Aniseed & Star Anise Profile

Synopsis: Anise is not the same as Star Anise but they have use in perfumery, are fragrant rich and this profile provides a detailed odor description with growth, description, chemistry and uses.

Anise Seed & Star Anise EO Profile

By Jeanne Rose ~ October 2017

Anise wood, Anise Seed and Star Anise


Common Name/Latin Binomial: Anise Seed and Star Anise herb with their scent of fruity-vegetative, green, herbaceous and spicy and particularly Licorice smell similar but are not related. The oil and seed smell sweet and has the taste of licorice and with some sugar or sweetening is used in cough medicine. There is Anise Wood, Ravensara anisata; Anise seed, Pimpinella anisum and an herb, an annual, in the Parsley family of Apiaceae and also called simply Aniseed; while Star Anise which smells very similar is Illicium verum, a medium-sized evergreen tree of the Schisandraceae family. This family, Schisandraceae, also includes the Schisandra berry. Please note that these three have the same odor but are very different plants: a tree bark, a parsley type seed plant and an evergreen tree fruit.

Aniseed and Star Anise are two very botanically different plants from different families that have a similar odor. And that is their only relationship — odor.

Family: Two separate and totally different botanical families depending on whether you are discussing Anise seed from the Parsley family of Apiaceae or the Star Anise from the evergreen tree family of Schisandraceae.

Countries of Origins & General Description.  Anise is one of the oldest medicinal plants. It is an annual grassy plant about 12-20 inches in height with white flowers and small green to yellow seeds, harvested in August and September. It is primarily grown for its fruits (aniseed). It grows best in light, fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny position.

Anise seed grows in the eastern Mediterranean, Mexico, Spain, and SW Asia. This herbal seed with similar flavors as Star Anise, Licorice and Fennel was first cultivated in Egypt. Anise is a food of some butterflies and moth larvae. Anise seed has long been a flavor component desirable in European foods but Star Anise is gradually supplanting Anise because of the ease with which Star Anise is grown and harvested.
Star Anise is beautiful, each of the beautiful seeds has eight points and each point contains a seed. They are picked by hand and used in crafts as well as food. The flavor is noticeably more intense than the Anise seed and is used primarily for Chinese cooking, although in the 1700s, European cooking also called for Star anise in fruit jams and syrup recipes. Star Anise is obtained from the pericarp of the fruit of a medium sized evergreen tree, with a highly fragrant seed that are more intense in scent than the herb anise. It bears solitary flowers and the fruit is an aggregate of follicles arranged in a star-shaped whorl.

Harvest Location: The main harvest location of Anise seed is Spain in August and September. And the main harvest location of Star Anise is India and China where it is harvested in March and May.

Portion of the plant used in distillation, how it’s distilled, extracted and yields: Anise seeds are not botanically related to star anise, but have nearly identical flavors and in ground form can be substituted for each other.
Anise seed has the more delicate odor and when harvested yields 400-600 lb. per acre and is dried, crushed (comminuted) and immediately hydro-distilled (from the mature seeds) with a yield of about 1.5-5% essential oil, depending on harvest location and extraction method. CO2, (super critical carbon dioxide) extraction is more efficient. The main component of the EO is 80-90% trans anethole.
Star anise seed yields 15-20 stars from one ounce by weight. The fruit is distilled in the fresh green state, placed in the still for up to 48 hours with the distillation water continually cohobated. Yield is from 2-4% depending on the maturity of the fruit, location and terroir.
Much of the worlds crop is harvested to extract shikimic acid to make a compound called oseltamivir which is sold as Tamiflu, an antiviral used to treat influenza.
Caution: A similar species, Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum is toxic and should not be mistaken for I. verum.

Star Anise seeds and EO


There are several companies that advertise selling Anise seed oil
but they are actually selling Star Anise seed oil (based on the picture on the label) or vice versa. Look carefully at the ad, check the price, make sure the common name and Latin binomial and picture match. Here is a sample of either duplicitous or ignorant advertising.
This is a picture of Star Anise seed but with Anise Oil name and Latin name of Anise seed.

