Sweet cumin, Aniseed
Dried fruits. These are often mistaken for the seeds, though this is not botanically correct. If you open the fruits you can see teeny tiny seeds inside.
Stimulant, carminative, mild anti-spasmodic, expectorant, analgesic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, diuretic, diaphoretic, aromatic, antioxidant.
Culinary healer of the Ancients
Anise is native to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean. Today, it is cultivated in southern Europe, southern Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, China, Chile, Mexico, and the United States. It is most commonly known as a culinary spice and flavoring agent. The distinct flavor of anise is similar to other spices such as star anise, fennel, and licorice. It is confused and interchanged with star anise, but they are not botanically related. Anise is Pimpinella anisum of the Apiaceae family (related to dill, cumin and fennel) and Star Anise is Illicium verum of the Schisandraceae family. Historically, it was used as a digestive aid where there is excess flatulence, gripping pains of the intestines and nausea. It is also used to alleviate colic in babies. The volatile oils are helpful for coughs, particularly dry, unproductive ones.
The spice got its name from the Latin anisum from the Greek word anison [ἄνισον] or anneson [ἄννησον] by confusion with the herb dill, which in Greek was known as aneton [ἄνητον]. It is known to have been used by the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC. The Greeks and Romans also used it. The Ancient Romans often served spiced cakes flavored with aniseed called “mustaceoe” at the end of feasts as a digestive. This tradition of serving cake at the end of festivities is the basis for the tradition of serving cake at weddings. Later it was brought to India from Persia. Anise fruits, which are known in the spice trade as "seeds”, found their way to China around 1200 AD.
Anise is sweet and very aromatic and has a characteristic flavor that is similar to licorice. The essential oil is used to flavor foods, breads, teas, candies and confections, liqueurs, drinks, and breath fresheners. It is used to flavor treats all over the world from black jelly beans to British aniseed balls and "troach" drops, Australian humbugs, Italian pizzelle cookies, German Pfeffernüsse, Dutch muisjes, and Peruvian picarones. Anise is a key ingredient in Mexican atole de anís and champurrado, which is similar to hot chocolate. In the Mediterranean region it is a popular flavoring for liqueurs including Greek ouzo, Italian sambuca, Bulgarian mastika, French absinthe, anisette, and pastis, Spanish Anís del Mono, Anísado and Herbs de Majorca, Turkish and Armenian rakı, Middle Eastern arak, and Algerian Anisette Cristal. Outside the Mediterranean region, it is found in Colombian aguardiente and Mexican Xtabentún.
While most of the culinary uses of Anise are from and extract of Anise or "Oil of Anise", we will be discussing using the whole dried fruits as pictured here.
The volatile oils in aniseed give it many of its medicinal properties. Anise has a warming affect on the body that is gently stimulating. In general, Anise increases overall secretions in the body including milk flow, urine, menstruation, perspiration. When taken as a tea anise helps warm the abdomen and alleviates indigestion, belching, nausea, gas and other abdominal pains associated with indigestion. In the Traditional Medicine of Iran anise seeds are used as a diuretic, galactagogue, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, an analgesic for migraines, and to reduce hot flashes related to menopause.
Anise can help relieve colic in infants and increase milk production for breastfeeding mothers. A tea of anise seeds was used in the Eastern United States in the 1800s to increase lactation. Like other aromatic herbs, some of the flavor of anise is passed to the baby in the milk.
It is also helpful for the lungs and is both an expectorant and an anti-spasmodic, which is beneficial in bronchitis with the persistent, irritable cough. It especially helpful for dry, unproductive coughs.
Traditional texts also say it is effective for melancholy, nightmares, and also in the treatment of epilepsy and seizures. Anise seed contains numerous antispasmodic constituents, including eugenol. This is a common constituent in many plants used for digestive cramping and pain. Eugenol is carminative, relaxes intestinal muscle and is analgesic which is why it is so effective in relieving digestive complaints. The purified form of eugenol is used in dentistry for pain relief. These antispasmodic constituents are likely responsible for anise’s ability to soothe irritated coughs.
Preparation & Dosage
For indigestion, gas, nausea: Crush 1 teaspoon of anise seeds in a grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Crushing them is important in order to release the volatile oils. Place in a pint size mason jar and fill with boiling water. Cover well, and steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain and drink 2-3 cups a day, until symptoms alleviate.
For increased milk production: Grind up 1-2 teaspoonfuls of anise seed in a coffee grinder, and place the powder in the bottom of a pint size mason jar. Fill with boiling water, cover, and steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups a day, until sufficient milk supply is restored.
For infant colic (ages 3 mo and up): Same preparation as for indigestion. Dosage is 1 Tablespoon (Tbsp) of warm tea by mouth every hour until symptoms improve. Store extra tea in the fridge for up to three days, then discard and make fresh.
For cough: M. Grieve in her Modern Herbal recommends to take Anisette liqueur and add a little hot water and drink immediately for an almost instant calming effect for coughs. I will leave that one up to you if you decide to try, but I’ll admit my curiosity and may just try this folk remedy next time. But for now we are going to recommend making an herbal syrup for coughs. Syrups coat and soothe inflamed tissues in the throat and make a great medium for medicinal herbs that have the same effect. Combines well with marshmallow root, fennel, licorice, cinnamon, echinacea. See recipe below.
Do not use medicinally during pregnancy, as it can stimulate contractions when taken in large doses. Food flavorings are safe.
Large quantities of anise can be toxic.
Do not use the essential oil without dilution and never take essential oil internally.
Because anise may increase the amount of iron that is absorbed into the body, use caution when taking both iron supplements and anise at the same time.
Anise Cough Syrup
Click the image below for our recipe!
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