RubmdHealth TipAnise Oil Benefits Top Uses You Never Knew

Anise Oil Benefits Top Uses You Never Knew

What is Anise Oil? It is a volatile oil extracted from the anise or aniseed plant (Pimpinella anisum). The anise plant is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia, but is now cultivated in many regions across the world.

Anise oil has a very aromatic odor and flavor, similar to licorice. It’s sweet and spicy scent lends well for use as a fragrance and flavoring agent. Both the oil and the seed are used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

The main active constituents found in anise oil are anethole, estragole, anisaldehyde, acetophenone and pseudoisoeugenyl 2-methylbutyrates. Of these, the compound anethole makes up around 90% of the essential oil and gives anise much of it’s characteristic fragrance and flavor.

How Anise Oil is Produced

Anise essential oil is extracted from anise or aniseed through a process called steam distillation. The ripe anise fruits are harvested just after flowering and dried. The dry fruits then undergo steam distillation, where steam causes the plant’s cell membranes to burst and release essential oils locked inside. The released essential oil is carried away with the steam and then cooled and condensed back into liquid form.

It takes about 22 pounds (10 kg) of anise fruits to produce around 1 pound (450 grams) of anise oil through steam distillation.

Uses and Applications of Anise Oil

It has been used for many decades for it’s culinary properties and health benefits. Some of it’s most common applications include:

Cooking and Baking: Due to it’s strong licorice-like flavor, anise oil is popularly used as a flavoring agent in many foods, candies and beverages. It is added to sweets, cookies, cakes and liqueurs. Anise is also sometimes used to flavor soaps and creams due to it’s fragrance.

Aromatherapy and Perfumes: The sweet, warming fragrance of anise makes it a popular essential oil for aromatherapy. It may stimulate circulation and respiration when inhaled. The oil is also used as a base note in the manufacturing of perfumes.

Digestive Aid: Anise has traditionally been used to support proper digestion. Anise oil’s antispasmodic properties may help in digestion by relaxing intestinal spasms and easing stomach upset. The oil also works as a carminative by expelling gas.

Respiratory Relief: It is considered an effective expectorant and decongestant. As such, it is used to loosen phlegm and mucus, relieve coughs and ease breathing in congested airways. This makes it useful for cold relief.

Promote Lactation: For new mothers, anise oil may help increase breast milk production and flow. When taken internally at appropriate doses, anise is thought to mimic the female hormone estrogen.

Health Benefits and Uses of Anise Oil

Modern research is now backing up many of the traditional health uses of anise oil. Some scientifically studied benefits include:

1. Antimicrobial Effects

Studies have shown that anise oil and it’s compounds are effective at killing certain bacteria, yeasts and fungi. The oil was able to inhibit both bacterial and fungal growth, with researchers pointing to anethole as the likely contributor.

As a result, anise oil displays antimicrobial properties that may protect against various pathogens when applied topically or ingested. Using anise supplements may compliment infection treatments.

2. Pain Relief

The analgesic effects of anise oil were observed in recent animal trials. Mice who were given anise oil displayed signs of decreased pain sensitivity and reduced inflammation. This demonstrates the pain killing potential of anise oil components.

Massaging sore joints and muscles with diluted anise oil may impart soothing, antispasmodic effects to ease painful muscle aches, spasms and arthritis. More research is still needed.

3. Anti-seizure

It may also have a protective effect on seizures. When researchers induced seizures in mice, those pretreated with anise oil took longer to experience convulsions than those who received no oil. The scientists concluded that anise oil may raise seizure threshold.

This protective capacity points to anise possibly having uses as an anticonvulsant and in managing neurological disorders like epilepsy. Follow up studies with human trials will help establish this benefit further.

4. Stress Reduction

Inhalation of anise oil aroma has shown anti-stress effects in some animal studies. Mice exhibited decreased stress behaviors and more calm behavior when exposed to a it’s vapor. The oil also modulated neurotransmitters in the brain that influence mood and emotion.

Using it in aromatherapy massage, a diffuser or in a bath may therefore help relieve tension and moderate stress levels. The warming, uplifting scent alone can have relaxation benefits.

5. Breastmilk Production

As touched upon earlier, anise has an estrogen-like effect that is believed to be responsible for increasing breastmilk supply in new mothers. When taken in moderate amounts, anise may have galactagogue effects and promote lactation.

However, more studies directly analyzing anise and breastfeeding are required to substantiate this traditional use. Nursing mothers should exercise caution and consult their doctor before using anise supplements.

6. Skin Care

Modern dermatological research also points to it’s uses for skin health. Compounds in the oil display antimicrobial effects that prevent infectious pathogens from growing on the skin. Anise also has antioxidative properties that protect skin cells from environmental damage.

Applying diluted anise oil onto the skin may ward off bacterial and fungal skin infections. The oil’s antioxidants and nutrients can enhance skin cell regeneration and keep skin looking supple and youthful.

7. Detoxification Support

Anise oil may provide secondary benefits that support the body’s natural detoxification process as well. Some compounds in the oil appear to induce certain detox enzymes made by the liver. Higher levels of these enzymes could enhance clearance of toxins and other metabolic byproducts from the body.

