Anise plant and oil medical uses and health benefit
May 16 2016 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Anise (Pimpinella anisum), has been used as a spice and medicine since antiquity.  Anise is the dried ripe fruit of the herb Pimpinella anisum. The anise seeds have a licorice-like flavor.

Historical uses of anise
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, and anise, Pimpinella anisum, are plants which have been used as estrogenic agents for millennia. Specifically, they have been reputed to increase milk secretion, promote menstruation, facilitate birth, alleviate the symptoms of the male climacteric, and increase libido. In the 1930s, some interest was shown in these plants in the development of synthetic estrogens. The main constituent of the essential oils of fennel and anise, anethole, has been considered to be the active estrogenic agent. However, further research suggests that the actual pharmacologically active agents are polymers of anethole, such as dianethole and photoanethole.
   Another use of anise has been a smooth muscle relaxer to prevent spasms of the gastrointestinal muscle tissue and relieve minor digestive problems. Anise oils is used to treat lice and scabies in some parts of the world.

Anise chemical composition
Anise has a number of compounds including anethole ( approximately 90%), gamma-himachalene and glucosides of phenylpropanoids. Anisaldehyde, anethole, estragole, and myrcene derived from anise seeds are useful as a lead compound to development of new agents for selective control of food mite.

Anise and Tamiflu
A team of Japanese researchers has developed a new way of producing the anti-flu drug Tamiflu that does not rely on natural ingredients and may help ensure more stable supplies. Tamiflu, produced by Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG, is considered one of the best defenses against avian flu in humans, and there are fears of a possible shortage in the event of a global flu pandemic. In a finding that may eventually lessen risks of a shortage, Professor Masakatsu Shibasaki of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences said his team had found a way to make Tamiflu without using shikimic acid, which is produced from a spice called star anise. By using a chemical ingredient instead, the new method eliminates weather as a risk factor in Tamiflu production

Anise seed as antispasmodic agent
Antispasmodic and relaxant effects of the hidroalcoholic extract of Pimpinella anisum on rat anococcygeus smooth muscle.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2006, Ribeirao Preto, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil.
The present work describes the mechanisms involved in the muscle relaxant effect of ethanol:water aerial parts extracts of anise plant. Three extracts were tested for activity in the rat anococcygeus smooth muscle. The three extracts inhibited acetylcholine -induced contraction. Collectively, our results provide functional evidence that the effects elicited by the hidroalcoholic extract of anise involve the participation of nitric oxide and subsequent activation of the NO-cGMP pathway. The relaxant action displayed by anise justifies its use in the folk medicine as an antispasmodic agent.

Milk production in animals
J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2014. Effect of aqueous and ethanolic extracts of Pimpinella anisum L. seeds on milk production in rats. Pimpinella anisum L. (P. anisum) is used as a galactagogue in traditional medicine; hence, the effect of aqueous and ethanolic extracts of P. anisum seeds on milk production in rats was evaluated. The milk production was assessed by measuring the pups' weights during the suckling period. The intraperitoneal LD(50) values of P. anisum aqueous and ethanolic extracts were 4.93 and 3.77 g/kg, respectively. The aqueous (1 g/kg) and ethanolic extracts (1 g/kg) increased the milk production significantly (p < 0.001), with about 68.1% and 81% more milk being produced, respectively, than in the control group. The pups gained weight during the study period with the aqueous (0.5 and 1 g/kg, p < 0.05) and ethanolic (0.5 and 1 g/kg, p < 0.01) extracts. Thus, P. anisum aqueous and ethanolic extracts can increase milk production in rats.

Anise Plant Research
p-Anisaldehyde: acaricidal component of Pimpinella anisum seed oil against the house dust mites Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.
Planta Med. 2004.
The acaricidal activity of anise seed oil -derived p-anisaldehyde and commercially available components of anise seed oil was examined against Dermatophagoides farinae and D. pteronyssinus and compared with those of the synthetic acaricides, benzyl benzoate and N,N-diethyl- m-toluamide (DEET). On the basis of LD 50 values, the compound most toxic to D. farinae adults was p-anisaldehyde followed by benzyl benzoate, DEET, 3-carene, and estragol. Against D. pteronyssinus adults, p-anisaldehyde was much more effective than benzyl benzoate, DEET, 3-carene , and estragol. p-Anisaldehyde was about 8.4 and 6.7 times more toxic than benzyl benzoate against D. farinae and D. pteronyssinus adults, respectively. The results suggested that p-anisaldehyde may be useful as a lead compound for the development of new agents for the selective control of house dust mites.

Relaxant effect of Pimpinella anisum on isolated guinea pig tracheal chains and its possible mechanism.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2001.
We have studied the relaxant effect of anise on isolated guinea pig tracheal chains and its possible mechanism. The bronchodilatory effects of aqueous and ethanol anise extracts and anise essential oil were examined on precontracted isolated tracheal chains of the guinea pig. These results indicated bronchodilatory effects of anise essential oil, anise aqueous, and anise ethanol extracts. The results also showed that the relaxant effect of anise plant is not due to an inhibitory effect of histamine (H(1)) or stimulatory effect of beta(2)-adrenergic receptors, but due to inhibitory effects on muscarinic receptors.

Seizure help
The fruit essential oil of Pimpinella anisum - anise - exerts anticonvulsant effects in mice.
J Ethnopharmacol. 1999.
This study investigates anticonvulsant effects of an essential oil of the fruits of anise, a folkloric remedy in the Iranian traditional medicine, against seizures induced by pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) or maximal electroshock (MES) in male mice. Anise essential oil suppressed tonic convulsions induced by PTZ or MES. It also elevated the threshold of PTZ-induced clonic convulsions in mice. Anise essential oil produced motor impairment. However, this effect was not observed at the doses and time courses needed for anticonvulsant activity.

You can find anise cookie, seed and oil. Anise tea is also available in some health food stores.

Star Anise
A rare herb grown in China used to flavor duck dishes and treat infants for colic is getting attention as a treatment for avian flu. Star anise, the unusual fruit of a small oriental tree, is sold in supermarkets to consumers seeking its pungent, licorice-like flavor.