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ANISE (Pimpinella anisum)

 

Common names

Aniseed, sweet cumin

 

Medicinal part

Fruit (called seeds)

 

Description

An annual, anise can reach 2 feet in height. A member of the parsley family, its smooth stem supports fern-like leaves in many leaflets. Clusters of tiny white or yellow flowers bloom in midsummer and produce the little ribbed fruits in late summer.

Although most of us know anise best as a flavoring agent, the aromatic fruit, so small it looks like seeds, has a long history with many uses, both cosmetic (for perfume) and medicinal. The ancient Greeks used it to prevent seizures, and Hippocrates, known as the "father of medicine," advised its use to clear mucus from the respiratory passages. In colonial times, anise was so valued that each settler in Virginia was required by law to plant six anise seeds.

Anise is particularly used as a digestive aid, and in Roman times it was a component of a dual-purpose cake called mustaceum which was both a dessert and a digestive aid, a must after the huge Roman banquets. Early English herbalist, John Gerard, recommended it for hiccups. It is also a traditional herb used by nursing mothers to increase milk flow, and recent studies have revealed that anise contains chemicals similar to the female hormone estrogen, which may account for this use. As anise has only mild estrogenic activity, it can be used to relieve menopausal discomforts.

Today as always, herbalists recommend anise as an expectorant for cough and bronchitis. Modern studies have shown the herb to contain chemicals that serve to loosen bronchial secretions. Studies have also supported its use as a digestive aid against upset stomach and flatulence by confirming the presence of another chemical, anethole, which promotes digestion.

Dosage

Infusion: Use 1 teaspoon of crushed anise seeds per cup of boiling water; steep for 10 to 20 minutes and strain. Drink up to 3 cups daily.

Tincture: Use to 1 teaspoon up to 3 times daily, or follow label directions on commercial products.

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