Aniseed is a liquorice-tasting herb that is used to treat a wide range of medical conditions.

Plant description

Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) is an annual Mediterranean herb that falls into the carrot and parsley family.

It grows about 60cm tall, has small white flowers and is mainly cultivated for its fruit, called aniseed, which tastes like liquorice.

The herb is also known as anise and sweet cumin and its use dates back to biblical times.

Key Actions

  • Expectorant
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Anti-microbial
  • Aromatic
  • Carminative

What does aniseed do?

This herb is most commonly prescribed as a digestive aid, for relieving flatulence and stomach cramps. It is also known to calm coughs and as such, recommended to assist in the treatment of bronchitis and asthma.

In addition the herb is considered to improve memory and balance oily skin.

Scientific research is currently underway to test aniseed’s potential as a complimentary treatment in hepatitis and cirrhosis.

How does it work?

Aniseed is classified as a volatile oil, which provides the basis for its internal use to ease intestinal colic and flatulence.

Its expectorant and anti-spasmodic action is said to be the key element responsible in the treatment of bronchitis, persistent irritable coughing, and in whooping cough.

Aniseed oil may also be administered externally as an ointment base for the treatment of scabies and the control of lice.

Interesting facts

The Greeks and Egyptians commonly favoured it as a flavourant in alcohol and confectionary.

The medicinal properties of aniseed were sought out by ancient Chinese physicians and Indian Ayuvedic practitioners, who popularly prescribed it as a digestive aid, flatulence remedy and breath freshener, but also for a broad range of conditions including bronchitis, insomnia, nausea, lice and even cancer.

According to Roman author and scientist Pliny the Elder, anise was used as a cure for sleeplessness in Ancient Rome. Chewed with the Alexanders herb (Horse Parsley) and a little honey in the morning, it was also used to freshen the breath; and when mixed with wine it acted as a remedy for scorpion stings.

Dosage and Preparation

Tea can be brewed with aniseeds: Gently crush five teaspoons of aniseeds and blend in one litre of boiling water. Allow the tea stand for 5-10 minutes after which honey or glycerine may be added.

In the case of a cough, take two teaspoons of this syrup every few hours.

For bronchitis, aniseed combines well with Coltsfoot , Horehound and Lobelia.

In the case of flatulence, a cup of the tea should be drunk slowly before meals.

For flatulent aniseed can also be mixed with equal amounts of fennel and caraway.

For improved memory it is recommended to drink two teaspoons three times a day.

Aniseed oil may be applied directly onto the skin or one drop may be taken internally by mixing it into half a teaspoonful of honey.


Although aniseed may be prescribed as a remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy – as it has been traditionally used - this is not recommended and should be avoided completely during pregnancy.

In addition aniseed has oestrogen activity and should be avoided if your physician has recommended against your taking birth control pills - oestrogen may contribute to migraine headaches and abnormal blood clotting and promote the development of certain types of brain tumours.

Quantities over several teaspoons of Aniseed oil may cause nausea and vomiting and Aniseed essential oil is very potent and considered a stimulant, which in excess may cause sluggishness.

Otherwise the FDA considers Aniseed generally safe if used as recommended for healthy, non-pregnant and non-nursing adults.

Updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, January 2010

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