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Pimpinella anisum Linn.

Family : Umbelliferae

Other names: Aniseed; Sweet cumin


Anise, Pimpinella anisum L., a herbaceous annual native to the Mediterranean region and Egypt, is cultivated in Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, North Africa, India and Russia chiefly for its fruits, called aniseed, the flavour of which resembles that of licorice. Anise was well known to the ancient Egyptians and Romans.


The plant reaches a height of about 0.75m and requires a warm and long frost-free growing season of 120 days. It has long-stalked basal leaves and shorter, stalked stem leaves. Its small and yellowish white flowers form loose umbels. The fruit is nearly ovoid in shape, about 3.5 mm long, and has five longitudinal dorsal ridges. The fruit consists of two united carpels each containing an anise seed. The seed is small and curved, about 0.5 cm long and grayish brown. Its usually contains hair-like protrusions from each end.


The reported life zone for anise production is 8 to 23oC with 400 to 1700 mm of precipitation and a soil pH of 6.3 to 7.3. Seeds should be planted early in spring in rows 60 to 90cm feet apart and at the rate of a dozen to 30 cm. The surface of the soil should be made smooth and the seeds covered to a depth of 2cm. The stand should be thinned to three or four plants to 30 cm. Only light cultivation is needed for weed control. Anise develops very well in deep, friable soils and appears to respond favorably to nitrogen fertilization by yielding a greater quantity of high-quality fruit. The small white flowers bloom in midsummer, and seed maturation usually occurs one month after pollination, when the oil content in the dried fruit is about 2.5%. The fruiting umbels should be harvested when the seeds turn brown, which take place late in fall. The fresh leaves possess a flavour similar to that of the seeds and may be used as needed during the season. As they are clipped from the plants the umbels should be thoroughly dried either in shade or under the sun and the seeds separated, cleaned and stored for later use.

The essential oil of anise is present at about1.5 - 3.5% level. The major constituent in oil of anise is anethole. Methyl chavicol, anisaldehyde and para-methoyphenylacetone are also present, but in lesser relative amounts.

Aroma and Flavour

Fresh leaves may be used in salads, especially apple; seeds in cookies and candies. While the entire plant is fragrant, it is the fruit of anise, commercially called anise seed, that has been highly valued since antiquity. The delicate fragrance is widely used for flavouring curries, breads, soups, cakes, candies, desserts, non-alcoholic beverages, and such liqueurs as anisette and arak. Aniseed is widely used to flavour pasteries; it is the characteristic ingredient of a German bread called Anisbrod. In the Mediterranean region and in Asia, aniseed id commonly used in meat and vegetable dishes.

Culinary use

It is used in Italian sausage, pepperoni, pizza topping and other processes meat items.The volatile or essential oil, obtained by steam distillation of the crushed anise seed, is valuable in perfumery and soaps and has been used in toothpastes, mouthwashes and skin creams. The essential oil is used to flavour absinthe, and Penod liqueurs. Anise oil is sometimes uses as an adulterant in the essential oil of licorice. The oil is sometimes uses as sensitizer for bleaching colors in photography. The seeds are chewed after a meal in India to sweeten the breath.

Medicinal and other use

It makes a soothing herbal tea and has been used medicinally from prehistoric items. As a medicinal plant, anise has been used as a carminative, antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, stimulant, and stomachic. In addition, it has been used to promote lactation in nursing mothers and as a medicine against bronchitis and indigestion. Oil of anise is used today as and ingredient in cough medicine and lozenges and is reported to have diuretic and diaphoretic properties. If ingested in sufficient quantities, anise oil may induce nausea, vomiting , seizures and pulmonary edema. Contact of the concentrated oil with the skin can cause irritation.

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