There is hardly a country on this planet that is not familiar with the herb plant, Anise, as a remedial natural herb and for it’s culinary qualities and properties. Anise may have first come from Asia, but it quickly spread to Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and North America. Primarily used as a spice by ancient Egyptians and early Romans, (the Roman scholar Pliny suggested using this herb to get rid of morning breath), this herbal plant and spice during the years reached to the furthermost corners of the world.
The cultivation of Anise in Egypt has existed for approximately at least 4,000 years, where it is native to the region growing wild in that country. Some of the medical texts from the court of several Pharaohs, indicate how the Anise seeds were used as a remedial diuretic. Such archived remedies were also used in the treatment of different digestive problems, as well as a remedy to relieve toothaches and pain. The Mediterranean region also boasts of the place of it’s nativity and today it is cultivated in Europe, India, Mexico, and in Russia, as well as in the United States.
The early Romans actually made small cakes with Anise that were called “mustaceum,” which they would serve at special events such as weddings. Thus, it is believed, beginning the tradition of the wedding cake and the perpetration of fame for it’s culinary qualities.
In ancient Greece, the populace was also familiar with the medicinal use of this herb. It was studied by Pythagoras, and Hippocrates himself recommended this plant for help in treating coughs. Early in the 1st century AD, the Greek scientist, Dioscorides wrote that Anise “warms, dries and dissolves” various symptoms in the body. He also wrote that Anise “facilitates breathing, relieves pain, provokes urine and eases thirst”. However, it was during the Renaissance period that this herb gained widespread popularity through the trade route travels of merchants and adventurers.(1)
Anise: It’s Culinary Uses and Other Applications
Anise has been used throughout history for its fragrance in fine liqueurs, spices, and perfumes. The oil of Anise is used in several liqueurs including the world renown Anisette and in the liquor Absinthe. The oil of Anise, mixed with spirits of wine, forms the liqueur Anisette, which has a beneficial action on the bronchial tubes, and for bronchitis and spasmodic asthma. Anisette, if administered in hot water, is also used as an immediate palliative.
In the kitchens throughout the world, this little plant is particularly well known and utilized. The stems of the Anise plant, are eaten as a vegetable while the seeds are traditionally used in cookies such as Italian biscotti, German springerle, and in bread, as well as in sausage. Anise seeds are also used as a seasoning in curry. However, the kitchen is not the only place one can find Anise. The oil of Anise is also used in toothpaste, chewing gum, cough syrups, and soap, among other things.(2)
Anise has many medicinal uses. It is not only often taken as a tea, but it is also baked into cookies or cakes being sold in grocery stores and distributed by Stella Dora products, among many brands in the United States. It was and is one of three staples in my household – Anise, Chamomile, and Tilia (LInden).
However, it is for colic pains, digestion and flatulence that the Anise seeds are mostly widely used and better known.
In the area of medicinal cures for children, there is an inconclusive protocol, at least in the United States. For infantile catarrh, or the common cold, Aniseed tea is very helpful. It is made by pouring half a pint of boiling water on 2 teaspoonful of bruised seed. This, sweetened, is given cold in doses of 1 to 3 teaspoonful frequently.
Yet, on the other hand, since there is apparently a possibility of toxic reaction to Anise in newborns, parents and particularly nursing mothers should check with a pediatrician as to the appropriateness in giving Anise to infants. Remedies derived from Anise seeds are very commonly used with infants and children in other countries to induce relief from cases of colic, and these remedies are also given to people of all ages to help in relieving the symptoms associated with indigestion and nausea arising as a result of different reasons.
One remedial concoction that is not commonly used by doctors in the United States is the Paregoric Elixir (Compound Tincture of Camphor), prescribed as a sedative cordial by doctors, oil of Anise is also included – 30 drops in a pint of the tincture. This was used at my house commonly for colic pains and intestinal distress and was not too easily acquired.
Anise has a considerable reputation as a medicine in coughs and pectoral infections. In coughs where expectoration is difficult, it is of much value. Licorice, the source of licorice extract, has a similar flavor to Anise but is a completely separate plant from a different family. However, since Aniseed oil is often used to enhance the flavor of licorice candy, distinguishing the flavors can be difficult.
Anise also serves as a natural antacid and can be used to replace either Tums or Rolaids in the treatment of heartburn and indigestion in individuals. These and other amazing remedial benefits can be obtained by preparing Anise herbal tea.
Another beneficial effect of the Anise seeds, is their antispasmodic properties which are very helpful in dealing effectively with menstrual pains; with the discomfort during asthma attacks; in the treatment of whooping cough; the treatment of other spasmodic coughs; and in cases of bronchitis. The use of these Anise seeds derived remedies for their expectorant action is often advised to treat these different respiratory ailments and disorders.
The Preparation of Anise Tea
In order to make a tea from Anise crush the seeds and steep about a teaspoon of the powder in a cup of boiled water. This tea has a pleasant taste and can help with stomach and intestinal problems.
For larger amounts, prepare this tea by bringing a quart of water to a boil using a pot or saucepan. When the water has begun to boil, you can then add about seven teaspoons of the herbal Aniseed; gently reduce the heat and simmer the content down to one pint or half a pint. Following this, gently strain the liquid and add four teaspoons each of honey – while the water is still warm.
Another alternative is drop two or three Anise stars and bring them to a boil in a cup of water. Cover, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Take out and strain pouring the contents into a drinking cup. Honey would be an added benefit.
Which ever way one wishes to consume the Anise herb, one thing is assured – it is only one of the many plants created by God for the benefit of mankind. Anise, known throughout the world for it’s remedial and culinary qualities is once again making a comeback.
(3) Photographic Courtesy: http://www.sxc.hu/
Authored by Beverly Anne Sanchez, 2010