The medicinal and culinary properties of the anise plant were already known in Egypt and Greece. However, the Arabs were the first to introduce it to Spain and Europe during the Middle Ages. Andres de Laguna, an outstanding Spanish physician and botanist of the Renaissance, who translated into Spanish and commented on the works of the great Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author Pedanius Dioscorides, said of this plant: “It corrects the corruption of bad breath, eliminating gas, and also acid belches.”
The anise plant was also called “husbands-are-back,” since those husbands who leave home due to the bad breath of their wives, when the latter take anise, the former are back. That’s another application of the plant which can still be used.
Anise Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Anise plant, aniseed, common anise.
- French: Anis vert.
- Spanish: Anis, anis verde.
- Environment: Native to the Middle East, its cultivation has spread over all Mediterranean countries with hot climates. Spain is one of the top-ranked producers worldwide.
- Description: Plant of the Umbelliferae family, growing from 50 to 80 cm high, with grooved stem and whitish flowers growing in umbels. Its fruit is an oval grain that has a pleasant aroma. Though anise belongs to the same botanical family as poison parsley, both plants are difficult to mistake since anise has a pleasant aroma and peculiar features.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The fruit.
Healing Properties and Indications
Many properties of the anise plant are due to its essence, anethole, which, when isolated from the rest of the plant’s active components and then concentrated, loses its healing virtues and can even become toxic (it can provoke convulsions). Anise liquors made with this essence have no medicinal properties but poisonous effects because of alcohol and anethole.
However, anise fruits as offered by nature practically lack any of their toxic essence effects. The fruits contain other substances such as phenol, malic acid, sugars, and choline, besides anethole. Their properties are as follows:
- On the digestive system: Anise is the archetype of plants with carminative, appetizer, digestive, and stomach invigorating properties. It cleans fermentation and putrefaction from the intestine. With caraway, fennel, and coriander, it makes the “herbal tea of the four seeds,” of which Font Quer said that no flatulence could resist it. For children and babies on a milk diet, an infusion of anise is beneficial for gas or diarrhea. Giving anise infusions to babies on a milk diet as a soft drink is a good habit.
- On the respiratory system, anise has expectorant properties. It promotes the elimination of bronchial mucous by making it more fluid. It is recommended for people with asthma and bronchial disorders, especially those who want to give up smoking, since it acts as a proper antidote for nicotine and tar, cleaning the irritating mucus of the bronchi promoting regeneration of the mucosal cells. Moreover, tobacco-smelling breath is eliminated, giving a fantastic aroma.
- On mammary glands, it has galactogenic properties, which means it increases milk production. Cattle breeders give the anise plant to their cows and sheep, mixing it with forage. Because anise is eliminated through the milk, breastfeeding women will help their babies by taking anise.
How to use Anise
- Infusion with a teaspoon (3g) of fruits per cup of water. Drink up to three hot cups daily, preferably after meals. They may be sweetened with honey.
- Infusion for babies on a milk diet. This infusion is prepared with 1-2 tablespoonfuls of dry fruits (3-6g) in a quarter of a liter of water (250 ml). Sweeten with a teaspoonful of sugar (babies do not tolerate honey well on a milk diet). Administer during the whole day.
- Essence: The recommended dose is 1-5 drops, two or three times a day.
- Powder: Up to two grams a day.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 465,466. Print.