ANISE (Pimpinella anisum): Origin: native to the Mediterranean region, perhaps Egypt. The ancient Egyptian term, inst, is equated with anise and is mentioned in the Papyrus Ebers (c. 1550 BCE) as a medicine used to treat abdominal and dental diseases. Anise also is mentioned in the New Testament:
Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith (Matthew XXIII: 23).
Pliny, the Roman generalist, who lived during the first century of the Common Era, reported two esteemed varieties of anise, one from the Mediterranean island of Crete and the second from Egypt. Pliny also reported that anise mixed with wine was used by the Egyptians to treat bites from poisonous snakes (asps) and when anise was mixed with cucumber seeds, linseed, and white wine, the mixture dispelled childbirth-related vertigo. Pliny continued that anise relieved thirst, was an aphrodisiac, and when mixed with wine promoted perspiration. Anise has been used medicinally from antiquity into the Middle Ages and used to treat a wide range of disorders, among them: gallbladder, kidney, and liver complaints, hiccough, and “falling sickness” (epilepsy) in children.
The Gerarde herbal presents a range of uses for anise: used to reduce/prevent belching and upbraidings of the stomacke [i.e. gastric-reflux]; sweetens the breath; quenches thirst; when dried and mixed with honey it cleans the chest from flegmatike superfluities, and when eaten with bitter almond, helps relieve cough; recommended for children who have the falling sickness; and when prepared as a garble and mixed with honey, vinegar, and hyssop then boiled, can be used as a gargle.
Anise also has been considered a remedy to expel intestinal parasites, treat lice infestations, and to combat nausea and vertigo. It is reported that Charlemagne ordered anise to be planted in imperial farms. In England sacks dipped in anise oil are dragged by a horse and rider to help train packs of foxhounds and the “chase.” Traditionalists hold that individuals who consume the leaves or seeds of anise leaves, or who wear garlands of the leaves, will not be attacked by the Evil Eye. Anise seeds also have been used as galactagogues to increase the milk supply of nursing mothers. During the American Civil War preparations of anise had reported uses as antiseptics. And, of course, seeds of anise provide the flavor for the Greek beverage, ouzo.
(Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 879-880; Hayes, 1961, pp. 24-26; Lehner and Lehner, 1962, p. 114; Northcote, 1971, p. 9; Priestley and Priestley, 1979, p. 23; Darby, Ghalioungui, and Grivetti, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 796).