Scientific Name(s): Pimpinella anisum L.
Common Name(s): Anise, Aniseed, Sweet cumin
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 15, 2022.
Clinical data are lacking to support the wide-ranging traditional uses for anise; limited studies have been conducted in disorders of the GI tract and in menopause. Studies in rodents suggest effects on the CNS. The oil has been used to treat lice, scabies, and psoriasis.
GI disorders: In limited clinical studies, anise 3 g powder taken after each meal (3 times per day) for 4 weeks has been studied for treatment of dyspepsia. Menopausal symptoms: Capsules containing P. anisum 330 mg taken 3 times daily for 4 weeks has been used for treatment of menopausal symptoms.
Anise is not recommended for use in pregnancy in amounts exceeding those found in food.
Aniseed is a reputed abortifacient. Use in amounts exceeding those found in food is not recommended in pregnancy.
None well documented.
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.
Anise is an annual herb that grows 0.3 to 0.6 m in height and is widely cultivated throughout the world.Leung 1996 The flowers are yellow and grow in compound umbels. The leaves are feather-shaped. The 2 mm long, greenish-brown, ridged seeds are used in food or as an herb, and are harvested when ripe in autumn.Chevalier 1996 Aniseed has an anethole-like odor and a sweet, aromatic tasteBisset 1994 described as "licorice-like," which has led to the traditional use of anise oils in licorice candy. In some texts, anise is referred to as Anisum vulgare Gartner or Anisum officinarum Moench; it should not be confused with the "Chinese star anise" (Illicium verum Hook. filius.; family: Magnoliaceae).Leung 1996
Anise has historically been used as a spice and fragrance. It has been cultivated in Egypt for at least 4,000 years; records of its use as a diuretic and treatment for digestive problems and toothaches exist in medical texts from this era. Ancient Greek writings describe anise use to help with breathing, relieve pain, stimulate urination, and ease thirst.Chevalier 1996 The essential oil has been used commercially since the 1800s.
Anise is widely used as a flavoring in alcohols, liqueurs, dairy products, gelatins, puddings, meats, and candies.Leung 1996 Anise is often added to licorice candy or used as a licorice flavor substitute; it is also a fragrant component of anisette liqueur. It is sold as a spice, and the seeds are used as a breath freshener.Duke 2002 The essential oil is used medicinally as well as in perfume, soaps, and sachets.Chandler 1984, Leung 1996
A review of the constituents and properties of P. anisum has been published.Shojaii 2012
Examination of the mycoflora of anise seed resulted in the isolation of 15 fungal genera, 78 species, and 6 varieties, including Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Rhizopus.Moharram 1989 Naturally occurring mycotoxins were also present in thin-layer chromatography analysis of anise spice extract.El-Kady 1995 Gamma irradiation has inhibited mold growth on anise in humid conditions.Mahmoud 1992
Anise oil (1% to 4%) is obtained by steam distillation of the dried fruits of the herb. The highest-quality oils result from anise seeds of ripe umbels in the center of the plant.Tsvetkov 1970 A major component of the oil is trans-anethole (75% to 90%), which is responsible for the characteristic taste and smell, as well as the medicinal properties of anise.Bisset 1994, Chandler 1984, Tabacchi 1974 The cis-isomer is 15 to 38 times more toxic than the trans-isomer.Duke 2002 Spectrophotometric determination of anethole in anise oil has been performed.Mohamed 1976
The volatile oil also has related compounds that include estragole (methyl chavicol 1% to 2%), anise ketone (p-methoxyphenylacetone), and beta=caryophyllene. Present in smaller amounts are anisaldehyde, anisic acid, limonene, alpha-pinene, acetaldehyde, p-cresol, cresol, and myristicin (the psychomimetic compound previously isolated from nutmeg).Bisset 1994, Food Cosmet 1973, Harborne 1969, Newall 1996 Oil of Feronia limonia has some similarity to anise oil and may be used as a substitute.Shah 1985
Constituents of the whole seed include coumarins (eg, umbelliferone, umbelliprenine, bergapten, scopoletin). Lipids (16%) include fatty acids, beta-amyrin, and stigmasterol and its salts.Leung 1996, Newall 1996 Flavonoids in aniseed include rutin, isoorientin, and isovitexin.Newall 1996 Protein (18%) and carbohydrates (50%) are also present. Terpene hydrocarbons in the plant have also been described.Burkhardt 1986
Uses and Pharmacology
Anise has been evaluated for its antimicrobial action against gram-negative and gram-positive organisms.Narasimha 1970 The anethole constituent also inhibited growth of mycotoxin-producing Aspergillus in culture.Leung 1996 Anise is used in dentifrices as an antiseptic and in lozenges and cough preparations for its weak antibacterial effects.Duke 2002, Leung 1996 One report testing aromatic waters (including anise) on the growth and survival of Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been published.Ibrahim 1991
Larvicidal activity has been reported.Burgess 2010 Anise oil, when mixed with sassafras oil, is used as an insecticide.Chandler 1984 Applied externally, the oil has been used to treat lice and scabies.Chevalier 1996
A combination preparation of coconut and anise was reported to be superior to permethrin 0.43% in the treatment of head lice.Burgess 2010
