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What is Anise?

Anise is an annual herb that grows 0.3 to 0.6 m and is cultivated widely throughout the world. The flowers are yellow, compound umbels and its leaves are feather shaped. The greenish-brown, ridged seeds are used for food or the drug. They are harvested when ripe in autumn. Aniseed has an anethole-like odor and a sweet "licorice-like" aromatic taste, which has led to the traditional use of anise oils in licorice candy.

Scientific Name(s)

Pimpinella anisumIn some texts, anise is referred to as Anisum vulgare or A. officinarum. Do not confuse with the "Chinese star anise" (Illicium verum).

Common Name(s)

Anise also is known as aniseed, and sweet cumin.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Anise has a history of use as a spice and fragrance. It has been cultivated in Egypt for at least 4,000 years. Recordings of its diuretic use and treatment of digestive problems and toothache are seen in medical texts from this era. In ancient Greek history, writings explain how anise helps breathing, relieves pain, provokes urine, and eases thirst. The oil has been used commercially since the 1800s. The fragrance is used in food, soap, creams, and perfumes. Anise often is added to licorice candy or used as a "licorice" flavor substitute. It is a fragrant component of anisette liqueur. Anise is used widely as a flavoring in all food categories including alcohols, liqueurs, dairy products, gelatins, puddings, meats, and candies. It is sold as a spice, and the seeds are used as a breath freshener. The essential oil is used medicinally as well as in perfume, soaps, and sachets.


Anise is well known as a carminative and an expectorant. Its ability to decrease bloating and settle the digestive tract still is used today, especially in pediatrics. In high doses, it is used as an antispasmodic and an antiseptic and for the treatment of cough, asthma, and bronchitis. Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of anise as an expectorant or as an antimicrobial.

Other uses

The oil of anise has been used for the treatment of lice, scabies, and psoriasis.

What is the recommended dosage?

There are no recent clinical studies to guide use of anise. However, typical use in dyspepsia is 0.5 to 3 g of seed or 0.1 to 0.3 mL of the essential oil.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Aniseed is a reputed abortifacient. Excessive use is not recommended in pregnancy.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Anise may cause allergic reactions of the skin, respiratory tract, and GI tract.


Ingestion of the oil may result in pulmonary edema, vomiting, and seizures.


1. Anise. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.