Anise seeds -- which taste similar to licorice -- have been used since ancient times to flavor foods and beverages. Anise is a key ingredient in the Greek drink ouzo, which is often served with meals to spark appetite and promote digestion. Herbalists and natural healers have long recommended anise seeds to alleviate indigestion, bloating and gas. Although clinical studies on anise seeds are lacking, animal and laboratory research supports the gas-reducing properties of anise seeds' constituents, but consult your doctor before taking anise seeds.
Constituents of Anise
Anise, botanically known as Pimpinella anisum, is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean and Middle East. A member of the Apiaceae family, anise is closely related to fennel. Anethole -- anise's most pharmacologically active ingredient -- is found in both types of seeds, and comprises 75 to 90 percent of anise seeds' content. The ridged, greenish-brown anise seeds also contain caffeic, chlorogenic and anisic acids, along with terpenes, the antioxidant flavonoids rutin and limonene, myristicin -- also found in parsley and nutmeg -- and the anti-inflammatory agent beta-sitosterol. Coumarins -- which have natural blood-thinning properties -- are also present, as are alpha and beta-pinene, thymol and eugenol, an anesthetic and analgesic also found in cloves.
- Anise, botanically known as Pimpinella anisum, is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean and Middle East.
- Coumarins -- which have natural blood-thinning properties -- are also present, as are alpha and beta-pinene, thymol and eugenol, an anesthetic and analgesic also found in cloves.
Effects of Anise Seeds
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Although there is no guarantee that anise seeds will completely control bloating and gas, they may help to alleviate the condition. The use of anise as a digestive aid dates back to ancient Rome, where anise-flavored cakes were served after feasts. Drugs.com -- which provides peer-reviewed medical information to consumers -- credits anise seeds with antimicrobial and carminative effects 1. Anise has antispasmodic effects, which allow it to relax muscles of the intestines and relieve gas, bloating and cramps. The online health care encyclopedia Hecapedia reports that anethole -- structurally related to catecholamines, such as dopamine and epinephrine -- has also demonstrated antimicrobial, antifungal and expectorant effects in animal and laboratory studies.
- Although there is no guarantee that anise seeds will completely control bloating and gas, they may help to alleviate the condition.
- Anise has antispasmodic effects, which allow it to relax muscles of the intestines and relieve gas, bloating and cramps.
Research supports the ability of anise seeds to inhibit bacterial infections that may cause symptoms of bloating and gas 2. In a laboratory study published in 2005 in "Phytotherapy Research," researchers found that botanical extracts of anise seeds inhibited the growth of H. pylori, a bacterial pathogen responsible for the development of gastric ulcers and chronic gastritis. The MIC of anise extract -- or the minimum inhibitory concentration necessary to inhibit pathogenic growth -- was recorded at 100 micrograms per millileter.
Usage and Considerations
Anise for Colic
According to Drugs.com, the usual dose of anise for indigestion is between 0.5 to 3 grams of the seeds a day. The website adds that although anise is generally recognized as safe when used as a food, people who are sensitive to it may experience irritation of the gastrointestinal tract or respiratory system; skin reactions can include redness and scaling. Rare but serious anaphylactic reactions have also been reported with anise; AsthmaCenter.com reports that if you are allergic to mugwort pollen, you may also be allergic to anise seeds, as well as its relatives: carrots, celery, kiwi, fennel, dill, coriander, parsley and even apples. Consult your doctor before taking anise. Don't take anise if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you take blood thinners or medications to lower blood pressure or blood sugar.
- According to Drugs.com, the usual dose of anise for indigestion is between 0.5 to 3 grams of the seeds a day.
- The website adds that although anise is generally recognized as safe when used as a food, people who are sensitive to it may experience irritation of the gastrointestinal tract or respiratory system; skin reactions can include redness and scaling.
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- Drugs.com: Complete Anise Information
- Food Allergy Research and Education: Food Allergy Symptoms
- Blue Shield of California: Anise
- Abdul-Hamid M, Gallaly SR. "Ameliorative effect of Pimpinella anisum oil on immunohistochemical and ultrastuctural changes of cerebellum of albino rats induced by aspartame." Ultrastruct Pathol. 2014 May;38(3):224-36.
- Ghoshegir SA, Mazaheri M, Ghannadi A, et al. Pimpinella anisum in the treatment of functional dyspepsia: A double-blind, randomized clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2015;20(1):13–21.
- Karimzadeh F, Hosseini M, Mangeng D, Alavi H, Hassanzadeh GR, Bayat M, Jafarian M, Kazemi H, Gorji A. "Anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects of Pimpinella anisum in rat brain." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Jun 18;12:76.
- Lee JB, Yamagishi C, Hayashi K, Hayashi T. "Antiviral and immunostimulating effects of lignin-carbohydrate-protein complexes from Pimpinella anisum." Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2011;75(3):459-65.
- Mosaffa-Jahromi, M., Tamaddon, A.-M., Afsharypuor, S., Salehi, A., Seradj, S. H., Pasalar, M., … Lankarani, K. B. (2016). Effectiveness of Anise Oil for Treatment of Mild to Moderate Depression in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(1), 41–46. doi:10.1177/2156587216628374
- Nahidi F, Kariman N, Simbar M, Mojab F. "The Study on the Effects of Pimpinella anisum on Relief and Recurrence of Menopausal Hot Flashes." Iran J Pharm Res. 2012 Fall;11(4):1079-85.
- Nahid K, Fariborz M, Ataolah G, Solokian S. "The effect of an Iranian herbal drug on primary dysmenorrhea: a clinical controlled trial." J Midwifery Womens Health. 2009 Sep-Oct;54(5):401-4.
- Picon PD, Picon RV, Costa AF, Sander GB, Amaral KM, Aboy AL, Henriques AT. "Randomized clinical trial of a phytotherapic compound containing Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia augustifolia for chronic constipation." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Apr 30;10:17.
- Samojlik I, Mijatović V, Petković S, Skrbić B, Božin B. "The influence of essential oil of aniseed (Pimpinella anisum, L.) on drug effects on the central nervous system." Fitoterapia. 2012 Dec;83(8):1466-73.
- Shojaii A, Abdollahi Fard M. "Review of Pharmacological Properties and Chemical Constituents of Pimpinella anisum." ISRN Pharm. 2012;2012:510795.
Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.