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Anise (Pimpinella Anisum)

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a small flowering annual plant belonging to the parsley family (Umbelliferae). Native to southwest Asia and the eastern Mediterranean region, the anise plant typically achieves a height between 12–39 inches (up to ~1 m). Much of its height is achieved by the hollow flowering stalk, atop which the delicate white flowers splay out in their characteristic compound "umbel." Anise has been known since ancient times, at least as far back as 1500 BC. This plant is thought to have originated in Asia Minor, Egypt and Greece.

Anise has a sweet, licorice-like flavor useful in cooking to flavor candies, baked goods, liquers and the like. The leaves make a delicate addition to salads. Anise is the main flavoring for absinthe, and is also used to flavor for anisette (also anis, France and Spain), arak (eastern Mediterranean), Ouzo (Greece), rakı (Turkey), Becherovka, and other liqueurs. It is used worldwide as a cooking spice. The key ingredient in anise is anethole, an aromatic compound responsible for its licorice-like taste and scent, as well as that of fennel, a close relative, and another, unrelated plant native to the Orient called star anise.

Anise seed (aniseed) has been used to relieve digestive disorders for centuries. In India the seeds are chewed following meals to freshen the mouth and aid digestion. Aniseed relieves nausea, abdominal pain and spasmodic flatulence. It helps prevent the fermentation and production of gas in the stomach and bowel. Anise helps to improve the appetite, promote good digestion, and alleviate cramps, sharp pains and grumbling in the bowels. As a medicinal herb, anise has been used to treat diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, indigestion, vomiting, migraines, arrhythmia, and asthma.

In aromatherapy, aniseed essential oil is used to treat colds and the flu. Anise leaves can be used to relieve toothaches, and anise essential oil can be used as an alternative tereatment for lice and scabies.

Synonyms: Photograph of anise[Note: most of these refer to the unrelated plant known as star anise, with which it is frequently confused] anise star, star anise seed, Star-anise fruit, anise seed star, star anise, star aniseed, anise stars, Badain, Badiana, Chinese anise, anise oil
Molecular Formula: C10H12O (Anise oil)
Melting point (Mp):

15° C (anhydrous substance); 167° C (monohydrate) (Budavari, 1996)


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Principal Author: M. Ofiyeva
Date of Initial Publication: 06/27/2007
Article Last Updated: 03/10/2011