Colorless to pale yellow liquid @22C with Licorice odor
Insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol and oils
0.978 @ 72°F
1.5546 @ 72°F
anisum – Umbelliferae)
Anise or aniseed is
a tender annual, growing to about 60cm (2 ft) high, belonging to the same
family as parsley and fennel. It is sometimes known as sweet cumin. Its
leaves are feathery, rather like coriander, and its yellowish-white
flowers set to pale brown, ribbed and hairy fruit seeds which taste like
liquorice. The plant originates from the Orient but, like most herbs, grows
both in the wild and cultivated state around the Mediterranean and especially
in Egypt and the Middle East. It is cultivated in Spain, France and Russia. It
can be cultivated further north, but it rarely sets seed.
It was introduced to northern Europe by the Romans,
and early settlers took it to North America. It was used by the Romans as a
digestive – in a cake eaten after meals containing other digestive seeds such
as cumin and fennel – and by the Ancient Egyptians to help digestion
of their millet and barley breads. Pliny claimed it helped insomnia, and
Pythagoras considered aniseed bread a great delicacy. Dr Leclerc recommended an
anise herbal tea for asthmatic conditions and for menstrual problems.
Description: Anise oil is distilled from the seed
fruits. It smells sweet and very characteristic, a little like fennel. It is
colourless or a very pale yellow.
The principal constituents: Anethole forms 80 – 90
per cent of the oil shared with a little aldehyde, anisic acid and methyl
chavicol. In commerce it is often found falsified by essential
oils of fennel or caraway. Dangers: Anise essential oil is very toxic and
dangerous, a real poison for the nervous system, causing a muscular numbness
followed by paralysis. Since 1959, it has been under strict controls from the
Ministry of Health in France. It can be more dangerous than pure alcohol, and
should never be left where children might find it. The high proportion of
anethol, plus the tiny amount of methyl chavicol could be extremely toxic, so
anise oil should not be used in therapy nor sold to the public.
In commerce, a synthetic anethole is found, but this too is very toxic. The
annual production of the authentic oil in 1987 was 40 -50 tonnes. It is said
that the consumption has slowed down since the appearance of the synthetic
anethol as the price of this is very low in comparison to the pure oil.
Anise can be very successful in treating PMT and menopausal symp¬toms,
particularly in counteracting retention of fluid. Make a tisane by boiling 10
ml (2 tsp) anise seeds in 600 ml (1 pint) water for 3 minutes The main property
of anise is digestive, as has been appreciated for so long, especially in
Indian and Chinese medicine. The tisane helps indigestion due to anxiety and
nervousness, and nervous palpitations, relieving breathing and promoting
relaxation after a meal. Drinking the tisane – or chewing seeds very slowly, as
they do in India ¬can prevent hiccoughs and flatulence. A few deep breaths and
a few minutes’ relaxation help as well. (See also appetite, loss of, colic, and
Anise seeds can be cooked in breads, cakes and biscuits, in fish dishes, soups
and curries, and some European dessert and fruit dishes. They flavour
confectionery such as dragees in France, and a solitary seed was once the
centre of the much-loved aniseed ball.
Anise seeds and their oil are used mostly to
flavour various alcoholic spirits and liqueurs such as the pastis of France –
Pernod, Ricard, anisette – the ouzo of Greece, raki of Turkey, and the arrak of
other eastern Mediterranean countries. Sometimes, particularly in the case of
Pernod, the majority of the anise flavour comes from the Chinese star anise.
However, that anise oil is added to these drinks as well is fairly certain; but
the oil is not now allowed to be sold to the public for making their own
pastis-type drinks. Often the flavour of aniseed can be given to a dish by
adding the spirit or liqueur rather than the seeds, and in France there are
many specialities named ‘Ricard’, for instance.
The leaves of anise may be used in salads, with vegetables like carrots,
and in fish soups.
The French use anise oil, under strict control, to scent pharmaceutical
products such as toothpastes, mouth washes and syrups. In veterinary practice,
seeds have been fed to cows as this apparently helps the production of milk
(which has a faint aniseed flavour). Seeds, crushed or whole, can scent
pot-pourris, and other household pomanders.
ANISE, CHINESE OR STAR (Illicium
verum – Magnoliaceae)
This spice, also known as Badian anise, is the star-shaped fruit of a small
evergreen tree belonging to the magnolia family. It is native to China and
Vietnam, and has not been successfully cultivated elsewhere.
ANISE ESSENTIAL OIL
Description: Star anise oil is extracted from the dried fruits, and is very
similar to, though rather coarser than, that distilled from anise seeds.
The principal constituents: Like oil from anise
seeds, star anise contains a high proportion of anethole but, despite that, is
used in the drinks industry. It should not be used in therapy.
Not surprisingly, it is much used in Chinese cookery and, together with cassia
or cinnamon, cloves, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns is one
of the Chinese five spices. It is particularly good in duck and pork recipes,
flavouring the best Chinese spare ribs.