The mild diuretic action from anise oil components could also support toxin elimination through increased urination. More studies directly measuring detox effects in humans are still required.

Side Effects and Precautions

Anise oil is likely safe for most people when used properly and in moderation. However, like many essential oils, anise oil does come with some warnings:

  • It may interact with hormone medications and existing health conditions due to it’s estrogen-like effects. Those on hormone therapy or birth control and individuals with estrogen-driven cancers should avoid anise.
  • Anise supplements may lower blood sugar and could interfere with diabetes medications. Monitor blood sugar closely if taking both simultaneously.
  • Apply diluted anise oil sparingly on skin to prevent skin irritation. Perform a patch skin test prior to use. Avoid getting near eyes or mucous membranes.
  • Taking high doses of anise oil by mouth could depress the central nervous system if anethole levels get too high. Use caution when ingesting it.
  • Pregnant women should not take anise oil supplements due to lack of safety research. Anise used in food as a seasoning during pregnancy should be fine. But consume in moderation.
  • Children and infants should avoid anise oil supplements until an appropriate safe dosage is established. Do not apply topically to young children without medical supervision.

To prevent adverse side effects, always follow instructions on anise oil product labels and consult your doctor with any outstanding health concerns.

How to Use Anise Oil

It has a number of uses, from cooking applications to health remedies. Some popular ways to use anise essential oil include:

Aromatherapy: Inhale anise oil directly from the bottle for a quick pick-me-up. Use in aromatherapy practices by diffusing a few drops around your environment. Add to massage oils, baths, room sprays and perfumes.

Topical Application: Mix 2-3 drops of anise oil with equal parts carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil. Apply this diluted oil blend directly onto skin areas needing antifungal or pain-relieving effects. Conduct a patch test first.

Cooking: Add 1-3 drops of food-grade anise oil to baked goods, beverages, candies, jellies and more for extra flavor. It goes well with spice flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Cleaning: Add a few drops of it to your do-it-yourself cleaning sprays and solutions for an added germ killing boost. Shake spray bottle well to disperse oil evenly.

Always properly dilute anise oil before applying to skin or ingesting internally. Follow usage and warnings printed on oil product packaging. Begin with small doses to check for allergic reactions or sensitivity.

Pros and Cons

Has antimicrobial properties that can fight infectionsCan interact with hormone medications or estrogen-sensitive conditions
Provides pain relief through anti-inflammatory effectsMay lower blood sugar levels, interfering with diabetes treatment
Boosts milk production in breastfeeding mothersOil is irritating to skin and eyes if applied directly or undiluted
Relieves respiratory issues like coughs and congestionHigh oral doses could depress central nervous system
Reduces stress and uplifts moodLack of safety research around use in pregnant women
Settles digestive upset like gas and bloatingAppropriate doses not established for infants and children
Protective effects against seizures
Supports skin health and appearance
May assist with body’s natural detoxification


What does anise oil smell like?

Anise oil has a very sweet, spicy, licorice-like aroma. This is due to it’s main constituent anethole, which makes up around 90% of the oil.

Is anise oil safe to ingest?

Anise oil is generally safe to ingest in small quantities, such as using a few drops to flavor foods and beverages. However, the oil can interact with certain medications and should be avoided by pregnant women due to lack of safety research. Only purchase supplements from reputable brands that provide a recommended dosage.

Can you put anise oil directly on skin?

No, anise oil should always be diluted before applying to skin. Mix 2-3 drops of the essential oil with equal parts carrier oil like coconut, olive or jojoba oil before use. Undiluted anise oil can cause skin irritation when applied topically.

What’s the difference between anise and fennel?

Anise and fennel come from two different plants, but they share a similar licorice-like flavor. However, anise is considered to be more sweet and intense than the more mellow, earthy flavor of fennel. They are close enough substitutes when it comes to culinary uses.

Does anise oil expire?

Like any essential oil or extract, anise oil does expire. The oil’s aroma, potency and beneficial compounds degrade over time. Properly stored anise oil generally lasts 1-3 years. Oils stored in cold, dark spaces tend to last the longest before expiring. Discard old oil if the smell becomes unpleasant.

Can you use anise oil if breastfeeding?

Maybe. Anise in moderation should be relatively safe when breastfeeding. Large oral doses are not recommended as the oil can mimic estrogen and affect milk supply. Nursing mothers should exercise caution, start slow and consult their doctor before using anise supplements or applying oil topically.


It is a versatile essential oil with a sweet, licorice-like scent and a variety of therapeutic uses. From digestive and respiratory relief to pain and stress management, anise oil’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties contribute to it’s many health benefits. Just be sure to dilute properly and use caution around babies, children and if pregnant or nursing. When sourced and used carefully, it can be a great wellness booster and natural health remedy.

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Dr. Kishore Kumar (General Surgeon)
Dr. Kishore Kumar (General Surgeon)
Dr. Kishore Kumar is a General Surgeon, Proctologist, Vascular Surgeon, Laparoscopic Surgeon and Laser Specialist,

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