LICORICE SCENT IN ESSENTIAL OILS
Compiled by Jeanne Rose – 2017
There are several plants, eight or so, that produce an essential oil that have a scent of licorice, some say the scent of Anise. The scent you associate with food and with Licorice drops and Licorice whips or Licorice pipes candy. These plants come from a variety of disparate botanical families and includes trees, herbs, vines and their fruit, roots, leaves and seeds. This same scent from a diversity of families is why everyone should learn basic botany and chemistry before they begin to say they are expert in aromatherapy.
The families include Fennel and Anise both in the botanical umbellifer family Apiaceae; and Anise myrtle from Australia, Syzygium anisatum, of myrtle tree family Myrtaceae; Licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra, of the legume family Fabaceae; Magnolia spp., blossoms, of flowering plant family Magnoliaceae; Star Anise, Illium verum, of the tree family Schisandraceae; Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, of the Sunflower or Asteraceae family; and Basil, Holy Basil or Tulsi, Ocimum tenuiflorum, of the Lamiaceae or mint family.
The scent is often from isomers of anethole, cis (Z) and trans or (E) anethole. Trans anethole is the preferred scent/taste while UV radiation or acidic conditions cause trans to revert to its isomer image cis-anethole which is toxic, and possesses an unpleasant scent and flavor.
Anethole is only slightly soluble in water but is highly soluble in ethanol. This difference causes certain liquors that are anise-flavored to become opaque and slightly opalized when diluted with water, called the ouzo effect and which is visible when adding water to absinthe or ouzo.
Anethole has antimicrobial, antifungal, insecticidal activities against bacteria, yeast, fungi and insecticidal against insect larvae. It is a mosquito repellent.
Closely related to anethole is isomer estragole, found in Tarragon of the Asteraceae family and Basil of the Lamiaceae family. It is considered to be carcinogenic, but this effect is dose dependent. Limit your use and quantity of usage of these herbs.
These licorice or anise-scent herbs include:
Anise Seed (Pimpinella anisum L.) of the Apiaceae family is an annual herb whose essential oil contains 90% trans or E-anethole and methyl chavicol. These Licorice scented, tasty seeds were once used as payment for taxes, in spiced cakes to prevent indigestion, as a flavorant for soups, breads, liqueurs like Anisette and even as a token to avert the ‘evil eye’. 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, either from Anise seed or 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 foods, mouth wash and medicinally to stimulate peristalsis.
I have an Anise seed oil from 1910 that I found in my basement. It is an Eng-Skell bottle from a firm founded here in San Francisco. The oil smells as it is supposed to and I assume has oxidized and possibly chemically changed into it mirror image. Old essential oils are very interesting to have and to analyze.
Anise wood or Havozo (Ravensara anisata) Essential oil from the bark of this tree of the Lauraceae family contains (E)-anethole and methyl chavicol (61.62%) and (E)-anethole (20.09%). The EO, because of the large amount of methyl chavicol whose odor which is very Anise seed like, can be used much the same as Anise seed. It can be used in food and cooking, and therapeutically by both inhalation and application in massage oils to relieve indigestion or a single diluted drop on the pillow case to relieve insomnia.
This EO can also be used in many different massage oil blends to relieve muscle aches and pains is best if blended with Juniper Berry oil (usually Juniperus communis) and Cypress oil (Cupressus sempervirens). I like to mix these three oils in my Bruise Juice in massage oil for
aching muscles, and as in inhalant to warm and uplift the spirit and to soothe and relax me. Also, this formula can be used as an external massage for cellulite.
Formula: In two ounces of carrier oil add 3 drops each of Havozo, Juniper Berry oil and Cypress oil.
Caution is requested however, as there is so little information on this specific species for aromatherapy.
Clove buds are the sun-dried, unopened flower buds of the Clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum from Indonesia and other locations of the family Myrtaceae. Clove oil contains eugenol which composes 72–90% of the essential oil and is the compound most responsible for clove aroma.
Eugenol in my opinion, does not smell much of licorice/anise. The difference(s) between Clove Bud, Clove Leaf and Clove stem is that Clove bud is the fruit, Clove leaf is the leaf of the tree and Clove stem is the stem. They have different chemical constituents. They are all used in aromatherapy and the applications are different. See page 87 in The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations for uses of these items.
In 200 BC, the Chinese used them when as courtiers, needing a fresh breath, had to have them in their mouth when addressing the Emperor. Clove buds are warming and spicy and are now used to flavor foods, making pomanders and used in medicine. Cloves supply vanillin to the industry.
The EO is antibacterial, antiviral (against herpes), and analgesic, which helps in headache and toothaches. In skin care Clove oil is highly diluted and is used for the spicy scent as an antibacterial in aftershave products or products for problem skin. Clove bud oil is effective in perfumery as a fixative or as part of a ‘Carnation’ scent.
Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) is a perennial herb of the Apiaceae family that contains trans-anethole of about 68% and 10-12% estragole. The primary component is delta-alpha-pinene, anethole and fenchone. The essential oil exhibited antibacterial activity particularly against the dysentery bacteria. The essential oil is used as a massage for stomach and intestinal problems, inhaled in a blend of other useful EO for breathing problems that originate from nervous origin, and for pulmonary congestion, and the essential oil is used by inhalation for scent, relaxing the breathing, and helping lactation. The essential oil is used as a popular extract (diluted in alcohol) to flavor food. The EO can also be used in moderation in perfumery and blends to lend its licorice scent to a formula.
Organoleptically, The oil is pale, clear, gold colored and with sweet, honey and herbal licorice notes.
