12 Impressive Benefits and Uses of Anise Oil

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Compared to essential oils like Lavender and Tea Tree oil, which are widely used and appreciated today, Anise oil isn’t very well known, which is a shame because it has a host of benefits to offer to those of us that prefer using natural remedies (where possible) to pharmaceuticals.

In the ancient world Anise oil was an all-star medicine, and it was commonly used to treat coughs, seizures, pain, jaundice, infections, whooping cough, bronchitis, colic, menstrual cramps and much more. Anise has been cultivated in Egypt and the parts of the Middle East bordering the Mediterranean for more than 2000 years.

Anise is an annual herb that resembles fennel and other members of the carrot family. It grows to one or two feet high, has delicate feathery leaves and produces tiny star-shaped white flowers that cluster together to form large heads. Anise carries the aroma of licorice.

The seeds of the plants are widely used as a cooking spice, and in Turkey a popular alcoholic drink called Raki, is made from them. Anise is used to flavor the French drinks Absinthe and Pastis, Greek Ouzo, Italian Sambuca, German Jägermeister and in the United States it’s a flavor used in some Root Beers.

The medicinal essential oil is obtained from the seeds via steam distillation.

Pliny The Elder (AD 23-79, naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire and author of the world’s first encyclopedia), noted Anise oil as a remedy for sleeplessness and as a cure for Asp bites.

In 1305, King Edward I, declared Anise a taxable drug, and the revenue earned helped to repair damage to London Bridge.

In the ninth century, Emperor Charlemagne decreed that Anise must be grown on all imperial farms, and in biblical times Anise was so valuable that it served as a currency which was used to pay tithes and taxes. Anise is mentioned in the gospels of Mark and Luke where it’s named along with Mint and Cumin.

Mint and Cumin, like most aromatic herbs, both have impressive medicinal uses of their own, and like Anise, have today mostly been relegated to the kitchen to add a hint of flavor to dishes.

In the not too distant past a herb garden served as a family’s pharmacy, with differing herbs able to cure ailments, help broken bones to heal (Comfrey or ‘knit bone’), and ease child birth. Herbs and plant medicines are the mainstay of Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine, but we’ve spurned their use in favor of pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals which often use isolated (and less powerful) components of the herbs we’ve shunned at home.

For example Tamiflu is derived from the Chinese Star Anise herb (Illicium verum), which is quite similar to the Anise that we’re going to investigate today.

The Anise plant,  Pimpinella anisum, is commonly known as Aniseed, and has a pleasant licorice flavor. It’s often confused with fennel because they have a similar appearance. Both are members of the of Apiaceae family.

Anise oil was introduced to Europe by the Romans, who valued it highly for its medicinal qualities.

They often referred to it by the name Solamen intestinorum, which means the comforter of the bowels. The Romans served Anise spiced cakes at the end of feasts and entertainments to prevent indigestion and gas.

Production of Anise essential oil is much smaller when compared to Chinese Star Anise, with 40-50 tons of Anise oil produced annually, whereas many thousand of tons of Chinese Star Anise oil are produced each year. Today Anise is widely cultivated in India and China, and to a lesser extent in Mexico, southern France and Spain.

Anise oil is used to mask the unpleasant flavor of many pharmaceutical drugs, it’s also used as a flavoring ingredient in toothpastes, and as a fragrance in soaps, detergents, cosmetics and perfumes.

One of its fragrant uses in the past was as an early warning system on steam trains in Britain. The engineers would incorporate capsules of Anise oil into the metal bearings in the steam boiler. If the scent of Anise was released, the engineers knew that the boiler was overheating.

Anise oil attracts dogs in the same way that catnip attracts cats. It’s used by Anti-bloodsport activists to put hunting dogs off the scent of the fox and ruin the hunt. It’s also used on fishing lures to attract fish and it even attracts mice. If you add a little Anise oil to the bait in a mouse trap, the mice can’t help themselves—even the wiley ones that have learned to avoid traps.


Safety Of Anise Oil

Safety Of Anise Oil

While Anise Oil has a long history of safe medicinal use, caution must be advised when using Anise oil internally. The main component in Anise oil, anethole, is categorized as GRAS—generally recognized as safe, when used in small amounts as a flavoring ingredient. For other internal uses you should seek the advice of an alternative health practitioner and use Anise oil under qualified guidance.

