The Many Health Benefits of Anise

Anise growing from the ground
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Anise is an herb sometimes used for medicinal purposes. Also used to flavor foods and beverages, the seeds of the plant have long been consumed to help assuage digestive issues. In addition, taking anise extract in supplement form is said to treat a variety of health conditions.

Uses for Anise

In alternative medicine, anise is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

Anise is also said to stimulate the appetite, increase the flow of milk in lactating women, promote menstruation, and enhance libido.

When applied topically (i.e., directly to the skin), anise extract is thought to aid in the treatment of conditions like lice and psoriasis.

Research on the health effects of anise is fairly limited, but some studies suggest that the herb shows promise in the treatment of certain health conditions. Here's a look at several findings on the potential health benefits of anise extract:

Menstrual Pain

A combination of anise extract, saffron, and celery seed may help alleviate menstrual pain, according to a study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health in 2009. For the study, 180 female students (ages 18 to 27) were split into three groups: one group received the anise/saffron/celery seed mixture, one group received mefenamic acid (a type of anti-inflammatory drug), and one group received a placebo. Starting from the onset of their menstrual bleeding or pain, each group took their assigned treatment three times a day for three days.

After following the participants for two to three menstrual cycles, the study's authors found that those assigned to the anise/saffron/celery seed combination experienced a significantly greater reduction in menstrual pain, compared to those assigned to the other two treatments.

Hot Flashes 

In a study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in 2012, researchers found that anise may help relieve hot flashes in women undergoing menopause. The study included 72 postmenopausal women, each of whom took either anise extract or potato starch in capsule form daily for four weeks. Compared to the control group, those treated with anise extract had a significantly greater reduction in the frequency and severity of their hot flashes.


Taking a combination of anise, fennel, elderberry, and senna may help ease constipation, suggests a small study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010.

In a clinical trial that included 20 patients with chronic constipation, researchers found that the anise-containing herbal combination was significantly more effective than placebo in increasing the number of evacuations per day. The trial involved a five-day treatment period, with the study's authors noting that the herbal combination may help fight constipation by producing a laxative effect.


Because anise may have estrogen-like effects, there's some concern that the use of anise supplements may be potentially harmful to people with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as hormone-dependent cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids).

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Alternatives to Anise

Several natural remedies may also help treat digestive troubles and serve as an alternative to anise extract. For example, there's some evidence that remedies like probiotics and aloe may provide constipation relief. 

Here are some more tips on enhancing your digestive health.

To relieve menstrual cramps, consider using such herbs as red raspberry leaf and ginger. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may also help lessen menstrual pain.

For help in taming hot flashes, natural substances like soy and black cohosh may be helpful. In addition, exercising regularly may help soothe menopausal symptoms.

Where to Find It

Anise seeds are commonly sold in grocery stores. You can purchase anise extract in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements, as well as online. 

Using Anise for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend anise supplements as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using anise supplements for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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