What Is Anise Oil?
Anise essential oil is derived from the perennial herbal plant anise or aniseed (Pimpinella anisum). Although anise originated from Asia, it is prevalent in Mediterranean nations. Today, it is produced in Spain, France and Russia, but also grows in the wild in other countries. It was the Romans who introduced anise to Europe, while early settlers brought it to North America.
One of its primary uses was to promote digestive health. In ancient Rome, anise was often added (together with cumin and fennel) to a cake that was eaten after meals, while the Egyptians used the herb as an ingredient in breads.
Anise is often confused with fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) because both plants come from the Apiaceae family and have a similar taste. Anise is also confused with another herb called Chinese star anise (Illicium verum), which is widely used in Asian countries and used to make the drug Tamiflu.
There is a wide range of uses for anise oil – from cooking to flavorings to medications.
Benefits of Anise Oil
Anise oil and anethol have antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, stimulant and expectorant properties. This is why anise oil is often used or added to medicine, such as cough syrups and lozenges. Anise essential oil also displays potent antioxidant action. The antibacterial properties of anise oil make it useful against bacterial strains like Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia coli and Corynebacterium ovis.
Anethol, aniseed’s predominant constituent, has antimicrobial and antifungal activities, making it useful against Candida albicans and fungal strains like Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Fusarium and Penicillin. Anise oil is also effective against conditions that are associated with spasms, such as cramps, diarrhea, convulsions and muscle pains, thanks to its relaxant and anti-spasmodic effects.
The essential oil can also relieve indigestion, flatulence and acute chest pain and aid in promoting the elimination of excess gas in your digestive system.
Individuals suffering from colds, coughs and the flu can experience relief from using anise oil because of its expectorant and decongestant activities. The oil loosens mucus or phlegm in the respiratory tract and helps ease breathing troubles, asthma and other respiratory issues.
Is Anise Oil Safe?
While the anethol and estragole found in anise seeds have shown toxicity in rodents, anise oil is deemed generally safe for human consumption. It does not pose a threat to humans when it is consumed or used in moderation.
Pregnant and nursing women may benefit from using this essential oil, particularly to promote breast milk production and normal menstruation and to reduce pain. The oil may even benefit men by boosting their libido.
Parents should also avoid administering anise oil or any essential oil directly on the highly delicate skin of infants and young children.