Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Essential oils: Anise or aniseed - part 2, the science

I've seen these properties quoted time and time again in my research about anise essential oil - antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative (it decreases gas or encourages the expelling of it), expectorant, and a stimulant. I've seen information about it being estrogenic (mimicking the hormone estrogen), and I've seen that it can be used as the starting point for psychedelic drugs. So what can we prove?

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 a digestive aid, we find it in gripe water - the house brand at Price Smart contained it - but there isn't a lot of proof that anise can work for our digestion. It is a great breath freshener, and I encourage you to seek out either the candied aniseeds in Indian markets or restaurants or some aniseed balls if you haven't had a chance to try either.

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!


Always.Looking.4.1.More said...

Hi Susan,

Here's a BIG THUMBS UP to you for the way you wrote this article. Thanks for the info and (many) links.

Congrats on having your e-books added to Lotioncrafter 's products page. Keep up the good work.

Go Susan!

Anonymous said...

Susan - Thank you for your wonderful blog. Today I happened to see your post on Anise seed, which happens to be one of my favorite spices to simmer on the stove and make our house smell wonderful during the winter months. I have used this EO for many years primarily via inhalation routes of administration; I do not use it in skin care formulations. You might be interested to know that Star Anise was the original source for the active ingredient in Tamiflu vaccines, shikimic acid. I believe that since there was a worldwide shortage of Tamiflu several years back, development efforts went into r&d for a synthetic version/cloning of shikimic acid and there is no longer reliance on the star anise crop. It is a wonderful healing EO to have and use in the house!


Rachel Lewis said...

Fascinating post. My husband has some digestive issues and we have noticed they mostly go away when he eats licorice with a meal. We knew licorice had been implicated in digestive support so figured that was what was doing it, but I had not heard that the anise used to "water down" the licorice could be contributing some benefit.