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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Pimpinella anisum Umbelliferae Middle East/Eastern Mediterranean

An ancient culinary and medicinal spice, anise has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians and is even mentioned in the Bible. Popular throughout the Roman and Greek empires, anise was eaten after meals to aid digestion and then placed in the bedroom to prevent bad dreams. In 1305, King Edward I placed a tax on anise in order to help pay for the London Bridge.

This small annual can grow up to 2 feet and can be cultivated in most warm climates. The roots and leaves of Pimpinella anisum are edible, however anise seeds come from the flowers that are cut at the stem when ripe and then hung to dry. The grey seeds smell strongly of licorice and taste similar to fennel. In fact, in India there is no distinction between anise and fennel.

The sweet licorice taste attracts pesky rodents and is used as bait by many fishermen. It can be also be found in many dog foods and seems to have a similar effect on dogs as catnip has on cats.

Anise is added to most common cough medicines and is also an ingredient in many alcoholic drinks including, Absinthe, ouzo, ojen, raki, pastis, Pernod and Ricard.

A popular addition to many baked goods, anise is also widely used in savory dishes. It is found in curries, stews, soups and vegetable dishes and is also excellent with salad, eggs, fish and poultry.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Anise has been used as a flavor in medicinal remedies for centuries. The pleasant licorice taste helps to cover the bitterness found in certain medicines and also serves as a breath freshener. However, anise also has many medical properties of its own.

Historiclaly anise has been used to:

  • As a carminative
  • As an antiseptic
  • Cure hiccups
  • Relieve toothaches
  • Aid digestion
  • Alleviate bloating
  • Reduce cough and cold symptoms
  • Induce sleep

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Anise seed is often confused with fennel because of their similar taste and aroma. Anise has a slightly stronger flavour than fennel, but can be used as a substitute. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, anise is an excellent addition to fish as well as cookies, pastries and breads. Buy whole seeds and grind immediately before use. Ground anise loses its flavour quickly and should be kept in a cool, dark place.  Food for thought:

  • mix anise seeds into bread and cookie dough or sprinkle seeds on top
  • add crushed anise seeds to your favorite marinade
  • sprinkle crushed seeds over eggs
  • mix anise into soft cheese
  • add whole seeds to soups, stews and vegetable dishes
  • to enhance the flavour of whole seeds, lightly toast them in the oven
  • crush seeds just before cooking for a stronger, fresher flavour
  • for sweet dishes containing anise, add cinnamon to enhance its flavour

view other A-Z Spices