A Mediterranean plant that is cultivated worldwide for food and medicine. 800 pounds of seed can be produced per acre. The herb or seed tea is a mild carminative. In this case it is often the herb tea that has the best medicinal benefits. The herb tea is used as a mild carminative, or a tonic aperitif tea and often medicinally as an emmenogogue. Some say it has psychoactive powers. The tea is very popular flavor in food, bread, and pastries.
“O’er the other flowers it towers, The Fennel with it’s yellow flowers,
And in an earlier day than ours, Twas gifted with wonderous powers,
Lost vision to restore.” -Wordsworth
Holy Basil or Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a perennial of the Lamiaceae family and contains eugenol. For me, it is only slightly licorice or anise scented. Ocimum tenuiflorum (synonym Ocimum sanctum), commonly known as holy basil, tulasi, or tulsi, which is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. It is revered as the ‘elixir of life’.
Tulsi essential oil has been found to consist mostly of eugenol (~70%) β-elemene (~11.0%), β-caryophyllene (~8%) and germacrene (~2%), with the balance being made up of various trace compounds, (mostly terpenes).
This particular Basil has been shown to have some antibacterial activity against E. coli and S. aureus and is better known as an adaptogen and astringent herb used as an Ayurveda remedy for various things including removing stress and for longevity. Also, it is used in Thai cuisine and as an insect repellent when leaves are added to stored foods and grains.
Basil is a good example of how a chemotype alters the scent of a plant. Basil can grow in various areas from the very hot to the less hot. The hotter the area the more that the Basil will reflect the heat by producing more chavicol. If the area is higher in altitude, the Basil may produce more Linalool. There are chemotypes CT thymol, CT eugenol, CT chavicol, and CT linalool. Light intensity and higher temperature encourages camphor. Classifying by chemotype is more prevalent now than it was 10-15 years ago. Another way to say it is that chemotype refers to the particular plant that have the same morphological (body shape) characteristics, but which produce different quantities of the chemical constituents in the resultant essential oil.
Licorice or Black Licorice root of Glycyrrhiza glabra is an herbaceous perennial normally used as an herb or herbal extract and a fragrance oil is made. When analyzed this root scent of licorice was composed of eugenol, anethole, and estragole. I am personally not aware of the availability of a natural essential oil. The herb tea, and decoction itself has valuable therapeutic uses and is a flavorant for candies, medicines and foods.
Star Anise (Illium verum) The fruit of this evergreen tree contains anethole, the same as Anise seed. The EO is obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of the fruit which are harvested just before ripening. This is a lovely fragrant EO used in foods, soap, perfume, toothpaste and mouthwash, and in cosmetic care for the skin. I am most familiar with it in Sambuca, an Italian liqueur that I find very delicious and have drunk often as an aperitif.
Star Anise EO is a clear oil with a strongly spicy, licorice-like odor. It is used by inhalation or massage application as an antispasmodic for gut spasms, flatulence, burping and coughs. It is used by some women by inhalation to cool a hot flash. This oil is commercially used to flavor ‘anise’ cough drops and to scent soap. Guenther mentions that animals like the flavor and it is used to flavor animal foods. I am most familiar with it in Sambuca, an Italian liqueur that I find very delicious and have drunk often as an aperitif.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) contains estragole. This perennial herb of the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family comes in two subspecies. The Russian Tarragon is used medicinally while the French Tarragon has the most powerful scent and taste and is used as a culinary. French tarragon is the variety used for cooking in the kitchen and is not grown from seed, as the flowers are sterile; instead it is propagated by root division. Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides L.) can be grown from seed but is much weaker in flavor when compared to the French variety.
Analyses of A. dracunculus (subspecies not mentioned shows methyl chavicol (16.2%) and methyl eugenol (35.8%. GC/MS analysis of the essential oil revealed the presence of trans-anethole (21.1%), α-trans-ocimene (20.6%), limonene (12.4%), α-pinene (5.1%), allo-ocimene (4.8%), methyl eugenol (2.2%), β-pinene (0.8%), α-terpinolene (0.5%), bornyl acetate (0.5%) and bicyclogermacrene (0.5%) as the main components.
The EO is considered to be an antispasmodic, antiviral and antiallergenic and is indicated for gut spasms, belching, PMS, and anorexia and chronic fatigue. This EO can be used both taken internally in tea (1-drop only at a time) and used externally in massage oils or in perfumery. It has a very pleasant position as a bridge note in perfumery. It is widely used as a flavoring ingredient in fine foods.
Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) or Mexican Marigold has a slight anise-flavor to the leaves. Mexican tarragon is a half-hardy perennial plant with yellow flowers.
Tagetes EO distilled from the flowers and tops is SD in Madagascar. It has an oily fruity odor and clear orange-colored oil. Contains tagetone and has been used as an antifungal inhalant and anti-parasite when oil and tea taken by mouth; interestingly the oil is thought to ease the pain of a bunion when used externally. The plant was named after Tages, an Etruscan God, and the grandson of Jupiter who sprang from the earth as a boy and taught the art of plowing to the Etruscans.
Biography and References
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Arctander. 1960
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing. Florida. 1976
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Frog, Ltd. 1999
Rose, Jeanne. Herbal Guide to Food. 2000. www.JeanneRose.net/books.html
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.
Biography: Jeanne Rose has been teaching aromatherapy since 1972. Jeanne has written 25 books on herbs and aromatherapy and has two home-study courses; Aromatherapy and Herbal Studies Course and the Aromatherapy Studies Course, Practitioner. For contact information on these courses and the books see: www.jeannerose.net/
Eden Botanicals Basil, Fennel, Tarragon EO
SOME CAUTIONS TO REMEMBER
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. Be selective.
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 much more mild 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.
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©
# # #