Anise, not to be confused with the similar tasting star anise, is a member of the carrot family. With winding roots, the grooved stems and leather-like leaves can, at their greatest heights, reach nearly three feet tall. In July and August the plant displays small yellow and white flowers, complete with an alluringly sweet scent. Come late August, through to September, the plant will produce small brown seeds, often called “aniseed.” Our gardening Novices will no doubt be familiar with anise in the above capacity, and our drinking Novices will know anise by other means—namely as an ingredient in the licorice flavored, often misunderstood, green fairy yielding drink, absinthe.
Genus and Species: Pimpinella anisum
Energies: Protective and Strengthening
Powers: Protection, Purification, Youth
Historically, along with presently, anise was an ingredient of absinthe, but it has also been used to flavor many other drinks and liquors, like the French pastis, Greek ouzo, and Egyptian kibib.
Anise was such a commodity during ancient Greece and Rome that it could be used, instead of cash, to pay one’s taxes—perhaps you recall a certain Nazarene having something to say about this practice, in Matthew 23:23. The anise plant is native to such regions as Egypt, Greece and parts of Asia though now it is grown in many warm and welcoming climates. The plant does especially well in certain regions of Utah, for instance.
The medicinal uses of anise seem too many to rightly describe, but let us name a few. Some say that anise can increase one’s estrogen levels, which is useful for lactating mothers to increase the flow of breast milk. It is also said to ease the pangs of childbirth—though a currently pregnant mother should be wary of using anise, for it can be potentially toxic to the child. If you find yourself suffering from throat irritation or bouts of asthma, you might try making a tea with anise seeds. This tea may also prove effective against laryngitis or pharyngitis. The seeds may also be used, either in a tea or as an ingredient in a baked good, to reduce flatulence and remedy sleeplessness. Anise can in small doses, like catnip with cats, create a humorous euphoria in dogs—Novice, have you tried this? I’m dying to know the results.
In terms of magic, anise is equally as versatile. While a witch or wizard is preparing a space for magical operations, they may consider creating a magic circle out of anise, which is said to create a safe-place for the individual to work and also call forth spirits to aid their pursuits. If you find yourself plagued by the evil eye, wear a sachet filled with anise to avert that accursed gaze. Or, if plagued by nightmares, create a small pillow filled with anise, and rest easy, your nightmares are far away. Similarly an anise potpourri can be placed in a room to ward off menacing spirits. To regain the faded years of youth, try hanging an anise seed head on your bed post. And, to fully utilize anise’s purifying abilities, it is suggested that one run a bath with anise seeds and bay leaves, then meditate and visualize the cosmic muck emptying out of you.
I don’t know about you, Novices, but I’m going to make sure I have some anise stationed in every part of my house. And with so many uses, why not? Be sure to share any of your experiences with anise in the comment section, by snail-mail, telepathy, or carrier pigeon. Until next week, stay studious Novices.
Smith is a cookie connoisseur, moonlight meanderer, and aesthete at large. His work has appeared in 13 Experiments, Folio, Stone Soup Review, SLUG Magazine, Salt Lake City Weekly, and CATALYST Magazine. He earned his BA in English from The University of Utah and currently writes from a room with many plants.
This post made possible by a generous contribution from:
The Original Oil Shop, 150 S. State St. SLC, UT
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
Herbs and Things by Jeanne Rose