The herb anise is one that is not often seen, but definitely has a distinctive taste and flavor to it. Though many tend to describe anise as "dainty" and "delicate," there is far more to the anise plant than what is seen on the surface. Not only is it a popular herb for culinary uses, but it is also associated with a host of medicinal benefits. This combination of both culinary and medicinal properties make anise a versatile herb for cultivation.
History & Cultivation
Anise can be traced as far back to the ancient Egyptians, and is native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. One of the oldest known spices, anise has its roots as an exotic spice throughout history. While used as a spice in Asia and Africa and was also cultivated in Italy during the Roman times and anise was primarily used in liqueurs around Europe when it spread.
In terms of cultivation, it is an annual plant that is characterized by its slow growth. In order for a successful growth, it needs to be placed in a deep, sheltered location with warmth and some sunlight. Weather is key in its successful cultivation and must be kept in mind when planting. If the weather is too hot and anise is planted late, they will bloom and produce seeds far too quickly while remaining thin and small.
According to WebMD, both the seed and the oil are primarily used to make medicine. Anise is used for a host of medicinal reasons which include:
- Digestive problems such as upset stomachs and intestinal gas
- Relief from runny noses
- Characterized as an expectorant, anise is helpful in stimulating productive coughing up of mucus
- Diuretic to help aid with increased urine flow, as well as increase sweating
- Can also be used to stimulate appetite
Anise is also frequently used for seizure treatments, weakening dependence on nicotine, and alleviating symptoms of asthma, constipation and insomnia. WebMD also notes that anise can also be used to treat a variety of skin conditions which include psoriasis, lice and scabies - further solidifying its status as a versatile and useful herb for medicinal purposes.
However, this is not nearly an exhaustive list of the host of benefits that anise contains. A good resource to learn more about what anise is able to treat can be found here, as there is also a growing body of research that indicates that anise could have muscle relaxing properties, as well as other ailments.
Anise is one of those herbs that is not used often, but is easily recognizable when used because its flavor is so distinctive. Many liken its taste to black licorice, which makes it a popular as a flavoring agent. You may find anise in alcohols and liqueurs, as well as in dairy products, gelatin, meats and candies. It is also used as a breath freshener.
Many cuisines, such as Indian and Mediterranean use the herb quite frequently as a garnish or to add more aroma and sweetness to dishes. Its flavor profile lends itself well to dishes with some spice to create more complex, flavorful dishes. It is also a great addition to baked goods to add a layer of herb that provides a new flavor palette without overpowering the sweetness.
Some recipes to try with anise include Moroccan Semolina Soup with Milk, Anise Seeds, and Honey for a hearty dish that has some sweetness, with a layer of aromatic herbs to anchor it. For those looking for a sweeter option, the Spiced Apple Muffins may be a good option as well. And for those that seek a little adventure, the Kashmiri Chai is a great way to showcase the anise while incorporating other herbs and spices.
Anise Herb Seeds
Grow your very own Anise herbs from freshly harvested Seeds.