Pharmacological Properties and Chemical Constituents of Pimpinella anisum, 2012
  • Food Chemistry, Screening of antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of anise (Pimpinella anisum L.) seed extracts (2003)
  • University of Florida, Anise—Pimpinella anisum L.
  • European Medicines Agency, ASSESSMENT REPORT ON PIMPINELLA ANISUM L.
  • Purdue University, Anise
  • Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, The study on the effects of Pimpinella anisum on relief and recurrence of menopausal hot flashes
  • Fish Catching Methods of the World, pp. 153-4
  • Spices and Condiments, p. 19