Aniseed is ground-gray to grayish-brown in color, 3.2 to 4.8 mm in length, oval in shape and with a short stalk [pedicel] attached. Five longitudinal ridges are available on each pericarp. It has a characteristic agreeable odor and a pleasant aromatic taste. Aniseed is available whole or ground.
The chemical composition of aniseed varies with the origin of the fruits; the reported ranges of values are:
Moisture:9 to 13 per cent
Protein:18 per cent
Fatty oil:8 to 23 per cent
Essential oil:2 to 7 per cent
Sugars:3.5 per cent
Starch:5 per cent
N-free extract:22 to 28 per cent
Crude fiber:12 to 25 per cent
Ash:6 to 10 per cent.
Choline is also present.
Aniseed, on steam distillation, yields an essential oil, known as `Oil of Anise`, which has now replaced the fruits for medicinal and flavoring purposes. Anise oil is a colorless or pale-yellow liquid having the characteristic odor and taste of the fruit.
The yield of oil generally varies from 1.9 to 3.1 per cent. Higher values up to 6 per cent have been reported from Syrian aniseed. Crushing of fruits prior to distillation gives better yields of oil. The material should be distilled soon after the crushing to prevent any loss of oil due to evaporation. Anise oil is a highly refractive liquid, which solidifies on cooling. The congealing point depends much on the anethole content and is a valuable criterion for evaluating the oil. Exposure of the oil to air causes polymerization, and some oxidation also takes place with the formation of anisaldehyde and anisic acid.
The chief constituent of aniseed oil is anethole, which is present to the extent of 80 to 90 per cent and is mainly responsible for the characteristic flavor of the oil. The oil also contains methyl chavicol, p-methoxyphenyl acetone, and small amount of terpenes and sulfur containing compounds of disagreeable odour.
Aniseed possesses a sweet, aromatic taste and emits, when crushed, a characteristic agreeable odor and is used for flavoring food, confectionary, bakery products, beverages, anisette and other liquors. The fruit is considered mild expectorant, stimulating, carminative, diuretic and disphoretic and is used in flatulent colic, in the preparation of asthma powders and in veterinary medicine. Alcoholic extract of aniseed possesses fungicidal activity.
Oil of anise is also reported to be used as an aromatic carminative to relieve flatulence, and as an ingredient of cough lozenges in combination with liquorice. It is a mild expectorant and is used as an antiseptic, and for treatment of cholera. It may be used for preparation of gripe water. The distillation `water of anise` is sold in Indian bazaars as `Araq badian` or `Araq saunf` and is reported to be used in medicine.
Essential oil is also used externally as an insecticide against small insects such as head lice, mites and vermin. It also has fungicidal properties.
Ether extraction of the exhausted fruits [freed of essential oil] yields dark green fatty oil suitable for soap making. A hard fraction [yield 20 per cent, m.p. 28.5 to 30.1 degree C] of the oil can be used as a substitute for cocoa butter in confectionaries and pharmaceutical preparations. The fatty oil expressed from the whole fruits possesses the characteristic anise flavor.
The plant is not grown in a large scale now. As mentioned it has been introduced only in a few states. At the same time it has been noticed that there are a lot of virtues, so much so, a large number of products can be produced from this plant and can grow a number of industries down stream. As a pilot attempt, planning and implementation be done in those states where it has been introduced for cultivation. On successful implementation of cultivation and industry, the model be replicated elsewhere. This may bring a solution to solve rural unemployment at least up to certain extent.
Benefits of Aniseed
Aniseed is esteemed in medicine for its properties to relieve flatulence and to remove catarrhal matter and phelgm from the bronchial tube.The presence of essential oils in it lends it these properties. The seed also induces perspiration and increases the volume and discharge of urine thus helping the body detoxify.
Aniseed is an ideal medicine for treating wind in the stomach. It can also be taken, in combination with other digestives like ginger, cummin and pepper, in the form of an infusion. Gripe water for infants contains aniseed extract. An easy way to prepare the infusion is to mix a teaspoon of aniseed in a cup of boiling water and leave it covered overnight. The clear fluid is then strained and taken with honey. This is an ideal treatment for indigestion, especially when there is gurgling in the abdomen. It is also useful in preventing gas and fermentation in the stomach and the bowels.
Cataract can also be treated with this herb. In such case, in the morning and evening 6 grams of aniseed should be taken daily. The other way of taking this herb is to powder an equal weight of aniseed and coriander seeds and to mix it with an equal weight of unrefined sugar. About 12 gram doses of this mixture is to be taken in the morning and evening.
Asthma can be cured with this herb because of its expectorant properties.
Sleeplessness can also be treated with tea made from aniseed. It is prepared by boiling 375 ml of water and adding a teaspoon of aniseed. The water should be covered with a lid and allowed to simmer for 15 minutes. It should then be strained and taken hot or warm. Add honey and hot milk to improve the taste. It should be sipped either after meals or before going to bed.
If boiled too long aniseed looses its digestive properties and essential oil during the process.
Other Uses of Aniseed
Aniseed can externally be used as an insecticide against small insects such as lice, mites and vermin. Fungicidal properties are also present in it.
The seeds are used to flavor curries, sweets, cakes, cookies and biscuits. Anise oil is used in medicine as an aromatic carminative to relieve flatulence. As it is a mild expectorant, it is used as an ingredient of beverages and liquors. It can be used for dental preparations and mouth washes.
Aniseed is an annual herbaceous plant belonging to the ajowan family and a native of the East Mediterranean region. It is widely cultivated in Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South America, Syria, Turkey and Russia. In India, it is grown to a small extent as a culinary herb or as a garden plant. It is often confused with fennel [Foeniculum vulgare], since both are known as saunf in India. It is grown on a small scale in Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. It can be successfully grown as a Rabi crop. Presently however aniseed consumed in India is imported from France, Spain and other countries.
Pimpinella anisum Linn
nisum vulgare Gaertner.
The Indian names are as follows:
Valaiti Saunf or Aawonf
Anisi or Sowa