Anise (Pimpinellaa anisum) is a graceful, feathery annual resembling members of the carrot family with branching ridged, round stems and small, star like white flowers which appear in clusters in the late summer.
The leaves are broad, toothed, and round with lobed lower leaves and finely divided upper leaves. It grows to 12-18 inches and may be erect or prostrate. Anise carries the scent of licorice.
Other Names: Aniseseed, Sweet Cumin, Anisi Fructose
History and Folklore
Anise is one of the oldest known plants grown for culinary and medicinal use. It was an important in 2nd century BCE Egypt where it was grown for food and medicine and as an ingredient in liquor.
Anise was one of the ingredients in mustaceus, a special cake made with digestive herbs that was served as a finishing dish for feasts. This may be the origin of the modern-day wedding cake.
In 1305, King Edward I declared anise a taxable drug and the revenue earned through its import helped repair damages to the London Bridge.
The Native Americans called anise “Tut-te See-hua”, which means, “It expels the wind”
The best anise is grown in Spain, but it is also grown in Turkey and Egypt.
Anise likes a sunny, sheltered site with well-drained, alkaline soil. It is suitable for all areas of North America, but the seeds won’t ripen without a good hot summer.
Anise needs 120 days to produce fully ripened seed heads. It is an annual, and grows 1-2 feet high. It does not transplant well, though it will live happily in a pot indoors or on a patio. Sow in the late spring.
It is a good companion plant with coriander, but shouldn’t be grown with a carrot.
Harvesting & Storage
Pick the leaves as you need them and collect the flowers as they open. The fruits are ready for harvesting when they are gray-green at the tips.
Cut the plant, retaining a good deal of stem and hang upside down in a paper bag to dry. The seeds will drop off and collect in the bottom. Store the seeds in a dark, dry place.
Gather the stems and dig up the roots in autumn.
Magical Attributes of Anise
Anise is associated with the element of air, the God Apollo, the planets Mercury and Jupiter and the astrological sign Gemini. Anise is also considered masculine.
Hang an anise seed head from your bedpost to restore lost youth.
Use anise in dream pillows to keep away nightmares and ensure a good night’s sleep.
Fresh anise leaves or anise seeds used in a potpourri will protect a room from evil spirits and intentions.
It can be used in holy waters for blessing and exorcisms.
It is said that the scent stirs up lust.
Anise seeds carried in a sachet will ward off the evil eye.
Anise aids in divination and may be added to a ritual bath and/or burned while meditating or divining.
Anise has been used as an offering to entice spirits to aid in magical operations.
Crush the seed and use it in potpourri.
Roast the seed and use as a breath freshener.
Oil of anise is a natural insecticide.
Animals, on the other hand, seem to love it. It is said that the oil added to bait to catch fish, rats, mice, or anything else, will increase your chances.
Dogs also like anise, and it is sometimes added to dog food. Anti-bloodsport activists would use it to put hunting dogs of the scent and ruin the hunt.
Anise is helpful for all sorts of coughs and helps to relieve congestion. It is useful added to syrups and lozenges. Alternatively, a tea can be made by steeping one teaspoon of the seeds in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes.
Take up to one and a half cups per day. You can also make a tincture to keep on hand by using two ounces of seeds per ½ quart brandy and a pinch of lemon peel. Let sit two to three weeks. Take one teaspoon as needed.
Some say anise is high in estrogen content and can be used to stimulate the flow of breast milk. It is also used to ease the pains of childbirth. It may also help relieve the discomfort of menopause.
Anise seed is good for the digestive system and can stimulate the appetite, aid digestion, or relieve cramps, nausea, flatulence, or colic. A few seeds taken with water will cure hiccups.
Anise may increase the amount of iron that is absorbed into the body.
Anise is popular for desserts and baked goods. The seed may be used whole or crushed in breads, cakes, fruit dishes, or cookies.
Try adding anise to the water when boiling shellfish.
The leaves or flowers may be added to fruit salads or used as a garnish.
The stem and root may be mixed into soups and stews.
Many liquors are flavored with anise including French pastis, Greek ouzo, Spanish ojen, Turkish raki, Italian anesone, Arab arrak and Egyptian kibib.
Large quantities of anise can be toxic. Do not use the essential oil without dilution and never take essential oil internally.
Because anise may increase the amount of iron absorbed into the body, use caution when taking both iron supplements and anise simultaneously.
Anise can be used with dogs like catnip with cats. Don’t let them overdo it, though; see above toxicity warnings!