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Botanical Name: Pimpinella anisum
Hindi Name: Vilaiti Saunf
Aniseed is one of the oldest spices known to man. It is an annual plant cultivated in many countries, but indigenous to Turkey, Greece and Egypt.
It was introduced to Central Europe during the Middle Ages. The plant appeared in Britain in the mid-sixteenth century. It was so popular in Medieval England as a spice medicine and perfume that it was termed as a taxable drug. Merchants bringing it to London had to pay a toll to help raise money to maintain and repair the London Bridge.
The plant grows to a height of about 50 cms. In summer, the plant bears white flowers and small fruits. The seeds are grayish-brown in colour. Each seed is oval in shape, and each pericarp has five horizontal ridges that are clearly visible.
Aniseed bears a strong resemblance to members of the carrot family that includes dill, fennel, coriander, cumin and caraway. It has a liquorice flavour, and upon distillation, it yields a fragrant, volatile oil that is made up of anethoe, choline, sugar and mucilage.
Its composition is as follows:
Its actions are expectorant, spasmolytic, carminative, antiseptic, parasiticide and aromatic.
It has medicinal uses also, for it is carminative and pectoral. It is very useful against coughs and chest infections, and is made into lozenges or smoked to clear the chest. The volatile oil provides the basis for its internal use to lessen the griping caused by purgative herbs. It eases intestinal colic and flatulence, and may be used in bronchitis and irritable coughs, and also to reduce the symptoms of whooping cough.
Aniseed tea is good for infant catarrh, and aids digestion in adults. It can also be given in convulsions quite safely. Its mild oestrogenec effects explain the use of it in folk medicine to increase milk secretion and facilitate easy birth of child. It can also be given in convulsions quite safely. Its mild oestrogenic effects explain the use of it in folk medicine to increase milk secretion and facilitate easy birth of child.
Externally, the oil may be used in an ointment base for the treatment of scabies and lice infestations. It is used in the manufacture of many commercial cough syrups and sore throat medications. It is also used to flavour other medicines and to scent soaps and perfumes.
Aniseeds can be used in pickles and curries. Its flowers can be used in a fruit salad. The leaves are used as a garnish, while the roots and stem can be mixed into soups and stews.
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