Anise oil can cause irritation and dermatitis in susceptible individuals, and you should avoid its use if you have inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. If you have allergies to pollen, celery, or carrots, you should also avoid the use of this oil. In large doses Anise oil is a narcotic which slows down circulation and can cause brain disorders. Essential oils should never be taken internally without dilution and most oils must also be diluted for topical use.

In the past essential oils were used medicinally by experienced herbalists who knew exactly what they were doing. Few of us have that knowledge today, so stay safe and use Anise oil responsibly.

Most people without skin sensitivities or the aforementioned allergies can safely use Anise oil topically.


Composition of Anise Oil

The main constituent (80-90%) of Anise is anethole, which is also found in Chinese Star Anise. Anethole is known to have antifungal and antibacterial and insecticidal properties.

Other constituents of anise oil are estragole, eugenol p-cresol,  propionic, butyric and myristic fatty acids,  alpha pinene, anisaldehyde, beta pinene, camphene, linalool, cis & trans-anethol, safrol, and acetoanisol.

Anise oil is a colorless to pale yellow liquid, with a warm, spicy-sweet aroma.

Other names for Anise oil are Anisum officinalis, A. vulgare and sweet cumin.


Anise Oil Is Antibacterial And Antifungal

The main component in Anise oil is anethole, and this has been shown to be effective against microbes. Anise oil can treat bacterial skin infections including acne, and fungal infections like dandruff, jock itch, ringworm, athlete’s foot and sweat rash.

Add 6 drops of anise oil to a tablespoon of any carrier oil and apply to your skin to fight fungal infections.

For acne you should use Anise oil with Jojoba or Argan oil as your carrier oil since both are powerful acne treatments in their own right and neither will clog your pores.

For dandruff, use coconut oil or olive oil. Add 12 drops of Anise to two tablespoons of carrier oil and massage into your hair. Leave on as long as possible (overnight with a shower cap) before washing your hair as normal. Repeat twice a week until the dandruff is gone.


Anise Oil Is Often Added To Cough Syrups

The cough syrup and lozenges that you buy from the pharmacy often have Anise as a main active ingredient. You can get relief from a sore throat or cough by adding a couple of drops of Anise to a glass of water to use as gargle, and also to drink.

Using Anise oil in a steam inhalation will loosen mucous or phlegm in the lungs and make a cough more productive, helping to clear the infection more quickly and ease breathing.

Anise oil is also helpful to ease breathing for those suffering with asthma.

Add 6 drops of Anise oil to a pot of steaming water and inhale the fragrant steam. The aroma will also relax you, making sleep come easier while you’re feeling under the weather.


Anise Oil Kills Bugs

Anise oil kills lice and other biting insects. You can use the oil in fumigants, vaporizers, and sprays to keep insects away from your living areas, or you can add a few drops to a carrier oil and use on your arms, legs, face and neck to keep the bugs from biting you.

As a head lice treatment Anise has been shown to be more effective than permethrin.

In a 2010 study a treatment of coconut oil and anise was applied once, then again 9 days later to 50 people with head lice. Another 50 people were treated with permethrin. The results showed that the Anise treatment was significantly more successful than permethrin at clearing the infestation, with Anise and coconut oil clearing the infestation in 41 out of the 50 people treated with it, while permethrin could only manage to clear the head lice from 21 out of 50 people.

Permethrin works on a neurological level to kill the head lice, but it isn’t always effective and head lice are becoming more and more resistant to it.

Anise and coconut oil work on a physical level to dehydrate the lice, making them lose so much moisture that they die. Lice can’t become resistant to this effect.

Use 1 cup of coconut oil and 12 drops of Anise oil. Massage into scalp and hair and leave on for at least one hour, although overnight would be better. Wash hair as normal then repeat the Anise treatment 7 to 9 days later to kill any lice that have emerged from newly hatched eggs. The eggs and immature lice nymphs live down in the hair follicle where no topical treatment can get to them. So it’s important to treat again and make sure that you eradicate these new beasties and prevent the cycle starting all over again.


Anise Oil Is An Antiepileptic And An Anti-hysteric

Anise oil has a sedative effect. It has been used to treat epileptic fits, depression and anxiety/hysteric attacks by slowing down circulation and nervous responses. For this purpose Anise should only be administered on the advice of your alternative medicine practitioner.


Anise Oil Is An Antispasmodic

Ailments caused by spasms include cramps, coughs, hiccups, aches, diarrhea, and convulsions. Spasms occur when there is excessive contraction of muscles, nerves, blood vessels and

internal organs. Anise oil relaxes the body and stops the spasms, relieving the discomfort that they are causing.


