The herb Pimpinella anisum is often called simply Anise or Aniseed, but it should not be confused with another plant called Star anise, since they have nothing in common.
Pimpinella anisum from the Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) family is an erect herbaceous annual, growing to a height of about 3 feet at maximum. The plant is very tender, having thin roots and stems. Its lower leaves are simple, toothed and broad, the upper ones are feathery pinnate with multiple narrow leaflets.
Anis tiny white flowers are gathered in the large and dense umbels, which look really beautiful. The fruits of this herb are usually called seeds; they are ribbed and ovate, greenish (when unripe) or brownish in color.
In general, anise resembles dill, fennel, caraway, or cumin in looks and has flavor similar to that of licorice, though these species are not related.
Aniseed is native to the eastern Mediterranean, namely to Egypt, Turkey, and Greece, but it is also cultivated in India, Mexico, North Africa, etc. The plant does best in the warm climatic conditions with much sunshine. It prefers fertile soils and good drainage.
The whole plant is edible, but seeds are used most often as culinary spice or as herbal remedy. It should be noted that they quickly lose their flavor, so they are best stored in the airtight container away from sunlight.
Aniseed is available in whole or ground forms, or as an essential oil.
Chemical composition of Anise oil ensures its effectiveness in the treatment of certain health disorders. The main constituent of the plant’s seeds, which are the source of the essential oil, is volatile oil with anethol being the most valuable component responsible for the herb’s aroma. Anethol is believed to have mild estrogenic effects, thus it may be of help for breastfeeding women who need to increase lactation. This oil also contains anisic acid, estragole, anise ketone, etc.
Other constituents of the seeds are fixed oil, choline, sugar, coumarins (for example, bergapten, umbelliferone), flavonoid glycosides (as rutin, isovitexin, quercetin), phenylpropanoids and minor constituents as fatty acids, sterols, proteins.
Pimpinella anisum is used as an antiseptic, antiparasitic, carminative, and stomachic. It is used as an expectorant, since it stimulates secretions from the lungs and throat; it loosens phlegm and helps get rid of it. In addition, Anise may suppress cough working as a relaxant and antispasmodic agent. This action also helps relieve intestinal gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps.
Digestive problems are treated with Aniseed essential oil, since it improves digestion, thus preventing the development of other problems in the digestive tract, as, for example, gas.
Anise seeds are also rich on vitamins B1, B2, and C, minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, and iron.
Since times immemorial Anise was known as an effective means to subdue certain health disorders. The most common use of Aniseed remedies was against coughs, bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Sore throat was also treated with them.
The second most important application of Anise remedies was as the means to improve functioning of the digestive tract: essential oil helped eliminate flatulence, gas, bloating, indigestion, gastritis, abdominal cramps and colic. It was given to infants to relieve colic and normalize digestion (these days it is known that Aniseed has no potentially harmful sedative effects on the central nervous system, thus it seems quite safe to be given to babies).
The third most valuable action of Aniseeds is its ability to improve lactation in the breastfeeding mothers. Anise seeds were chewed to freshen the breath or mouthwash was prepared to reach the same aim.
It is necessary to say that all of these actions may potentially be scientifically proved these days, since the work in this direction is continuously being done. Meanwhile, traditional herbalists use Anise remedies in accordance with the ancient recipes and successfully treat many people helping them either get relief from their disease or eliminate them in some cases altogether.
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