Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family. This herbaceous annual is native to the East Mediterranean basin and West Asia. It was brought to Europe for its medicinal value and it is now cultivated in many lands.
The fruits of anise are referred to as aniseed and have culinary and therapeutic value.
Aniseed stimulated productive cough and is, therefore, used as an expectorant. It also protects the lining of the lungs and airways. This lining serves to moisten and protect the airways against potential pathogens and foreign particles, preventing infection and tissue damage.
It is also carminative. That means it either eliminates gas or prevents its formation.
In folk medicine it is used to increase milk production in nursing women, to stop diarrhea, colic and vaginal discharge, to regulate menstruation, and to stimulate urine production.
Aniseed contains essential oils. Of these oils, 80-90% consist of Anethole. The oil is also an insecticide and fungicide.
Aniseed tea recipe
- Take 1 to 2 teaspoons of aniseed and crush it in a morsel. Transfer the crushed seeds (fruit) to a cup.
- Add hot water and let it steep covered for at least 10 minutes. Make sure to cover the cup with a lid to prevent the essential oils from dissipating.
- Remove lid and let the drops that condensed on the lid drip back into the cup. They contain the essential oils!
- Enjoy it 3 times per day.
It is important to crush the fruit immediately before using it. If you don’t crush fruit, not enough essential oils will seep into the water. If you use pulverized fennel from the grocery store, there won’t be enough, if any, essential oils for therapeutic use. The pulverization releases the essential oils into the air.
The sweet and highly aromatic seeds have a flavor similar to star anise, fennel and licorice. They are used by many cultures to flavor food, for example: black jelly beans, British aniseed balls, Australian humbugs, New Zealand aniseed wheels, Italian Pizzelle, German Pfeffernüsse and Springerle. They are also used in Austrian, Dutch, Peruvian, Mexican and New Mexican cuisines. In India, aniseed is taken as a digestive after meals.
Several alcoholic beverages contain aniseed. A few examples include the German Jägermeister, the Italian Sambuca, the French Absinthe and the Greek Ouzo.
Anise, like fennel and caraway must be stored in an air-tight container away from light. Because of the essential oil content, it should only be roasted, crushed or ground immediately before use. Improper storage leads to oxidation of the essential oil compound Anethole into Photoanethole. Photoanethole mimics estrogen.