Anise (Pimpinella anisum L.)

Anise (Pimpinella anisum L.) Umbelliferae Umbel family

Description of Plant and Culture: An annual plant; the spindle-shaped, thin, woody root sends up a round, grooved, branched stem up to 1 1/2 feet high. The lowest leaves are round-cordate and long-petioled, the middle leaves are pinnate, and those at the top are incised into narrow lobes. The small, white flowers appear in compound umbels during July and August. The downy, brown ovate fruit is about 1/8 inch long and ripens during August and September. The whole plant has a fragrant odor, and the seeds taste sweet when chewed. It has a licorice-like flavor.

Among the cafe set, anise is the herb most likely to be invited to cocktails. From Greek ouzo to French pastis to Italian sambuca, anise lends its distinctive flavor to some of the world’s most sophisticated libations — but the herbally hip know that this plant has as important a place in the medicine chest as it does in the liquor cabinet.

Medicinal Properties: Antispasmodic, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic, tonic

Biochemical Information: Essential oil with anethole, choline, fatty oil

Legends, Myths and Stories: Most people don’t think of anise in terms of its popularity with mice, but in the 16th century, anise found wide application as a mouse-trap bait. According to several old herbals, the mice found it irresistible. The Romans served a wedding cake strongly flavored with anise seeds to help prevent indigestion caused by overeating at the marriage banquet. From this ancient practice came the tradition of baking special cakes for weddings.

Anise is called Huai-hsiang in China, eaten to relieve flatulence and griping bowels. The Herbal Almanac states the a few drops of Oil of Anise, or Oil of Rhodium on a trappers bait will entice any wild animal into the snare trap.

Another story about animals is quite sad: A farmer, having trouble with the mischief of coons on his farm, was told: “Here is a remedy to get rid of Coons. Get a good heavy wire, and make a snare. Catch one Coon, cut both ears off, and get a can of white paint, and paint the Coon white, then turn it loose and it will run all the Coons off the farm”.

Uses: Anise promotes digestion, improves appetite, alleviates cramps and nausea, cough, colds, and relieves flatulence, bad breath, and, especially in infants, colic (mothers who sip anise tea will relieve the colic in the breast feeding baby). Is useful as an expectorant for coughs. Anise water promotes milk production in nursing mothers, and a soothing eyewash. Said to promote the onset of menstruation when taken as an infusion. Anise oil helps relieve cramping, and spasms and is good as a stomach tonic. For insomnia, that a few seeds in a glass of hot milk before bedtime. Can be made into a salve to use for scabies or lice. A tea made from equal parts of anise, caraway, and fennel makes an excellent intestinal purifier. Because of its sweetness, anise is a good additive to improve the flavor of other medicines.

Anisette, sold in most liquor stores, has volatile oil of anise as part of the preparation. Anisette is reputedly helpful for bronchitis and spasmodic asthma. Taken in hot water, anisette is said to be an immediate palliative.

5 to 10 drops of anise oil on top of a tsp. of honey, taken every 1/2 hour before meals, is said to be helpful in some cases of emphysema. 15 drops of essence of anise added to 1 quart of hot water, used as an inhalant, will sometimes help stubborn cases of laryngitis.

Anise has a wide variety of applications in cooking as well as medicine.

Try Anise If: You’re hacking and hacking, but nothing’s coming up. A popular ingredient in cough drops, anise contains the chemicals creosol and alpha-pinene, which have been shown to loosen mucus in the bronchial tubes and make it easier to cough up.

You wined, you dined … and your tummy needs a bedtime story. There’s a reason why anise-flavored cordials are drunk after dinner: Anise contains the chemical anethole, which helps relieve gas and settle a queasy — or just burgeoning — tummy. A cup of anise tea is a refreshing, elegant way to cleanse the palate after a big meal without the alcohol or calories of a digestif.

Traditional herbal healers have long recommended anise to help a nursing woman’s milk come in, and modern science suggests there’s some reason to believe it works. Anise contains the compounds dianethole and photoanethole, which are chemically similar to the female hormone estrogen. If you’re a new mom and would like to try anise, drink three cups of the tea spaced throughout the day.

You’re throwing off enough heat to power a small city. If menopausal hot flashes have you wondering if you could fry an egg on your forehead, give anise tea a try. The same mild estrogenic action that makes it valuable for nursing moms may also help take the edge off your menopausal symptoms.


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The Herb Book, by John Lust, pgs., 99-100, 173, 309, 316, 366, 372, 459, 460-463, 466-469, 475, 484-486, 490, 510-511, 529, 541, 565, 567, 573.
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The Nature Doctor, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; pgs., 38, 263, 408.
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Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, pgs., 41-42.
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Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, pgs., 61, 76, 217, 246.
Herb Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, pgs., 121-124, 128.
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The Rodale Herb Book, edited by William H. Hylton, pgs., 105-106, 144-145, 149, 279, 345-349.
The Yoga of Herbs, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, pg., 192.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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