( the licorice herb )
Anise, a native to the Mediterranean region, the hern was so important as a cash crop in biblical times,it was used as a medium of exchange for payment of taxes. The New testament in Matthew 23;23 states Ye pay tithes of mint, anise, and cumin. Anise was introduced to Britain by the Romans, it was so popular in medieval England in 1305, King Edward 1 placed a special tax on the highly priced plant, using proceeds to fund necessary repairs on the London Bridge. Today anise is cultivated mainly in Spain and Russia where it thrives in the dry climactic conditions.
Anise is a annual plant, and a member of the carrot and parsley family. During the first year, a rosette of fairly large, wide leaves grows out of its spindle shaped root. The following year the plant sends up a round, furrowed stem, whose lowest leaves are almost undivided, while the upper leaves exhibit progressively deeper cuts with smaller pinnate. The stalk branches, and by midsummer, 2 inch cluster of miniature flowers somewhat resembling Queen Anne’s, appear. The seeds which contain 2 to 3 percent essential oils, protein, fat, and sugar, are flattened, oval, downy, and gray brown in color. You can grow anise from seeds by planting at a depth of 1/8 inch, in rows 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart in the spring months after danger of frost has passed. The seeds need a temperature of 70 degrees to germinate, typically in 1 to 2 weeks. It needs a rich well drained soil and full exposure to the sunlight is best, but the herb will tolerate poorer soil and filtered light. The herb’s taproot precludes successful transplanting beyond the seedling stage, so the seeds should be planted where the plant are to remain.
Medicinal use of anise is deeply rooted in the annals of botanical healing. In the days of Hippocrates, physicians widely dispensed the herb for the treatment of coughs, and to help clear mucus from the respiratory system. Modern scientific studies have validated these traditional therapeutic uses, after discovering that creosol and alpha-pinenen, two chemicals contained within the herb, do indeed loosen bronchial secretions making them easier to expectorate.
Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, recommended chewing fresh anise seed as a breath fresher and digestive aid. Generations of nursing mothers in Central America have advocated the use of a decoction of anise seeds 2 to 4 grams per cup of water, to promote the flow of milk. Researchers attribute this to dianethole and photoanethole, chemicals in anise which are similar to female sex hormone, estrogen. The mild, estrogenic activity may also relieve some of the discomforts associated with menopause.
Note do not confuse anise with Japanese anise ( lllicium landeolatum ) which is highly toxic.