Anise is mostly known for its culinary uses. However, the health benefits of anise are immense and should be known. This herb is a member of the Apiaceae family just like parsley, carrot and celery. Its Latin name is pimpinella anisum, but it also has many names including aniseed, anise seed, anisi fructose and sweet cumin. Anise originates from the eastern Mediterranean or West Asia.
The use of the health benefits of anise date back at least 1500 BC when it was documented in Egypt through the Ebers Papyrus. This herb is mentioned in the Bible (gospels of Luke and Mark). Many Roman and Greek author mention the health benefits of anise, including Pliny, Dioscorides, Paladus and Theophrastus. Romans included the seeds in cakes at parties to avoid possible flatulence and indigestion of dinner guests. This herb was considered to be an aphrodisiac and it was also used to prevent evil eye. Early settlers of the United States were required to plant anise.
Anise seed (which are actually fruits) is what is most frequently used, but the leaves and roots can also have medicinal benefits and are edible. This herb is used to make soaps, teas, bread, cakes and liquors including absinthe (like wormwood), ouzo, raki, sambuca and aquavit. Many toothpastes and mouthwash contain anise since it has antimicrobial properties and helps eliminate bad breath.
How to Use Anise
Anise can be found in the spice aisle of any grocery store. You can also grow anise in your herb garden. Store the seeds in an airtight container for up to three years if they are whole and two years if they are ground. Anise extract or anise essential oil can also be used medicinally.
Be careful not to confuse anise with star anise which is completely different. Many times star anise oil is just labeled as anise. Look for the Latin name “pimpinella anisum” on the label to make sure you are buying anise. If the label has a star shaped fruit it is star anise not anise. Make sure to buy essential oils or supplements for reputable providers since they are not regulated.
To make anise tea you should place the seeds in boiling water and leave them covered for 10-15 minutes. For some health benefits of anise it is best to ground the seeds into powder. Simply roast aniseeds until they are aromatic and then grind them in a spice or coffee grinder.
Health benefits of anise come from from all the minerals found in the herb which include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. It also has vitamin A, B-6, C and folate. Anise has niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin which may help maintain healthy levels of neurochemicals in the brain.
This is one of the best herbs for women since certain chemicals in anise have similar effects to estrogen. Therefore the health benefits of anise can help with menstrual and menopause symptoms. It also promotes lactation and increases the sex drive. A study found that women taking anise seed three times per day felt a reduction in postpartum depression.
Dogs like the aroma of anise, just like cats like catnip, so you can feed them seeds and stems. Health benefits of anise are used in babies who are given anise seed water to reduce a runny nose, hiccups and stomach pains. It is also beneficial to improve the signs of “male menopause” and is considered an aphrodisiac.
In low doses this herb is an antiseptic, stopping the fermentation process in the large intestine, and in small doses it is an expectorant, which is why it is included in some cough syrups. According to this study, anis can even help people who have additions to opioid drugs and morphine, because the volatile oils in the seeds act on the brain receptors responsible for relaxation.
Health Benefits of Anise
A study done in 2009 divided women in three groups: one received a placebo, one received an anti-inflammatory drug (mefenamic acid), and one got a mixture of anise, saffron and celery seed. After several menstrual cycles, the group that got the herbs experienced a greater reduction in menstrual pain. Anise is an emmenagogue, so it triggers the menstrual cycle. Pregnant women should not use this herb since it may be abortive.
Health benefits of anise, when combined with fenugreek, naturally stimulate milk production in lactating mothers who experience nursing problems. The hormonal actions of these herbs improve the composition and nutritional qualities of the milk. Some of the active ingredients of anise are transferred into the milk, helping stimulate the infant’s digestion and fighting colic. Take on teaspoon powder form (with fenugreek) three times per day. Many lactation supplements include anise.
A study conducted in 2012 showed the health benefits of anise in treating symptoms of hot flashes. Women who took anise extract in capsule for four weeks saw reduction in severity and frequency of hot flashes. Some compounds found in these seeds also help prevent bone loss, which is a result of declining estrogen levels according to this study.
One of the main health benefits of anise is its effect on the digestive system. Several studies show that patients taking anise and other herbs such as fennel, senna, and elderberry had more bowel movements per day. These herbs can help fight constipation since they have a laxative effect.
Anise normalizes digestive secretions including biliary, bowel, pancreatic and gastric. Thus improving digestion, increasing appetite and preventing the formation of stomach ulcers. Anise helps treat mild indigestion, bloating and flatulence after meals. Simply chew anise seeds or steep them in hot water. Aniseed can also help relieve nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Freshly ground powdered anise can help decrease blood sugar levels, cholesterol and triglycerides. Health benefits of anise include diabetic treatment and the reduction of cardiovascular complications which can arise from this condition. Anethole, the active ingredient in anise, enhances the function of pancreas cells that produce insulin.
Anise has a relaxing effect on the bronchial tree since it its an antispasmodic. This herb eases breathing when it relaxes the muscles and blocks or diminishes the intensity of an asthma attack. It is also has expectorating properties, so it expels excess mucus from the respiratory tract. For long term use, it is best to combine this herb with German chamomile and heartsease (viola tricolor).
Extracts of anise can inhibit bacteria significantly. Its essential oils, antioxidants and vitamin C can help destroy many pathogens. A study done in Iraq tested essential oils against harmful strains of bacteria, such as salmonella, E. coli and staph. Anise seed oil showed the highest resistance.
Health benefits of anise seed oil include anti-inflammatory properties similar to taking aspirin and morphine. People with joint pain, arthritis and rheumatism can take advantage of this. Long term inflammation is linked to chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Anise’s ability to reduce inflammation can promote better health. It is also rich in antioxidants which can prevent oxidative damage.
Both anise and fennel seeds were shown to have antiviral and immune stimulating properties. Research shows that health benefits of anise may help protect against measles, human cytomegalovirus and herpes type 1 and 2.
Make a poultice for external use to treat snake bites and sciatica. Anise oil can be mixed with shea butter to make a face moisturizer or use it alone or with other oils to wash your hair. This herb is an insecticide so it can be used towards small pests, including head lice and scabies. It also helps with psoriasis.
Possible Side Effects
It is safe to consume anise in food. There is no evidence that shows the risks of taking using anise medicinally. People with allergic reactions to caraway, coriander (cilantro), celery, cumin, asparagus, dill, fennel and star anise should be cautious since they may experience allergic reactions.
Pregnant women should not take advantage of the health benefits of anise because it could be abortive. Since this herb produces estrogen-like effects, it could be potentially harmful to people that have hormone sensitive conditions including endometriosis, uterine fibroids and certain types of cancer (uterine, ovarian and breast).
Women taking birth control pills, tamoxifen and estrogen should be careful as anise may interact with their medications. It is best to talk to your health provider before taking herbs if you are taking medications.