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Know all Herbals





Pimpinella (Aniseed) is an annual herb cultivated in many countries but indigenous to Turkey, Greece and Egypt. It grows up to 60cm in height and is umbelliferous in appearance with leaves varying in shape from heart-shaped to feathery. The fruits are covered with short hairs and each contains two dark seeds with light ribs.


Pimpinella anisum L. (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae).

Synonyms and Part Used

Anise, Anisi Fructus, Anisum, Anisum officinarum Moench., Anisum vulgare Gaertn.

Part Used


Scopoletin, umbelliferone, umbelliprenine; bergapten (furanocoumarin).

Flavonol (quercetin) and flavone (apigenin, luteolin) glycosides, e.g. quercetin-3-glucuronide, rutin, luteolin-7-glucoside, apigenin-7-glucoside; isoorientin and isovitexin (C-glucosides).

Volatile oils
2-6%. Major components are trans-anethole (80-95%), with smaller amounts of estragole (methyl chavicol),anise ketone (p-meth oxyphenylacetone) and β-caryophyllene. Minor components include anisaldehyde and anisic acid (oxidation products of anethole), linalool, limonene, α-pinene, pseudoisoeugenol-2-methyl butyrate, acetaldehyde, p-cresol, cresol, hydroquinone, β-farnesene, α-, β- and γ-himachalene, bisabolene, d-elemene, ar-curcumene and myristicin.

Other constituents
Carbohydrate (50%), lipids 16% (saturated and unsaturated), β-amyrin (triterpene), stigmasterol (phytosterol) and its palmitate and stearate salts.


Food Use
Aniseed is used extensively as a spice and is listed by the Council of Europe as a natural source of food flavouring . This category allows small quantities of aniseed to be added to foodstuffs, with a possible limitation of an active principle (as yet unspecified) in the final product.

Herbal Use
Aniseed is stated to possess expectorant, antispasmodic, carminative and parasiticide properties. Traditionally,it has been used for bronchial catarrh, pertussis, spasmodic cough, flatulent colic; topically for pediculosis and scabies; its most specific use is for bronchitis, tracheitis with persistent cough, and as an aromatic adjuvant to prevent colic following the use of cathartics.

Aniseed has been used as an oestrogenic agent. It has been reputed to increase milk secretion, promote menstruation, facilitate birth, alleviate symptoms of the male climacteric and increase libido.

Dried fruit
Adults: 1.0-5.0 g crushed fruits in 150 mL water as an infusion several times daily.Children: 0-1 year old, 1.0 g of crushed fruits as an infusion; 1-4 years of age, 2.0 g; over 4 years, use adult dose.

0.05-0.2 mL three times daily.

Distilled anise water
15-30 mL three times daily.

Pharmacological Actions

The pharmacological effects of aniseed are largely due to the presence of anethole, which is structurally related to the catecholamines adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. Anethole dimers closely resemble the oestrogenic agents stilbene and diethylstilbestrol.

In vitro and animal studies
Antimicrobial, antifungal and insecticidal activities .The volatile oil has antibacterial, antifungal and insecticidal activities.Anethole, anisaldehyde and myristicin have exhibited mild insecticidal properties.

Secretolytic and expectorant effect
Application of aniseed (6.4 g/140 mL) to isolated ciliated epithelium of frog trachea induces small increases in transport velocity.Dilutions of anise oil increased respiratory tract fluid in anaesthetised pigs, rats and cats. A similar action was observed in anaesthetised rabbits inhaling anise oil.The reputed lactogogic action of anise has been attributed to anethole, which exerts a competitive antagonism at dopamine receptor sites (dopamine inhibits prolactin secretion), and to the action of polymerised anethole, which is structurally related to the oestrogenic compounds stilbene and stilboestrol.

Other activities
Oral administration of anethole (250-1000 mg/kg) mice with Ehrlich ascites tumour in the paws indicated antitumour activity.The conclusions were based on biochemical changes (nucleic acids, proteins, malondialdehyde, glutathione), survival rate and tumour weight. Anise oil given to rats (100 mg/kg given subcutaneously) stimulated liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy.

Clinical studies

Aniseed is mainly used for the treatment of dyspeptic complaints and catarrh of the upper respiratory tract.There is a lack of documented clinical studies with aniseed.

Side-effects, Toxicity
Contact dermatitis reactions to aniseed and aniseed oil have been attributed to anethole.Reactions have been reported with products, such as creams and toothpastes, flavoured with aniseed oil.The volatile oil and anethole have been stated to be both irritant and sensitising.In an study the workers in a cake factory developed severe dermatitis, and patch tests indicated sensitivity to anise oil and to anethole.Soreness,dryness and cracking of lips and perioral skin occurred in an individual using a herbal (fennel) toothpaste; anethole was reported to be the sensitising agent.Bergapten is known to cause photosensitivity reactions and concern has been expressed over the possible carcinogenic risk of bergapten.

Ingestion of as little as 1-5 mL of anise oil can result in nausea, vomiting, seizures, and pulmonary oedema.

Anethole is reported to cause minimal hepatotoxicity.Trans-anethole given orally to rats (50-80 mg/kg) resulted in dose-dependent anti-implantation activity.Significant oestrogenic activity was observed, but no anti-oestrogenic, progestational, anti-progestational, androgenic or antiandrogenic activity.

Contra-indications, Warnings
Aniseed may cause an allergic reaction. It is recommended that the use of aniseed oil should be avoided in dermatitis, and inflammatory or allergic skin conditions.Aniseed should be avoided by persons with known sensitivity to anethole.Bergapten may cause photosensitivity in sensitive individuals. The documented oestrogenic activity of anethole and its dimers may affect existing hormone therapy, including the oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy, if excessive doses are ingested. In view of the structural similarity reported between anethole and myristicin, consumption of large amounts of aniseed may cause neurological effects similar to those documented for nutmeg.

Pregnancy and lactation
Traditionally, aniseed is reputed to be an abortifacient and also to promote lactation. The safety of aniseed taken during pregnancy and lactation has not been established; however, there are no known problems provided that doses taken do not greatly exceed the amounts used in foods. It has been proposed that aniseed and preparations used at recommended dosages may be used during pregnancy and lactation.

Pharmaceutical Comment

The chemistry of aniseed is well studied and documented pharmacological activities support some of the herbal uses. Aniseed is used extensively as a spice and is widely used in conventional pharmaceuticals for its carminative, expectorant and flavouring properties. Aniseed contains anethole and estragole which are structurally related to safrole, a known hepatotoxin and carcinogen. Although both anethole and estragole have been shown to cause hepatotoxicity in rodents, aniseed is not thought to represent a risk to human health when it is consumed in amounts normally encountered in foods. It is recognised as metabolic detoxication of trans-anethole in humans at low levels of exposure (1 mg/kg body weight).For medicinal use, it is recommended that treatment should not be continued for extended periods.


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