Health benefits of Anise can be attributed to its medicinal properties to act as Carminative, expectorant, aphrodisiac, estrogenic, anti oxidant, diuretic, health tonic and stimulant. Aniseed has other health benefits including its ability to regulate menstruation, treat insomnia, control cataract and act as antibiotic, antispasmodic and antiseptic.
Aniseed (Scientific name: Pimpinella anisum) is also known by various other names like Anise, Anice, Anice Verde, Sweet cumin, Suvva, Choti Sauf or Velaiti saunf, Saumph, shatapushpa or svetapushpa (Sanskrit). It is one of the oldest spice known to man and is considered native to East Mediterranean region.
Health benefits of Anise were known to ancient Egyptians and they used it for various medicinal purposes. It was used as commodity for barter in ancient Greece and Rome; seeds were considered so valuable that taxes were paid using Aniseed! Today it is produced in various central and southern parts of Europe and other countries with tropical climate.
Anise (Pimpinella anisum L., Apiaceae) is an annual herb indigenous to Near East and widely cultivated in the Mediterranean rim (Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Spain, etc.) and in Mexico and Chile
Aniseed plant grows till half a meter and bears bunch of white flowers in Summer. Hence it got name shatapushpa or svetapushpa in Sanskrit meaning hundred flowers or white flowers. Fruits of the plant are small, but bear gray / brown oblong or comma shaped seeds. Often Aniseed is confused for fennel seeds, as Indian name – sauf though popular for fennel is also used for Aniseed. Of the same size as fennel seeds, anise has 5 visible longitudinal stripes on outer surface. In Europe, it is confused for “Star Anise”, which is different spice grown in Southwest China which carries same odour and pleasant taste as Aniseed. Star Anise has star shaped fruits, husk of which along with seeds is used as spice.
Uses of Anise
Aniseed possesses very distinct sweet and aromatic liquor like flavor. This special fragrance can be attributed to presence of essential oil known as anethole in the seed. Aniseed is used as flavouring agent in food items including curries, soups, sauces, breads, cakes, biscuits and confectionary. It is also added to food items which cause flatulence.
Fresh leaves of Anise are also used in cooking. Like other spices, flavor of anise is released when fried. Whole Anise seeds or freshly ground aniseed powder or aniseed oil as sweet flavouring agent is used in preparation of some Asian dishes including desserts and sweets. Because of its health benefits as an expectorant, aniseed oil forms part of some beverages like herbal tea, liquour such as anisette and ouzo and flavored drinks like prenod, french pastis and spanish ojen. For the same health benefits it is used for making lozenges, candies and mouth freshners. Don’t be surprised if you find aniseed oil as part of your dental paste or mouth wash, cosmetics including soap, cream or perfume.
Whereas Star anise (bajiao) is more popular in Chinese cuisines and forms important part of Chinese five spice powder.
Nutritional value of Anise
What provides so much health benefits of Anise? Of course, it is the natural compounds packed inside this 3-5 mm seed which are responsible for health benefits of Anise. Often this composition varies with origin of seed. But in general as small Aniseed would contain 18% protein, 10-25% of fatty oil, 2-7% of essential oils, 30-50% of Carbohydrates and fibers, remaining are ash and moisture.
Ansie seed contains vital minerals and vitamins. 25 gram of Anise seed would provide enough iron to meet the daily requirement of body. A tablespoon of Anise would provide about 3-4% of daily dietary requirement of Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Potassium and copper and about 7% of daily dietary requirement of Manganese. Needless to mention all these mineral play a vital role in healthy well being of an individual.
Aniseed bear yellow coloured essential oil which has various health benefits and medicinal properties. Anethole is main component of this oil. Other constituents include coumarins (umbelliferone, umbelliprenine, bergapten, and scopoletin), lipids (fatty acids, beta-amyrin, stigmasterol and its salts), flavonoids (flavonol, flavone, glycosides, rutin, isoorientin, and isovitexin), protein and carbohydrate
Health benefits of Aniseed / Anise
Aniseed has been traditional used to relieve flatulence and remove phlegm or catarrhal matter from lungs. Distilled water of anise with these medicinal virtues is available in India as ‘arq badian’ or ‘araq sauf’. It acts as diuretic and body tonic. Aniseed finds its use in ancient medicine is used as an appetizer, tranquillizer and diuretic. Various other health benefits of anise are known to various civilization and are being confirmed by research. Some of the health benefits of Aniseed are listed below:
Aniseed as Carminative
Aniseed and anise leaves have ability to relieve gas. It acts as natural remedy for flatulence and gas. Regular intake of aniseed in combination with other digestive foods like ginger, cumin, pepper is good for health. In India, aniseed along with milk and large cardamom is used as carminative for small infants. Ayurvedic preparation of popular baby carminative – Bonnisan (1, 2) contains shatapushpa / aniseed oil. Anise reduces stomach bloating especially small children.
Carminative properties of Anise are long known to American Indians who called it “Tut-te See-Hau” meaning “it expels the wind”. It has ability to ease intestinal colic and flatulence. Hot water extracts of Aniseed have diuretic and laxative effect. Regular chewing of Anise after meals is a practice in Europe, Middle east and India, and aids digestion. Pernod, Ouzo, Anisette, Raki, and many other anise-flavoured drinks are popular after a heavy meal traditionally for its antispasmodic effect in digestive tract.