The pharmacological effects of anise are caused mainly by anethole, which has structural similarities to catecholamines (eg, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine).Newall 1996 Sympathomimetic-type effects have been attributed to anethole in at least one report.Albert-Puleo 1980 A study in rodents failed to demonstrate anxiolytic activity for aqueous Pimpinella seed extract; however, some activity related to learning was reported.Gamberini 2015
Anise oil was reported to prolong the latency and reduce the amplitude and duration of induced seizures in rats.Karimzadeh 2012
Antidepressant activity has been reported for both aqueous and ethanolic extracts of P. anisum fruit in mice.Shahamat 2016 Increased analgesic effects of codeine and benzodiazepine on motor impairment have been observed in mice, and decreased antidepressant effects of imipramine and fluoxetine have also been observed with aniseed essential oil pretreatment.Samojlik 2012
Anise is well known as a carminative and an expectorant. It is used to decrease bloating and to settle the digestive tract.Bisset 1994, Chevalier 1996
Limited clinical studies have evaluated anise powder in the management of dyspepsia. Quality-of-life scores were reported to be higher in the treatment group compared with placebo.Ghoshegir 2014, Ghoshegir 2015
Anise oil was compared with peppermint oil in a clinical trial of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. A decrease in scores for abdominal discomfort or pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms was reported.Mosaffa-Jahromi 2016 In another trial, the same researchers also reported improvements in depression with anise oil treatment in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.Mosaffa-Jahromi 2017
Iron deficiency anemia
Anise has promoted iron absorption in rats, suggesting possible use as a preventative agent in iron deficiency anemia.el-Shobaki 1990
P. anisum has been evaluated in a trial of peri- and postmenopausal women, with positive findings reported for menopausal symptoms (ie, hot flashes).Ghazanfarpour 2016, Nahidi 2012
A study of morphine-dependent mice demonstrated a reduction in severity of withdrawal symptoms with ethanolic extracts of anise.Sherzadi 2017
P. anisum may have nephroprotective effects; an ethanolic extract given orally to Wistar rats decreased tubule damage from gentamycin, and an aqueous extract lessened markers of damage in rats treated with lead acetate.Amina 2016, Changizi-Ashtiyani 2017
Topical application of the constituent bergapten, in combination with ultraviolet light, has been used in psoriasis treatment.Newall 1996
As a skin penetration enhancer, anise oil has little activity compared with eucalyptus and other oils,Williams 1989 and anise-based bioadhesive gels have been evaluated as a method of drug delivery.Gafiţanu 2016
GI disorders: In limited clinical studies, anise 3 g powder taken after each meal (3 times per day) for 4 weeks has been studied in the treatment of dyspepsia.Ghoshegir 2014
Menopausal symptoms: Capsules containing P. anisum 330 mg taken 3 times daily for 4 weeks have been used for treatment of menopausal symptoms (ie, hot flashes).Nahidi 2012
Pregnancy / Lactation
Anise is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used at levels found in food.FDA 2017 Aniseed is a reputed abortifacient. Use in amounts exceeding those found in food is not recommended in pregnancy.Chevalier 1996, Newall 1996
Aqueous and ethanolic extracts of P. anisum L. seeds have demonstrated galactagogue effects in rodents. The maximum nonfatal dose was reported to be 2.2 g/kg in rats.Hosseinzadeh 2014 Aniseed was one of the 4 most common herbs used by certified or licensed midwives for increasing lactation based on state-wide surveys in California, Texas, and North Carolina.Dennehy 2010
Case reports are lacking. Increased analgesic effects of codeine and benzodiazepine on motor impairment have been observed in mice, and decreased antidepressant effects of imipramine and fluoxetine have also been observed with aniseed essential oil pretreatment.Samojlik 2012 Similarly, a pharmacokinetic interaction with acetaminophen and caffeine has been reported in rodents.Samojlik 2016
According to the Complete German Commission E Monographs, adverse effects of anise include occasional allergic reactions of the skin, respiratory tract, and GI tract.Bisset 1994 When applied to human skin in a 2% concentration in petrolatum base, anise oil produced no dermatological reactions. The oil is not considered to be a primary irritant. However, anethole has been associated with sensitization and skin irritation and may cause erythema, scaling, and vesiculation.Food Cosmet 1973 Anise oil in toothpaste has been reported to cause contact sensitivity, cheilitis, and stomatitis.Duke 2002 The constituent bergapten may cause photosensitivity.Newall 1996
Anise oil has GRAS status when used in typical amounts found in food. In rats, the acute oral median lethal dose (LD50) of the oil is 2.25 g/kg. No percutaneous absorption of the oil through mouse skin occurred within 2 hours.Meyer 1959 The oral LD50 of anethole is 2,090 mg/kg in rats; rats fed a diet containing anethole 0.25% for 1 year showed no adverse effects, while those receiving anethole 1% for 15 weeks had microscopic changes in hepatocytes.Duke 2002
The cis-isomer of anethole is 15 to 38 times more toxic to animals than the trans-isomer.Duke 2002, Leung 1996 Ingestion of the oil in doses as small as 1 mL may result in pulmonary edema, vomiting, and seizures.Spoerke 1980 The estrogenic activity of anethole and its dimers may alter hormone therapy (eg, oral contraceptives).Zabłocka-Słowińska 2014
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