Anise, which is perhaps better known as Aniseed, is a uniquely flavoured spice that can be used to make herbal teas and to flavour a host of foods and beverages. Commonly mistaken for star anise (more on that later), anise goes by the generic name Pimpinella anisum and is native to the Mediterranean.
It’s similar to many other herbs and spices both in terms of flavour, fragrance, and chemical composition, but there are some key differences.
The Health Benefits of Anise
Anise has a long history of use as a traditional medicine, and recent research suggests there could actually be something to these claims. An occasional cup of anise tea could provide health benefits such as:
1. Improved Digestive Health
Stomach ulcers are common, painful, and can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms. There are a few herbs and spices that have shown promise in treating these ulcers, including the resin mastic, which grows almost exclusively on a small Greek island, and anise could be another remedy to add to that list.
Animal studies suggest that it can protect against gastric ulcers and the symptoms they cause. (1) It also contains antibacterial compounds that could inhibit the growth of bacteria inside and outside the body and may also help prevent infections.
There is also no shortage of anecdotal evidence in this department, and many swear by spices like this—as well as soothing herbs like peppermint—for curing digestive ailments.
2. Help with Postpartum Depression
Some research suggests that regular consumption of anise could alleviate the symptoms of depression, especially postpartum depression. A double-blind randomised study conducted in 2015 looked at more than 100 patients with postpartum depression and gave half of these a daily dose of anise powder. (2)
Not only did they notice improvements in the majority of these patients, but they also found that those improvements remained even several weeks after the study had concluded.
Depression is one of the most common health issues in the world, one that affects people of all ages and across all demographics. There is no easy cure, and while there are many prescription meds, they typically lead to unplanned side effects and even addiction.
Even herbal remedies can cause a number of issues, such as St John’s Wort, which has been linked with a host of contraindications and other concerns. If there is some truth to these theories about anise, then it bodes well for the future, but only time will tell in that regard.
3. Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Properties
Some compounds in anise can reduce oxidative stress in the body, which could in turn reduce the risk of chronic disease. These compounds also have anti-inflammatory properties, which means they could be used to prevent inflammation in the joints, digestive tract, and pretty much everywhere else.
As we have discussed many times before when covering ancient remedies like ashwagandha and herbal teas like blackberry leaf, inflammation is a leading cause of illness, and by consuming something that keeps it to a minimum, you could reduce your chances of developing such issues.
Nutrients in Anise
Anise is not exactly nutrient dense and doesn’t come close to the nutrient-rich rose hips. It does contain some key minerals and vitamins, though, and 1 tbsp will provide you with approximately 10% to 15% of your daily need for iron, as well as around half that of manganese and calcium.
Each serving also contains roughly 1g of both protein and fibre. As with other spices, anise will not take you anywhere near your RDAs unless you consume a large amount, but every little bit helps.
How to Make Anise Tea
A few recipes for anise tea actually use star anise on the assumption that they are one and the same. You can make tea with star anise, just as you can make tea with fennel and other similarly flavoured spices, but it’s just as easy to make tea with actual anise.
We recommend using seeds, which can be purchased dried and kept for long periods of time. You only need 1 tsp of these seeds to make a cup of tea. Simply infuse the crushed seeds into a cup of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes, sweeten to taste, and then drink.
You can use the same recipe with star anise and pretty much any other spiced tea. If you find it’s a little weak, add more—if it’s too strong, reduce the dose or reduce the infusion time.
You can add anise to other spices and herbs to make something that’s a little stronger and has more depth of flavour. Black tea may work well—spices and tea are the basis for masala chai, after all—and if you want a creamier drink then substitute the water for hot milk and add plenty of sugar.
Anise versus Star Anise versus Fennel
Aniseed is very similar to a number of other herbs and spices, many of which we have already written about here on Shelgo Tea. These include both fennel seeds and liquorice root—spices that can also be consumed in tea form and are said to provide many of the same health benefits.
One of the most similar spices is star anise, or illicium verum. And it’s no accident. All of these spices contain a compound named Anethole. This compound is often extracted and isolated to be used as a flavouring—it’s much sweeter than sugar and it also has a very distinct taste.
The reason everything from tarragon to fennel and star anise all have that distinctive “aniseed” flavour is because they all contain a significant concentration of this Anethole compound, and the reason the Greek liqueur Ouzo has the same taste is because it’s made using extracts of the aforementioned herb or a direct infusion of Anethole.
If you enjoy the flavour of aniseed, you may want to try these herbs and spices. They make a great addition to herbal teas and homemade liqueurs and can also be used to add a little bite to salads, soups, and stews.
Side Effects of Anise Tea
The average user will experience few, if any, ill effects from consuming anise tea. It is possible to be allergic to these seeds, and you should avoid them if you are allergic to anything in the same family (which includes common herbs like dill and parsley, as well as a number of vegetables and spices) but there are very few contraindications or other issues to be concerned about.
If you have a preexisting health condition, are taking medication, or are pregnant, we recommend consulting your doctor before consuming medicinal amounts of this spice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.