One of the benefits of anise is the treatment of gastrointestinal disturbances including indigestion, heart burn, bloating, gastro-esophageal reflex. Herbal tea made from Aniseed along with fennel and caraway, is good way to enjoy health benefits of Anise and reduce flatulence.
Anise stimulates appetite
Anise is used as an appetite stimulant. It helps stimulate various enzyme system and helps in healthy digestion.
Anise for respiratory disorders
Benefits of Anise in case of running nose, cough and cold can be attributed to its property as expectorant (mucus clearing property). Expectorant property in Anise can be attributed to chemicals cresosol and alpha pinene in Anise seed. It is effective on various respiratory disorders and useful in treatment of common cold, Asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, bronchitis, sinusitis and influenza. Anise oil is used in various cough syrups and lozenges, to help loosen phlegm in lungs. Gargling with herbal Anise tea provides relief for sore throat, laryngitis or pharyngitis. A research shows that Anise seed creates a relaxant effect by inhibiting muscarinic receptors.
Aniseed as aphrodisiac
Aniseed has aphrodisiac properties that can increase libido. Drinking one glass of water infused with the crushed seeds each night can increase one’s sex drive.It is believed that anise helps treat symptoms of “male menopause” and male climacteric.
Anise to increase breast milk
Traditional herbal healers have long recommended anise seed for secretion of breast milk in nursing mothers. Scientific studies have confirmed the same. Anise contains compounds dianethole and photoanethole, which are chemically similar to the female hormone estrogen. In case of inadequacy of breast milk, nursing mothers should drink one cup of aniseed tea three times daily to increase breast milk, This tea is due to the same mild estrogenic action of ainseed that makes it valueable for mothers. In the 1930s, some interest was shown in these plants in the development of synthetic estrogens which are polymers of anethole, such as dianethole and photoanethole.
Benefits of anise for women
Anise help regulate menstruation cycle in women and aids healthy reproductive health. Estrogenic effect of anise is responsible for this health benefit. In case of delay in menstrual period due to stress, consumption of herbal anise tea is recommended. Antispasmodic benefit of Anise helps relieve menstrual cramps and facilitate birth. Shatapushpa churna (anise seed powder) is considered effective remedy of Artavakshaya (menstrual disorder).
Anise for Seizures
Aniseed inhibits and controls convulsions. Various studies have shown anticonvulsant effects of Anise oil against drug induced seizure in mice. Research is further active in benefits of anise in preventing seizures.
Anise as Diuretic
Aniseed has health benefits in form of diuretic property. It induces copious perspiration and increases the secretion and discharge of urine.
Anise for Cataract
Aniseed is used as home remedy for cataract. Consumption of tablespoon of aniseed daily is helpful in treating cataract condition. Ayurvedic books mention about powder made from equal quantity of aniseed along with coriander seeds, mixed with sugar for cataract treatment.
Aniseed for Insomnia
Aniseed is acts as relaxant and sedative food. Herbal Anise tea consumption before sleep helps calm nerves and induces sound sleep. It is helpful for people suffering from Insomnia. Similarly Anise seed water helps cure hiccups. Aniseed past applied to the forehead, neck or temples helps relieve headaches and migraines.
Antimicrobial properties of anise
Studies have found that Aniseed extracts inhibit growth of various strains of bacteria, fungi and virus. It is considered beneficial in the prevention and treatment of microbial infections and research is further on for extraction of chemicals from aniseed for medicinal purposes.
A study with Essential oils and alcohol extract of anise showed antibacterial property against wide strains of bacteria.. Similarly other study found Antiviral Properties and health benefits of anise. Antifungal properties of Anise essential oil against yeast and dermatophytes was exhibited in similar study.
Anise for head lice
Aniseed is used externally as an insecticide against small insects such as head lice, mites and vermin. It also has fungicidal properties. It is also used in treatment of scabies. A study found that anise, Horseradish and garlic oils showed the most potent insecticidal activities.
Externally, the oil may be used in an ointment base for the treatment of scabies and lice infestations. Though insufficient evidence is available, but anise paste has been traditionally used in treatment of lice and scabies. A study found that p-anisaldehyde in essential oil of Anise was effective against house dust mites and helps controlling them.
Antioxidant properties of Anise
Anise contains certain chemicals which exhibit antioxidant properties and health benefits. Studies are currently carried out to establish such claims.
Care to be taken while consumption of Anise
Over boiling or over cooking of Aniseed should not avoided. Health benefits of Anise attributed to volatile Anise oil is lost during the process. Aniseed have shorter shelf life and cannot be stored for long period. It crystallizes over a period and has to be melted before use.
Since aniseed is estrogenic, its consumption in case of hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids can be avoided or controlled. In conditions which worsen by exposure of estrogen, Anise should be avoided.
Selection and storage
Anise spice is available in dry and powdered form in the market throughout the year. Organic Anise ensures that the health benefits of anise are thoroughly enjoyed without any contamination. Anise spice loses its aroma as it ages and this way one can find good anise seeds. Storing anise seed in airtight container is recommended to protect loss of volatile healthy essential oil.Image Credits: Wikimedia - David Monniaux, Wikimedia, flickr - tipstimes