Historical Uses & Interesting Information: These Licorice scented, tasty seeds were once used as payment for taxes and even as a token to avert the ‘evil eye’. National geographic in 2007 said the world’s oldest perfume were found on the island of Cyprus and contained extracts of Anise, Bergamot, Coriander, Parsley, Almond, and Pine. These were among the ingredients the ancient perfume-makers preferred. Anise seed is native to the Mediterranean basin, and has been used throughout history in both sweet and savory applications. Anise has long been known as an aid to digestion. The Romans ended their elaborate feasts with anise cakes. Aniseed has long been esteemed, used by the Greeks and Romans for its medicinal, magical, and divine virtues. It was used as an ingredient in the famed snake and poisonous insect bites antidote called theriac.

In the Mediterranean, Anise is featured heavily in cakes, breads, cookies and liquors. In small amounts, anise makes a nice addition to sausage, or in tomato sauce.
They are used in Iran as traditional medicine (especially the fruits) as carminative, aromatic, disinfectant, and galactagogue. It is said to reduce morphine dependence and has beneficial effects on dysmenorrhea and menopausal hot flashes in women. In some traditional texts, anise is mentioned for melancholy, nightmare, and also in treatment of epilepsy and seizure.
Anise seed was once used by builders of steam locomotives in Britain who incorporated capsules of aniseed oil into white metal plain bearings, so the distinctive smell would give warning in case of overheating. And Anise EO can be used for both drag hunting and fishing. It is put on fishing lures to attract fish.
The history of Star Anise different. In Asia, it has been used as spice and medicine for over 3000 years. But the species used in China and Japan is different; Chinese Star Anise is the preferred while the Japanese Star Anise is considered toxic to poisonous. This is yet another reason to study basic botany before using essential oils of plants you may know nothing about. Star anise was believed in Europe to originate from the Philippines, as in 1578 the navigator Thomas Cavendish brought the first fruits to Europe via the Philippines, although unaware they originated from southern China.

Waverly Root writes of Anise seed and Star Anise, “In putting this combination together once nature had already amply demonstrated her chemical skill; it was sheer showing off to perform the feat twice in two totally unrelated plants.”


Contraindication:  Be aware of what you are using, what plant, what species and how it is to be used as there are some of these anise-scented plants that are considered toxic. In any case be moderate in your usage. Be moderate in your use of any essential oil. A little goes a long way. Remember to choose the herbal use over the essential oil use normally; an herb tea is milder than the essential oil. There are always contraindications for excessive use of plants and for their essential oils in both perfumery or aromatherapy.


General Properties: Anethole, the main component of Anise seed oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, activities against bacteria, yeast, fungi and insecticidal against insect larvae. It is a mosquito repellent.
Active compounds of Star Anise possess wide pharmacological actions, especially in antimicrobial, antioxidant, insecticidal, analgesic, sedative and convulsive activities.

The essential oil Anise seed contains 90% trans or E-anethole and methyl chavicol. It is used in spiced cakes to prevent indigestion, as a flavorant for soups, breads, liqueurs like Anisette. The leaves can also be used to flavor foods. This gentle herb and seed along with Fennel seed is good for children who have diarrhea and can be used stuffed into ‘sleep pillows’ to assist for a restful night sleep.
I have used Anise-scented essential oil, in moderation, either from Anise seed or from the bark of Ravensara anisata, in the “Holiday Kit” I once made, as the scent is so evocative of the Italian cookies made at the Christmas Holidays. It is a great memoristic scent of holiday bread and baked goods.
The essential oil is used in small amounts in foods, mouth wash and medicinally to stimulate peristalsis.
I have also seen Anise seed and Star Anise EO and herb mentioned to treat and increase sex drive and for men to use them to treat symptoms of male menopause and to treat seizures and nicotine dependence. But I have no idea how much or how often it could be used for these conditions.

These two seeds from two different families are often interchanged in formulas and recipes, although Anise seed has the ‘finer’ flavor while the Star Anise has the more intense but maybe harsher scent.

