Anise is a very popular spice and flavoring agent, but it also has a number of health benefits and is used for its medicinal properties.
What is Anise?
Anise is a flowering plant scientifically known as Pimpinella anisum, and commonly known as aniseed. That common name most likely comes from the fact that the fruits of this plant, which looks like small seeds, are the most highly prized part. The taste of this plant is very recognizable, as it tastes just like licorice, even if you don’t know the name of this plant. Native to the Mediterranean and western Asian regions, this plant has been cultivated for thousands of years. The fruit of this plant is quite small and resembles many other common seeds. The extracted essential oil from these dried fruits is extremely powerful and can provide a number of the health benefits for which anise is known.
Fennel and anise are not the same things, although their flavors are very similar. In addition to being ground into a spice and used to flavor dishes, is also essential for the production of certain liquors, including absinthe, aquavit, sambuca, and ouzo. This unique plant provides aniseed for cooking, which can also be ground into a spice, whereas the leaves of the plant can be dried and used as an herb!
There are many important health benefits that can be gained from using this plant, including better digestion, relief from premenstrual symptoms, antioxidant protection, and aid in weight loss efforts. These benefits are largely due to the antioxidant present in this plant, such as anethole. Some of the other areas of relief include:
- Improved digestive function
- Relief from symptoms of asthma
- Delay in progress of cataracts
- Expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Skin care
- Strengthened immune system
- Respiratory booster
- Reduction in seizure frequency
- Improved metabolic function
- Weight loss
- Prevention of insomnia
- Increased heart health
- Improved metabolism
- Treatment of scabies
- Treatment of psoriasis
- Prevention of thrombosis
- Aid in the relief of constipation
- Increased libido
- Relief from PMS symptoms
- Antispasmodic abilities
How to Use?
Anise is widely used in many different ways and has traditionally been very versatile in both medicinal and culinary applications.
- The oil that can be extracted from aniseeds is extremely popular for hair and skin health.
- You can mix this oil with shea butter to create a moisturizing face rub, or you can make a hair wash out of the oil and other carrier oils.
- You can prepare a tea from these dried fruits/seeds that can function as both a laxative and a stress reliever.
- You can also make infusions, as well as liquors, with these seeds, and the licorice flavor makes it a particularly popular spice in candies, cookies, and desserts.
- You can even spice certain meats, like chicken, as well as Asian dishes with some anise for some special flair.
If you grow your own anise and want to hold on to these useful leaves and seeds for the future, be sure to store them properly.
- Step 1: Lay out the fresh seeds/fruits on a cloth or paper towel
- Step 2: Set the seeds in a dry spot that does not receive any sunlight (closet, cabinet, etc.)
- Step 3: Once dry, you can use them whole or grind them, then store them in an airtight container
Anise vs Fennel vs Star Anise
Anise, fennel and star anise all have the recognizable flavor of licorice, which is why so many people get confused by these three spices and herbs.
- Anise is the dried fruiting body of the anise plant. The leaves are also used as an herb.
- Fennel is a flowering herb with feathery leaves, which are dried and used to flavor food.
- Star anise is the pericarp of the fruit from an evergreen tree.
- Star anise is shaped like a star, anise is a small oblong seed, and fennel is made of dried thin leaves.
- All three contain different concentrations of anethole and related compounds, lending their licorice flavor.
Uses & Benefits
- While all three have some of the same health benefits, they differ in specialization.
- These three are used in different culinary applications due to their differing forms.
The health benefits of this spice are clear, but when used incorrectly, or in excess, there can be some side effects, such as the following:
- Respiratory tract issues
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Allergic reactions – If you are allergic to fennel or star anise, there is a good chance that you will experience topical inflammation on the skin.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid the use of anise, as it can cause complications with their child.