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Anise

Botanical name: Pimpinella anisum

Anise.jpg

© Martin Wall

Parts used and where grown

The seeds of this aromatic plant are used as both medicine and as a cooking spice. Anise comes from Eurasia but is now grown in gardens all over the world.

Anise has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
1Star

Adjunct to cathartic laxatives

Breast-feeding support

Bronchitis

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Cough

Indigestion and gas

Parasites

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Anise has been an important flavoring in European cooking since time immemorial. Its oil has also been used as an anthelmintic—a drug used to remove intestinal parasites—though it is not considered the strongest plant in this regard.1 Anise has also been used for centuries in European herbalism to treat coughs and indigestion.2

Active constituents

The active constituents in anise, particularly the terpenoid anethole, are contained in its volatile oil. The volatile oil gives the plant a delightful flavor and has been combined with other less pleasant tasting medicinal herbs to offset their taste. The oil is also antispasmodic, helping to relieve intestinal gas and spasmodic coughs.3 Anise has been combined with cathartic laxatives to help reduce the spasmodic cramping they can cause.4 It may also have modest antiparasitic actions and has been recommended by some practitioners to treat mild intestinal parasite infections.5 Anethole has been documented to have phytoestrogen activity in test tubes and animals;6 the relevance of this to humans is unknown. No clinical trials have been conducted to support any of these uses, though anise is approved for use by the German Commission E for relieving coughs and indigestion.7

How much is usually taken?

Three grams (1/2 tsp) of the seeds can be used three times per day to treat indigestion. To make a tea, boil 2 to 3 grams (1/2 tsp) of crushed seeds in 250 ml (1 cup) of water for ten to fifteen minutes, keeping the pot covered. Three cups of this tea can be drunk per day. It has been recommended to combine approximately 0.5 ml anise volatile oil with 4 oz (120 ml) tincture of anise and then take 10 to 30 drops (1/2 to 1.5 ml) of this mixture three times daily for coughs.8 The volatile oil can also be inhaled (by placing it in a vaporizer or in a steaming bowl of water) to help relieve a cough.9

Are there any side effects or interactions?

There are no known adverse effects from anise other than occasional allergic reactions of the skin with topical use and of the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract with internal use. It is frequently used to alleviate cough in children because of its gentleness and pleasant taste.10 The safety of using anise during pregnancy and breast-feeding is unknown, though it is very likely safe and has traditionally been used to support breast-feeding in some cultures.11

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with anise.

References:

1. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928:159.

2. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985:203–4.

3. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985:203–4.

4. Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Middlesex, UK: Viking Arkana, 1991:290

5. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985:203–4.

6. Albert-Puleo M. Fennel and anise as estrogenic agents. J Ethnopharm 1980;2:337–44.

7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:82–3.

8. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985:203–4.

9. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:82–3.

10. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985:203–4.

11. Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1–54 [review].

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