Application Skin and Body Care ~ Herbally, I like to use Anise seeds in a combination with Orange Peel and Comfrey in facial steams. It smells good, helps to ‘open’ pores and medicate, and feels refreshing on the skin. Sometimes in hand lotion I will add a drop or two of either Anise seed EO or Star Anise EO to give my lotion a hint of Licorice scent.

Culinary Use ~ Both Anise and Star Anise are used in cooking. They are aromatic and used to flavor soups, breads, liqueurs; the leaves to flavor vegetables, green salads, fruit salads and pies and wrapped around fish for flavor. The seeds are chewed to refresh the breath or pounded to add to incense.

Besides all the uses mentioned the herb Anise seed was made into tea and Mrs. C.F. Leyel mentions a home formula for Anise Brandy. “Infuse an ounce of the seeds in a pint of good brandy and cork it well. This is excellent for those inclined to asthma.”

Diffuse/Diffusion ~ I have added a drop or two of the EO (either one) to various citrus blends to give the scent a bit of a ‘pop’ with licorice odor.

Diffuser Formula.
A simple diffuser formula to enhance assertion is a combination of Coriander, Star Anise, Orange peel and Rosemary. For the original blend, start with 5 drops of each,
succuss, analyze the odor and use or change to suit your personality.

Emotional/Energetic Use ~ Seeds are the basis of plants and need to be fertile to reproduce. People attracted to seed oil are often creative, sensitive, and as Valerie Worwood says, “delicate souls, who are deeply feeling”. Use combination of essential oils in your diffuser to either attract or negate these qualities. (See above)

Either of the ‘anise’ oils blends best with other seed oils such as Caraway, Cardamom, Coriander, Dill, Fennel seed; flower oils such as Jasmine, Lavender and Rose; citrus oils like Lemon, Mandarin, Orange or Petitgrain; the conifer wood oils like Cedar and Virginia Cedar; or the conifer needle oils like Fir and Pine; spice oils like Cinnamon and Clove and many others.
These licorice scented oils work best in very small amounts or to mask bitter odors. I like using a drop of Aniseed, or Tarragon in floral perfumes to add a distant hint of Licorice to the scent.

HYDROSOL: I have not as yet experienced a hydrosol of either Star Anise or Aniseed.

Key Use: The herb and EO is mainly used in foods.

Endangered or Not: Not at this time.


•Color ~
colorless, some that are a few years old are pale yellow
•Clarity ~ clear
•Viscosity ~ non-viscous
•Intensity of odor ~ 4-6, Star Anise is a bit more intense than Aniseed*
[sweet Lavender is usually a 1-2, while Tea Tree is a 6 and Cinnamon is 8-9]
•Taste ~ try a tiny taste for the sweet, licorice taste

SCENT ~ Look at the previous blog post on all the Licorice-scented herbs/EO for more information on this fragrant subject.

Odor Description/ Aroma Assessment ~ I had eight different anise-scents to look at, smell, and describe. They were all fruity in the top note, herbaceous as the subsidiary note and a spicy back note but in different degrees. The Anise wood, Ravensara anisata, was the least intense with a sweet mildness; the Aniseed EO’s, Pimpinella anisum, were sweeter and more intense; while the Star Anise, Illicium verum, had the greater intensity and a lack of delicacy to it.
I also had an Aniseed from 1990 that had begun to shift towards a vegetative scent. [I always use the “Basic 7 – Vocabulary of Odor” kit that I developed over 20 years ago to make these comparative assessments.


Star Anise fruit on the tree

Chemical Components: Anethole (anise camphor) is an organic compound that is widely used as a flavoring substance. It is a derivative of phenyl propene, a type of aromatic compound that occurs widely in nature, in essential oils. It contributes a large component of the odor and flavor of anise and fennel (both in the botanical family Apiaceae), anise myrtle (Myrtaceae), licorice from (Fabaceae), magnolia blossoms (from Magnoliaceae), and Star anise (Illiciaceae). Closely related to anethole is its isomer estragole, abundant in Tarragon (Asteraceae) and Basil (Lamiaceae), that has a flavor reminiscent of anise. It is a colorless, fragrant, mildly volatile liquid.
Anethole is only slightly soluble in water but exhibits high solubility in neutral spirts (ethanol). This difference causes certain anise-flavored liqueurs to become opaque and cloudy when diluted with water, this milky blend or louche is called the ouzo effect. It is distinctly sweet, measuring 13 times sweeter than sugar. It is perceived as being pleasant to the taste even at higher concentrations. It is used in alcoholic drinks such as ouzo, raki, absinthe and Pernod. It is also used in seasoning and confectionery applications, oral hygiene products, and in small quantities in natural berry flavors.

