Anise, also called aniseed or Pimpinella anisum, is a plant that hails from the same family as carrots, celery and parsley.
It can grow up to 3 feet (1 meter) tall and produces flowers and a small white fruit known as anise seed.
Anise has a distinct, licorice-like taste and is often used to add flavor to desserts and drinks.
It’s also known for its powerful health-promoting properties and acts as a natural remedy for a wide variety of ailments.
Here are 7 benefits and uses of anise seed, backed by science.
Though anise seed is used in relatively small amounts, it packs a good amount of several important micronutrients into each serving.
One tablespoon (7 grams) of anise seed provides approximately (3):
- Calories: 23
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Iron: 13% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 7% of the RDI
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 3% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 3% of the RDI
- Potassium: 3% of the RDI
- Copper: 3% of the RDI
However, keep in mind that most recipes will likely call for less than a tablespoon.
Summary Anise seed is low in calories but contains a good amount of several important minerals, including iron, manganese and calcium.
Depression is a common yet debilitating condition that affects up to 25% of women and 12% of men around the world (4).
Interestingly, some research has found that anise seed may help treat depression.
One study showed that anise seed extract exhibited powerful antidepressant properties in mice and was as effective as a common prescription medication used to treat depression (5).
What’s more, in another study in 107 people, taking 3 grams of anise seed powder three times daily was effective at reducing symptoms of postpartum depression (6).
Similarly, in a four-week study in 120 people, taking a capsule with 200 mg of anise oil three times daily significantly decreased symptoms of mild to moderate depression, compared to a control group (7).
Summary Human and animal studies reveal that anise seed may help reduce symptoms of depression and may be as effective as some types of antidepressants.
Stomach ulcers, also called gastric ulcers, are a painful sore that forms in the lining of your stomach, causing symptoms like indigestion, nausea and a burning sensation in your chest.
Though traditional treatment typically involves the use of medications to decrease the production of stomach acid, preliminary research suggests that anise seed could help prevent stomach ulcers and reduce symptoms.
However, research on anise seed’s effects on stomach ulcers is still very limited.
Additional studies are needed to understand how it may impact ulcer formation and symptoms in humans.
Summary Though research is extremely limited, anise seed reduced stomach acid secretion and protected against stomach ulcer formation in one animal study.
Test-tube studies show that anise seed and its compounds possess potent antimicrobial properties that prevent infections and block the growth of fungi and bacteria.
One test-tube study demonstrated that anise seed and anise essential oil were especially effective against certain strains of fungi, including yeasts and dermatophytes, a type of fungus that can cause skin disease (9).
Anethole, the active ingredient in anise seed, inhibits bacterial growth as well.
In one test-tube study, anethole blocked the growth of a specific strain of bacteria that causes cholera, an infection characterized by severe diarrhea and dehydration (10).
However, further research is needed to examine how anise seed may affect the growth of fungi and bacteria in humans.
Summary Test-tube studies show that anise seed and its components may decrease the growth of certain strains of fungi and bacteria.
Menopause is the natural decline in women’s reproductive hormones during aging, resulting in symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue and dry skin.
In one four-week study, 72 women with hot flashes took either a placebo or a capsule containing 330 mg of anise seed three times daily. Those taking anise experienced a nearly 75% reduction in severity and frequency of hot flashes (12).
Some of the compounds in anise seed may also help prevent bone loss, one of the hallmark symptoms of menopause that occurs as a result of declining estrogen levels in your body (13).
One study found that an essential oil comprised of 81% anethole, the active ingredient in anise, helped prevent bone loss and protect against osteoporosis in rats (14).
Despite these promising results, more research is needed to determine how anise seed itself may affect menopause symptoms in women.
Summary Anise seed and its compounds may reduce hot flashes and prevent bone loss, but more research is needed.
Some research indicates that anethole, the active ingredient in anise seed, may keep blood sugar levels in check when paired with a healthy diet.
In one 45-day study in diabetic rats, anethole helped reduce high blood sugar by altering levels of several key enzymes. Anethole also enhanced the function of pancreas cells that produce insulin (15).
Another animal study also reported that anethole improved blood sugar levels in rats with diabetes (16).
Keep in mind that these studies are using a concentrated dose of anethole — much higher than what is found in a typical serving of anise seed.
More studies are needed to evaluate how anise seed may affect blood sugar levels in humans.
Summary Animal studies show that anethole may lower blood sugar and improve the function of insulin-producing cells.
In many cases, inflammation is considered a normal response by your immune system to protect against injuries and infection.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that anise seed may reduce inflammation to promote better health and prevent disease.
For example, one study in mice showed that anise seed oil reduced swelling and pain (18).
Summary Animal and test-tube studies have found that anise seed is high in antioxidants and can reduce inflammation to help prevent chronic disease.
Most people can safely consume anise without the risk of adverse side effects.
However, it could trigger an allergic reaction, especially if you’re allergic to plants in the same family — such as fennel, celery, parsley or dill.
If you have a history of these conditions, keep intake in moderation and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Summary Some people may be allergic to anise seed. Anise can also mimic the effects of estrogen in your body, which could worsen symptoms of certain hormone-sensitive conditions.
Though typically purchased as dried seeds, anise is available in oil, powder and extract form as well.
Anise seed, oil and extract can all bring a burst of flavor to baked goods and candies or enhance the aroma of soaps and skin creams.
Most recipes call for a few teaspoons (4–13 grams or 5–15 ml) of ground anise seed, oil or extract.
Keep in mind that each form contains varying concentrations of anise, so it’s important to modify your recipe depending on what form you’re using.
For example, if a recipe requires 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of anise extract, you can swap in 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) of anise oil or 2 teaspoons (8 grams) of ground anise seed.
Doses of up to 20 grams per day of anise seed powder are considered safe for healthy adults (6).
Summary Anise is available in powder, extract, oil and seed form. Most recipes call for small amounts of anise seed, oil or extract — as a little goes a long way.
Anise seed is a powerful plant that is rich in many nutrients and boasts a wide array of health benefits.
It has anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and may fight stomach ulcers, keep blood sugar levels in check and reduce symptoms of depression and menopause.
Combined with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle, anise seed could improve several aspects of your health.