Identification: A dainty annual about 18 inches high. The roots are thin, spindle-shaped, and woody. The lower leaves of the round, grooved, branched stem are round-cordate and long-petioled. The middle leaves are pinnate, and the top leaves are incised into narrow lobes. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. The plant is self-fertile. The small white flowers appear during July and August. The grayish-brown fruit consists of two united carpels each containing an anise seed. The seed is small and curved, about 0.5 cm long and usually contains hair-like protrusions from each end. The seeds ripen during August and September. The whole plant has a fragrant odor, and the seeds taste like licorice.
Family: Umbelliferae (Parsley family)
Other Names: Anise plant, Aniseed, Anise seed, Common Anise, Sweet Cumin, Hua-hsian (China).
Flowers: July – August
Parts Used: Seeds
Habitat: It is a native of Egypt, Greece, Crete, and Asia Minor, but it is widely cultivated.
History: Anise has been used for many centuries. It is well known to the Greeks, being mentioned by Dioscorides and Pliny and was cultivated in Tuscany in Roman times. In the Middle Ages its cultivation spread to Central Europe, but the seeds ripen here only in very warm summers, and it is grown chiefly in warmer districts such as Southern Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, Malta, Spain, Italy, North Africa and Greece who produce large quantities. It has also been introduced into India and South America. The cultivated plant attains a considerably larger size than the wild one.
The ancient Greeks, including Hippocrates, prescribed anise for coughs. Ancient Romans used Anise in a special cake served at the end of enormous feasts. Historically, the herb was used because of its flavor (licorice), as an aid for digestion, as an aphrodisiac, for colic and to combat nausea.
Ancient Chinese physicians used anise as a digestive aid, flatulence remedy, and breath freshener. Early English herbalists recommended the herb for hiccups, for promoting milk production for nursing mothers, for treatment of water retention, headache, asthma, bronchitis, insomnia, nausea, lice, infant colic, cholera, and even cancer.
Constituents: Volatile oil, (1-4%), consisting largely of trans-anethole (70-90%), with estragole (methylchavicol), anisic acid, b-caryophylline, anisaldehyde, linalool, anise ketone (methoxyphenylacetone); the polymers of anethole, dianethole and photoanethole; an Egyptian variety carvene, carvone, and alpha-zingiberene.
Coumarins: Bergapten, umbelliferone, and scopoletin.
Flavonoid glycosides: Rutin, isovitexin, quercetin, luteolin, and apigenin glycosides.
Phenylpropanoids, including 1-propenyl-2-hydroxy-5-methoxy-benzene-2- (2- methyl-butyrate).
Miscellaneous: Lipids, fatty acids, sterols, proteins and carbohydrates.
Properties: Antispasmodic, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and tonic.
Main Uses: The volatile oil in Aniseed provides the basis for its internal use to ease griping, intestinal colic and flatulence. It also has an expectorant and antispasmodic action and may be used in bronchitis, in tracheitis where there is persistent irritable coughing, and in whooping cough. Externally, the oil may be used in an ointment base for the treatment of scabies. The oil by itself will help in the control of lice. Aniseed has been demonstrated to increase mucociliary transport and so supporting its use as an expectorant. It has milk estrogenic effects, thought to be due to the presence of dianethole and photoanethole, which explains the use of this plant in folk medicine to increase milk secretion, facilitate birth and increase libido.
Anise is a stimulant and carminative; used in cases of flatulence, flatulent colic of infants, and to remove nausea. Sometimes added to other medicines to improve their flavor, correct griping and other disagreeable effects. It is very effective as a carminative (to relieve gas pains).
It is used for relieving menopausal discomforts and in treating some form of prostate cancer in men. It may have potential in treating hepatitis and cirrhosis, although tests are being conducted on this.
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.
Preparation & Dosages: As the seeds ripen, turning from green to gray-brown, harvest them. Alcohol extracts the medicinal properties of anise more effectively than water.
Infusion: Use 1 teaspoon crushed seed to 1/2 or 1 cup boiling water. Steep 10 minutes and strain. Take 1 to 1-1/2 cups during the day, a mouthful at a time.
Tincture: Add 2 oz of crushed seed to 1/2 quart brandy. Add some clean lemon peels and let it stand for 20 days, then strain. Take 1 teaspoon at a time.
Cough Syrup: Add 7 teaspoons crushed seeds to 1 quart of boiling water and then simmer the contents down to 1-1/2 pints. Strain and add 4 teaspoons each of honey and glycerin (as a preservative). Take 2 teaspoons of this syrup every few hours to relieve hacking coughs.