            Ravensara anisatum A commercial essential oil of Anise Wood was examined by GC/MS, is dominated by methyl chavicol (61.62%) and (E)-anethole (20.09%), while a commercial oil of R. aromatica is dominated by 1,8-cineole (30.97%), sabinene (17.23%) and α-terpineol (10.34%).


Comparison of Main Components: Anise seed contains trans anethole, methyl chavicol and other minor components. The EO of Syzygium anisatum, a tree from Family Myrtaceae from Australia has a similar scent and flavor profile. The leaves of S. anisatum are currently used by the native food industry in Australia as a source of fresh and dried herb and the starting material for the extraction of the essential oil.


Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Arctander. 1960
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Vol. IV, pages 352-356. Krieger Publ. Malabar, FL 1972
Leyel, Mrs. C. F. Herbal Delights. Faber and Faber Limited. London. 1937
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:
Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Body Book. Berkeley, Ca: Frog, Ltd.  2000
Rose, Jeanne. Herbal Studies Course and Aromatherapy Studies Course, San Francisco, CA.
(courses, books and articles)

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 Note: I have underlined the words Anise and Star Anise wherever they are so that you will be aware of which plant I am talking about. Also, I always capitalize the name of the herb or essential oil so that you will know I am speaking of the plant and not the color or taste.
Comments: I want to thank Eden Botanicals for their ongoing assistance to provide the new essential oils for these essential oil blog posts as well as their support to provide better information for the entire aromatherapy community.


Moderation in All Things

Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment. Be selective and more moderate in your usage. Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014



HYDROSOL — PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.
PATCH TEST:  If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: Do not apply the essential oil neat, especially to the underarms or delicate parts of the body. Most oils are probably not to be used on babies, children or pregnant women. Many aromatherapist suggest that there are some oils not be used at all. However, as with many plants, essential oil chemistry is subject to change depending on species, chemotype, and terroir.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: Be moderate in your use of any essential oil. A little goes a long way. Remember to choose the herbal use over the essential oil use normally; an herb tea is milder than the essential oil. There are always contraindications for the excessive use of some plants and for their essential oils in both perfumery or aromatherapy. In regards to Anise Seed, and Star Anise EO, children, pregnant women or anyone with a delicate constitution should not use them because of the anethole.
DO NOT INGEST ESSENTIAL OILS: Although some oils are important flavoring oils in the flavor industry and thus ingested in very small amounts in many foods, especially meats and sausages, it is not a good idea to use them yourself either in capsules or in honey to take internally.
DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©




4 thoughts on “Aniseed & Star Anise Profile

  1. Hi Jeanne! Great great write up on these plants! I am extremely fond of Star Anise as an herb and essential oil. Originally learned about it because you mentioned in your herbal studies course as part of a tea for increasing / strengthening the sense of smell.

    I wrote a paper on flu remedies and learned about the Shikimic acid uses. Supposedly it helps stop a virus from using your own DNA to replicate itself, therefore stopping it from spreading.

    Recently used it in a formula for a 18 year old with a brain tumor sublingual formula to help her digestion / appetite stimulation as well as anti-cancer properties (it was a non estrogenic type which this oil is not recommended for). She had surgery and the astrocytoma was growing rapidly soon after. She is now cancer free according to her test results and got to graduate high school cancer free.

    Is it Illicium verum or Illium verum (sorry won’t let me italicize)?

    • Much of the world’s crop is harvested to extract shikimic acid to make a compound called oseltamivir which is sold as Tamiflu, an antiviral used to treat influenza.

  2. Pingback: Basil Essential Oil & Hydrosol Profile - Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy Blog

  3. Pingback: Tarragon herb/EO/Hydrosol Profile - Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy Blog

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