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Anise~Uses and How to Grow

April 21, 2012


Botanical: Pimpinella anisum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

Part Used—Seeds and Leaves
This herb has a woody root that produces a round, grooved, branched stem. The coarse-toothed lower leaves are round to cordate with long petioles. The upper leaves are feathery, delicate, and pinnately divided. Leaflets may be toothed or toothless. The small flowers are white to yellowish white with petals that are held in compound umbels. The brown fruit is ovate, downy, flattened, and 1/8 inch long.

Anise is native to the Middle East. Although its name does not have a particular meaning, the plant itself is associated with health and is thought to aid digestion. It has been cultivated for much of recorded history. Hippocrates recommended it for coughs, and the Roman scholar Pliny used it as a breath freshener.

Cultivation PLANT TYPE: Annual
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pimpinella anisum
MATURE PLANT SIZE: 18 to 24 inches high x 12 inches wide
LIGHT: Full Sun
FLOWERING PERIOD: July to August
SOIL TYPE: light, dry, well-drained soil
pH RANGE: 6.0
KNOWN PESTS: None
KNOWN DISEASES: None

Propagation/Sowing:

Seeds sown directly into the ground. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep outdoors in spring. Does not transplant well. Rows 2.5 to 3 feet apart.

 

Companion Planting:

Anise seed will germinate more rapidly if sown near coriander. It has been shown that the presence of coriander improves the actual seed formation of the anise plant.

 

Care & Growing:

This spindly plant needs protection from winds and plenty of sunshine to promote healthy growth. Its fragile, tender seedlings do not transplant well. Add fertilizer only if the soil is extremely poor, and add lime if the pH is very acidic. Water regularly in hot, dry weather, preferably in late afternoon or evening to avoid scorching the plant.

Harvesting:

After the flower umbels have become heavy with ripe brown seeds, cut the heads off before they drop. Place them in a single layer on a paper towel or plate in a dry place. If possible, expose to direct sunlight to allow the seeds to completely dry out. When the seeds are crisp and dry, rub between palms to separate the seed from the hull, sieve to remove seeds from the husks, and store in airtight containers.

USAGE:

Aromatic, culinary, and medicinal. Anise may be used for its aromatic qualities in oil and potpourris. Crushed seeds are added to sachets. The licorice flavor complements eggs, fruit, cheese, pastries, cakes, and cookies. The leaves are used in salads or as a garnish and dried for teas. The seed is used whole or ground. Sprinkle on the top of fruit pies before baking instead of cinnamon. Anise is reported to have some medicinal qualities. 

 

When threshed out, the seeds may be easily dried in trays, in a current of air in half-shade, out-of-doors, or by moderate heat. When dry, they are grayish brown, ovate, hairy, about one-fifth of an inch long, with ten crenate ribs and often have the stalk attached. They should be free from earthy matter. The taste is sweet and spicy, and the odor aromatic and agreeable.

The commercial varieties differ considerably in size, but the larger varieties alone are official. The Spanish Anise, sold as Alicante Anise, are the largest and the best adapted for pharmaceutical use, yielding about 3 per cent. of oil. Russian and German fruits are smaller and darker and are the variety generally used for distillation of the volatile oil. Italian Anise is frequently adulterated with Hemlock fruit.

Constituents—Anise fruit yields on distillation from 2.5 to 3.5 per cent. of a fragrant, syrupy, volatile oil, of which anethol, present to about 90 per cent., is the principal aromatic constituent. It has a strong Anise odor and separates in the form of shining white crystalline scales on cooling the oil. Other constituents of the fruit are a fixed oil, choline, sugar and mucilage.

Oil of Anise, distilled in Europe from the fruits of Pimpinella anisum, Anise, and in China from the fruits of Illicium anisatum, Star Anise, a small tree indigenous to China, is colorless, or very pale yellow, with taste and odor like the fruit. The oils obtainable from these two fruits are identical in composition, and nearly the same in most of their characters, but that from Star Anise fruit congeals at a lower temperature. The powdered drug from Star Anise is administered in India as a substitute for the official fruit, and the oil is employed for its aromatic, carminative and stimulant properties. The bulk of the oil in commerce is obtained from the Star Anise fruit in China. The fruits are also often imported into France and the oil extracted there. Chinese Anise oil is harsh in taste.

Medicinal Action and Uses—Carminative and pectoral. Anise enjoys considerable reputation as a medicine in coughs and pectoral affections. In hard, dry coughs where expectoration is difficult, it is of much value. It is greatly used in the form of lozenges and the seeds have also been used for smoking, to promote expectoration.

The volatile oil, mixed with spirits of wine forms the liqueur Anisette, which has a beneficial action on the bronchial tubes, and for bronchitis and spasmodic asthma, Anisette, if administered in hot water, is an immediate palliative.

For infantile catarrh, Aniseed tea is very helpful. It is made by pouring half a pint of boiling water on 2 teaspoonfuls of bruised seed. This, sweetened, is given cold in doses of 1 to 3 teaspoonfuls frequently.

Gerard said:

‘Aniseed helpeth the yeoxing or hicket (hiccough) and should be given to young children to eat, which are like to have the falling sickness (epilepsy), or to/such as have it by patrimony or succession.’

 

The stimulant and carminative properties of Anise make it useful in flatulency and colic. It is used as an ingredient of cathartic and aperients pills, to relieve flatulence and diminish the griping of purgative medicines, and may be given with perfect safety in convulsions. For colic, the dose is 10 to 30 grains of bruised or powdered seeds infused in distilled water, taken in wineglassful doses, or 4 to 20 drops of the essential oil on sugar. For the restlessness of languid digestion, a dose of essence of aniseed in hot water at bedtime is much commended.

In the Paregoric Elixir (Compound Tincture of Camphor), prescribed as a sedative cordial by doctors, oil of Anise is also included – 30 drops in a pint of the tincture.

Anise oil is a good antiseptic and is used, mixed with oil of Peppermint or Gaultheria (Wintergreen) to flavor aromatic liquid dentifrices.

Oil of Anise is used also against insects especially when mixed with oil of Sassafras and Carbolic oil.

NOTES:

Seeds germinate readily in flats, but anise transplants poorly.

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2 Comments
  1. Enjoyed reading about anise. I have star anise in my pantry and should use it more often. Thanks for the reminder.

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