What Is Anise? FAQ On Anise Uses, Benefits, and More

What Is Anise? FAQ On Anise Uses, Benefits, and More

Thousands of years ago, spices and herbs were used for so many different purposes. Nowadays, they have an essential role in cuisines from all over the world and herbal medicine. 

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) or aniseed (anise seed) has been cultivated in Egypt for almost 4000 years. The flowering plant is part of the parsley family (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae). It provides a flavor to many types of foods and meals, including alcoholic beverages. 

Anise seed is popular in the Mediterranean area. It is similar in flavor with star anise (Illicium verum) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), but each of them belongs to a different plant family. 

Anise seeds are brownish-gray and slightly curved, and they can be crushed and transformed into powder. You can also find essential oil, which is used by some for medicinal purposes, and it can be safely used in perfume, soaps, and sachets.

This article provides answers to frequently asked questions related to anise.



What Are The Nutrition Facts Of Anise?

Even if it contains plenty of nutrients, you will not consume high quantities. If you were to look at the nutrition data of 100g of anise, you would notice that it contains very decent amounts of each nutrient and a very generous amount of iron and manganese.

However, most recipes require around 1 tablespoon of anise, if not less. Also, this quantity might be added to a dish that makes more than one serving, thus reducing its nutrition.

Here are the nutrition facts of 1 tablespoon of whole anise seed:

  • Calories: 22
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Carbs: 3.3 g
  • Vitamin C: 1.4 mg - 2% RDA
  • Iron: 2.4 mg - 13% RDA
  • Calcium: 42 mg- 4% RDA
  • Magnesium: 11.1 mg - 3% RDA
  • Potassium: 93.7 - 3% RDA
  • Copper: 0.1 mg - 3% RDA
  • Manganese: 0.1 mg - 7% RDA
  • Phosphorus: 28.6 mg -3% RDA



Does Anise Have Health Benefits?

Yes, it has. This plant was used in herbal medicine to treat a variety of conditions, from an upset stomach to insomnia. Anise seed proved to be a therapeutic plant. Here are some of its health benefits that were backed up by science:

  • Helps With Depression. One study showed that taking anise powder can reduce the symptoms of postpartum depression. Moreover, a different study concluded that anise oil could be a treatment option for those who have mild or moderate depression. Drinking anise tea isn't enough to help with depression symptoms, but it seems the plant has potential
  • Reduces Menopause Symptoms. When women reach menopause, their body doesn't produce as much estrogen as before. This drop of estrogen levels might lead to unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, depression, anxiety, fatigue, joint aches, and muscle pain. Anise has the potential to trigger estrogenic effectsData on anise supplementation show promising results for women experiencing hot flashes. Women who took aniseed capsules seldom experienced hot flashes; the intensity of the episodes reduced as well.
  • Anise Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Anise contains anethole, which proved to have health benefits. The plant compound was used in an experiment on a rat with periodontitis. The results confirmed its ability to suppress pro-inflammatory molecules. 
  • Other Health Benefits. Apart from those mentioned above, findings show that aniseed has antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. It is beneficial for those who have diabetes, IBS, digestive problems, and other chronic conditions. Aniseed contains trans-anethole, estragole, γ-hymachalen, p-anisaldehyde, and methyl chavicol. These are the main compounds responsible for the success of aniseed in herbal medicine. However, more studies need to be made to create drugs containing these compounds. 



What Is The Difference Between Anise and Star Anise?

Star anise belongs to the Schisandraceae plant family, while anise (aniseed) belongs to the Apiaceae plant familyThey are two different spices with a similar flavor. 

If you don't have anise in your pantry, but you do have star anise, the only thing you need to do is adjust the quantities when cooking. Aniseed has a spicier flavor than star anise. One crushed star anise is the equivalent of approximately half a teaspoon of crushed anise seed. 

Star anise has its origin in China, while anise comes from the eastern Mediterranean region. Star anise is more affordable to grow; therefore, most of the anise essential oil is made out of star anise. 

Star anise must not be confused with Japanese star anise, a toxic plant that can be lethal for humans. The only difference between them is the smell. The Japanese anise doesn't have the intense fragrance of its Chinese equivalent, and it is closer to cardamom than to anise. There have been reported cases of infants with neurological and digestive side effects after drinking star anise tea. This popular herbal remedy for colic can be lethal if contamination with Japanese star anise occurs. 

You can add Chinese anise to your dishes whole, then discard it. Anise seed is difficult to remove because of its size. However, if a recipe calls for frying star anise, it's hard to substitute it with anise seed (whole or ground) because there's a high chance it will burn. 

These two plants come from different plant families and different regions. Each of them is used in foods or drinks that belong to unrelated cuisines. The only thing they have in common is anethole, which gives them their licorice flavor. 

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What Are The Culinary Uses Of Anise?

Anise is used in Middle Eastern, Italian, German, Indian, and Mexican cuisine. 

In Italy, for example, it gives a delicious flavor to biscotti, desserts, and cold cuts. It is also the essence of sambuca, an Italian liqueur made from anise seed. 

The most popular alcoholic drinks that contain anise are anisette, ouzo, sambuca, and absinthe. The spice also gives flavor to arak (a traditional beverage in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq), akvavit (Scandinavian liqueur), mastika (Balkan beverage), raki (Turkish aperitif), and xtabentun (Mexican drink).

Even if the spice is mainly used to add flavor to baked goods and alcoholic beverages, it can enrich savory dishes as well, if added in small quantities. You can also add it to ground meat before cooking it. In these cases, anise is used alongside other spices such as black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, fennel, etc. 

Anise extract can be added to hot drinks for extra flavor. You can use it with your coffee, hot chocolate, or hot wine

Moreover, you can just add it to a tea kettle or a small pot, add water, boil it, and enjoy a licorice-flavored tea with numerous health benefits. To make the tea, add 1 tablespoon of freshly crushed anise seeds to 2 cups of boiling water. Then, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 3 to 8 minutes; the more you simmer, the higher the intensity of the flavor. 



What Are The Potential Dangers of Anise?

If you stick to foods or drinks containing anise, it doesn't cause any known side effects. Anise is safe for most people. 

In some cases, the plant can provoke an allergic reaction. Predisposed people are usually allergic to any of the plants belonging to the parsley family (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae), such as dill, celery, fennel, parsley, etc.

Anise has the potential to trigger estrogenic effects. This means that those who suffer from hormone-sensitive conditions can experience side effects. If you have breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, talk to your physician before adding it to your diet. 

Besides, if you are taking birth control pills that contain estrogen, you need to be careful. Anise might decrease the efficacy of these pills. Therefore, you will need to pay extra attention if you rely on contraceptives alone. 

Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and estrogen pills also interact with anise.Make sure to talk to your physician if you ingested foods with anise while taking any of the previously mentioned pills. 

Did You Know…

  • Anise fresh leaves can be added to salads. They can also be used in soups or sauces.
  • At the end of a long Roman feast, a type of anise cake was often served to aid digestion.
  • Anise has a life cycle of one year. 
  • Anise seeds can be used to freshen your breath after meals.