Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Essential oils: Anise or aniseed - part 2, the science
What did I find about anise being an antiseptic? I found this paper that confirms that anise is considered to be those six things I list above, but no proof is offered in the form of studies or other papers. This study didn't find that anethole was an effective treatment against salmonella. This study showed that anethole combined with dodecanol might be effective together, and this study concluded that although anise was not effective against bacteria, it might work against mold (and this one found something similar). Another study (Journal of Applied Microbiology; July 2008, Bluma, R, Amaiden, M. R., Daghero, J., Etcheverry, M) concluded that anise used on stored maize could help inhibit the growth of Aspergillus. This study gives some information on what combinations they used against microbes, and they found that anise was good against molds and fungi.
As for being an insecticide, this study (European Journal of Pediatrics, Jan 2010, Burgess, Bruton, and Burgess) found that a coconut and anise spray was an effective treatment against lice. The coconut and anise spray was a proprietary blend from a German company containing fractionated coconut oil, propan-1-ol - an alcohol, thus our solvent - star anise oil, and ylang-ylang oil. There has to be an emulsifer in there somewhere as you don't get fractionated coconut oil and alcohol to mix without one! I digress...and I realize this is about star anise, but there's a lot of anethole in that essential oil as well!
Anise is listed as being a good expectorant and anti-tussive. I couldn't find much on this topic, although this medical web page notes there isn't much proof that anise is good for a cold.
As for being an anti-spasmodic, this study is really the only thing I could find, the conclusion being "The relaxant action displayed by Pimpinella anisum justifies its use in the folk medicine as an antispasmodic agent." The down side being that this study was about the water/alcohol soluble bits of the plant - not the essential oils - and that the actual study was on rats and the amount given to them was pretty huge. We can't necessarily extrapolate that inhaling the essential oil will result in muscle relaxation.
As for being estrogenic, I'm not finding much about that either.
To summarize, I think there's some good science to indicate that anise or aniseed might be a good weapon against mold and that it might be a good weapon against lice. There's some evidence to indicate it might be an anti-spasmodic, but not a lot to indicate it might be good for a cold or that it helps with digestion. (If you have some contrary evidence, please share it with me! I can't search every database, and I would love to be proven wrong about this wonderful essential oil, which is one of my favourites!)
Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with anise!