Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Pimpinella anisum L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Anise, Pimpinella anisum L., a herbaceous annual native to the Mediterranean region and Egypt, is cultivated in Europe, Asia India, Mexico, North Africa, and the USSR. The plant reaches a height of about 0.5 meters and requires a warm and long frost-free growing season of 120 days (11.1-128). The reported life zone for anise production is 8 to 23 degrees centigrade with 0.4 to 1.7 meters of precipitation and a soil pH of 6.3 to 7.3.

Anise develops best in deep, friable soils and appears to respond favorably to nitrogen fertilization by yielding a greater quantity of high-quality fruit (4.3-158). The small white flowers bloom in midsummer, and seed maturation usually occurs one month after pollination, when the oil content in the dried fruit is about 2.5%. The major constituent in oil of anise is anethole. Methylchavicol and para-methoxyphenylacetone are also present, but in lesser relative amounts.

While the entire plant is fragrant, it is the fruit of anise, commercially called anise seed, that has been highly valued since antiquity. The delicate fragrance is widely used for flavoring curries, breads, soups, cakes, candies, desserts, nonalcoholic beverage, and such liqueurs as anisette and arak. The volatile or essential oil, obtained by steam distillation of the crushed anise seed, is valuable in perfumery and soaps and has been used in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams (11.1-96). Anise oil is sometimes used as an adulterant in the essential oil of licorice. The oil is sometimes used as sensitizer for bleaching colors in photography (11.1-128).

As a medicinal plant, anise has been used as a carminative, antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, stimulant, and stomachic. In addition, it has been used to promote lactation in nursing mothers and as a medicine against bronchitis, indigestion and lice. Oil of anise is used today as an ingredient in cough medicine and lozenges and is reported to have diuretic and diaphoretic properties (11.1-136). If ingested in sufficient quantities, anise oil may induce nausea, vomiting, seizures, and pulmonary edema (11.1-136). Contact of the concentrated oil with the skin can cause irritation (11.1-136).

Star anise, Illicium verum Hook. f., of the Magnoliaceae family, is a small evergreen tree or bush, native to China. This plant, produced commercially in the People's Republic of China, is distinctly different from the herb anise and is commercially important for its star-shaped fruits that can be sold or distilled for their essential oil. The volatile oil of star anise is very much like that of anise, having a similar odor, flavor, and utilization. Anise oil is sometimes adulterated with star anise oil, fennel oil, or synthetic anethole (14.1-9). Anise-hyssop (Agastache foeniculum formerly Agastache anethiodora), is a perennial plant of the Lamiaceae, native to the United States, which has a characteristic anise scent and flavor. Common names for this plant include Korean mint or anise mint.

Anise and oil of anise are generally regarded as safe for human consumption as a spice/natural flavoring and plant/oil extract (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997