Sunday, December 18, 2011

Essential oils: Anise (or aniseed)

I love my aniseed! From the aniseed balls and Imperials I would get when I'd visit my grandma in England to the anise-vanilla combination a friend used in her CP soap, I love this herb! (Don't confuse it with star anise, though! That's a different herb altogether!)

The main compound in anise (Pimpinella anisum) is anethole (anywhere from 70% to 95%), a phenylpropylene or aromatic compound that is responsible for the flavour of liquorice in things like anise and fennel. It's used extensively in food flavouring, and we find it in a lot of alcohols like ouzo and absinthe. You might see those candy coating anise seeds at Indian restaurants - they're great for freshening the breath and (possibly) helping with digestion. (My husband bought a bag of these and they're fantastic!) I've seen anethole listed as having an estrogenic effect, helping increase breast milk and helping with menstrual cramps, but I haven't been able to find any studies confirming this (but more about that tomorrow!)

Anise seed oil is soluble in oil, and it's more soluble in alcohol than water. This is what can cause the ouzo effect, which is when an alcohol containing anise is added to water and causes this clouding of the water. As an interesting aside, this clouding is thanks to an emulsion being created in the glass! (I really encourage you to click on the link because it's quite interesting!)

When anise essential oil is extracted by CO2 extraction (click here and scroll down), there's generally an increase in the amount of anethole.

While the essential oil is in storage, the anethole content can increase thanks to chemical reactions between other compounds, so you might get an even more liquoricier anise seed oil than you expected!

The main use of anise essential oil is in flavouring or fragrancing various things. Anise oil is thirteen times sweeter than sugar, and it's a chemical precursor to a psychedelic drug called paramethoxyamphetamine. It's reported that it's like catnip for dogs - I haven't confirmed this yet as I don't really need Blondie tripping out on me the day before my math exam - and it is supposed to be good for menstrual cramps and colds (I will be trying out the latter today as I'm fighting off a doozy!!!)

As with all the other essential oils, use this at safe levels in the cool down phase of your product. I've been using it at up to 1% (and in combination with vanilla - yum!) in my products. As with any essential oil, you'll want to ensure that you are using it at safe levels for individuals who can handle it. Always be careful with pregnant or nursing mothers, the infirm, children, and those who are bed bound.

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at some of the science behind aniseed essential oil!

1 comment:

Always.Looking.4.1.More said...

Hi Susan!

Thanks for this info. As of late I've become quite interested in this herb/oil/flavor. I really like licorice and the whole herb seems fascinating.