Herb to Know: Anise


| October/November 2002



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Genus: Pimpinella anisum
Pronunciation: (pim-pin-NEL-uh AN-iss-um)
Family: Umbelliferae

• Annual

Anise is one of the world’s oldest and best-loved spices, flavoring the food, drink, and medicines of many cultures since ancient times. Anise is native to Egypt and the Mediterranean region. It is now cultivated commercially in many parts of Europe, India, Mexico, southern Russia, and Turkey, as well as the United States. Where conditions are favorable, it has escaped from cultivation.

• Anise Recipe:  Anise Hard Candy  

The smooth, grooved stems of anise grow 1 to 2 feet tall. As with those of cilantro, the leaves are of two types: the lower ones are larger and pinnately divided into oval, coarsely toothed leaflets while the upper ones are small and ferny. (The generic name Pimpinella is derived from bipinella, “twice-pinnate,” referring to the division of the leaves.) Tiny white or yellow flowers are borne in 2-inch-wide lacy umbels in midsummer, and the 1/8-inch-long seeds (technically fruits) are grooved, gray, and roundly ovate with one side flattened. They hang from the thin stems in pairs.

Anise’s medicinal powers have been appreciated for centuries. Some early claims were extravagant. It was said to ward off the evil eye and prevent scorpion bites, epilepsy, and bad dreams. Sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard summarized the principal medicinal uses of anise:





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