Anise Oil Is Carminative

A carminative is a herb or other preparation that can prevent the formation of gas or help it to pass if it’s already present.

The Native Americans called anise “Tut-te See-hua”, which means, “It expels the wind.”

Trapped gas is painful and the intensity of the pain makes it difficult to concentrate on anything else while the pain is there. The pain of indigestion caused by trapped gas can be so severe that some people have mistaken it for a heart attack.

When added to foods in a safe amount, anise oil will prevent digestive discomfort. And the oil when diluted appropriately (just 1-2 drops in a glass of water) can be taken to cure painful trapped gas.

By using Anise in your foods you will also prevent embarrassing flatulence.

Anise isn’t the only option for relief from painful trapped gas. If you keep a pot of mint growing on your patio, all you have to do is pinch off a couple of leaves and chew them for instant relief. As you chew, the volatile oils are released from the mint and ingested where they act as a carminative.

Pick leaves and dry them in the summer (just tie stems together and hang up) to have a supply of dried leaves, that you can use to make a gas relieving tea in the winter when the fresh leaves aren’t available.


Anise Oil Can Be Used To Freshen Your Breath

 Anise Oil Can Be Used To Freshen Your Breath

Mix one to two drops with warm water and use as a gargle. Or add a drop to some coconut oil and use to brush your teeth and tongue.


Anise Oil Eases Menstrual Pain

Anise oil is very relaxing and has been used as a traditional remedy for menstrual cramps. You can safely benefit from Anise oil, by adding two to three drops of the oil to your favorite carrier oil and rubbing onto your lower abdomen.


Anise Oil Relieves Headaches And Migraines

Anise oil is very calming and soothing. It lowers stress and induces feelings of wellbeing, in addition to being a topical pain reliever. Take 3 drops of anise oil and a little carrier oil and massage into your temples.

Add a few drops of Anise oil to an oil burner or a pot of simmering water to benefit from its headache relieving aromatherapy properties.


Anise Oil Stimulates Milk Production

The anethole in Anise oil is known to be a Galactagogue, which means milk stimulant. It’s used to stimulate lactation in animals, and has historically been used for this purpose in humans.

In his Great Herbal (an early encyclopedia of herbal medicine) John Gerard notes that Anise maketh abundance of milke.

Galactagogues are thought to increase the production of the hormone prolactin which in turn stimulates the production of breast milk.

Researchers suggest that breast feeding women who are having difficulty producing enough milk may benefit from galactogogues.

In some parts of the world Anise seeds are infused into a tea which is given to breastfeeding women, and while small amounts of this tea appear to be safe, 2 women in the United States who ingested large amounts (over 2 liters per day) had to take their infants to hospital, as the babies were lethargic and weak. The babies quickly returned to full health once the anise from their mother’s milk was out of their systems.

Two liters is an excessive amount of any herbal preparation (especially during pregnancy or nursing) and qualified advice would have prevented this very misguided level of consumption.


Anise Oil Eases Muscle Pain And Arthritis

Anise oil can give relief from muscle and arthritic pains by stimulating blood circulation, and by acting as a topical pain reliever. Use 6 drops in 2 tablespoons of carrier oil and massage into the painful area twice a day.


Anise Oil Can Help To Prevent Premature Aging

The antioxidants in Anise oil give it the ability to combat the free radicals that are responsible for premature aging, fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps to stimulate cell regeneration and improve the appearance of aging skin. Use 2 drops mixed with a little carrier oil and massage into your skin twice a day.


Anise In Folklore

  • Anise corresponds with the element of air and the astrological sign Gemini. It is considered masculine and is associated the God Apollo and the planets Mercury and Jupiter.
  • Anise seeds were hung from the bedpost to restore lost youth.
  • In dream pillows, Anise was used to keep away nightmares and ensure a good night’s sleep.
  • The fresh leaves and seeds of Anise when used in a pot-pourri are said to protect a room from evil spirits and bad intentions.
  • Anise has been used in holy waters for blessing and exorcisms.
  • Carried in a sachet Anise seeds are reported to ward off the evil eye.
  • Anise is said to aid in divination and meditation.
  • Anise oil was used to bring bees back to the hive. With one beekeeper claiming that he could uncork a bottle of Anise oil and the bees would return to the hive from as far as half a mile away.
  • And finally in addition to attracting dogs, fish, mice and bees, Anise has been used to entice spirits and enlist their help in magical operations.

I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Anise oil, and that you consider using it as one of your essential oil home remedies.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.