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Wonderfully Useful Wild Herb: Wild Anise

Wild anise (Pimpinella anisum) is an annual plant that was initially grown in the Middle East. It has now become naturalized in many places around the world so it grows in most countries. It prefers growing in areas that get a lot of moisture and a combination of both plentiful sunlight and shade. (Note: Anise, also called Aniseed, should not be confused with star anise, which is an entirely different plant.)

Identifying wild anise

It is quite important to identify this plant properly since it often grows in the same range where poisonous water hemlock grows and the two plants have a somewhat similar appearance. It isn’t hard to identify the plant though. If you crush a leaf or seed of wild anise, there is an unmistakable and pleasant smell that is quite licorice-like. Water hemlock frankly stinks.

Testimony about using wild anise medicinally

Wild anise has many great medicinal uses. The herb has a mild action so wild anise can be used for even young children.

As an example, many years ago, I went camping with my wife, our son, his wife, and three of their children.

Our youngest grandchild was upset, cranky, and crying, but I didn’t think much about it because the infant was in unfamiliar surroundings, which could cause him to act that way. His whimpering continued until he fell asleep, a couple of hours after dark.

Cries of pain

As normal, I was up about 5 am the following morning. My son got up about an hour later and we sat for a time, drinking coffee. His wife got up a while later and only a few minutes passed before the infant child awoke. He immediately began crying.

The child was brought out of the tent and his mother attempted to calm him, but the crying got louder, turning into a wail. The boy was obviously in pain. It was then that our son explained that the child was teething and he’d forgotten the teething medication the doctor had prescribed.

Our son decided that he had no option but to go back home. That would have been the end of a nice camping trip we’d planned for over the course of months.

Finding natural help

I’d never been camping in that area, but I told my son and daughter-in-law to give me an hour to see if I could find any wild herbs that might help. I wandered out of camp, looking at the plants without looking for any specific herbs.

It wasn’t long before I saw the wild anise plants. They were past the bloom and there were about a dozen green seeds developing. I smelled and tasted the anise to confirm that it was indeed anise, then I picked a number of seeds, taking them back to camp.

Fast relief from pain

I gave the seeds to my daughter-in-law, told her what it was, and told her that it would solve the infant’s problem. I had her crush the seeds between her fingers, then told her to swab the juice over the child’s painful gums. She didn’t believe me but followed my instructions.

The baby struggled against her until he tasted the licorice flavor. At about the same time he tasted it, no more than two seconds after his gums were swabbed, the child stopped crying, the pain gone.

Wild anise uses

Wild anise is great for teething pain and toothache pain, as demonstrated by the testimony. It is also quite effective for relieving gas, upset stomach, colic, and for treating bad breath. Most people, including the young ones, like the licorice taste, too.

Like cultivated anise, wild anise seeds can also be used to flavor drinks, confections, breads, and other foods. Even the leaves can be used, but the seeds more commonly are. The flavor of wild anise goes surprisingly well with venison and elk meat, too.

This is a wonderful plant that is well worth the effort of becoming acquainted with. It is also wide-spread. Learning to identify it isn’t difficult to do and it is one of the most useful wild herbs to learn about.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • Actually, it does grow in India and was used for a long time as a digestive aid after dinner. Today, star anise is more common, but anise is still grown there. If I’m not mistaken, the Hindi word for it is saunaph.

    • Thank you. Yes, aniseed is Pimpinella anisum and it is a smallish plant. Star anise is Illicium verum and it is a small tree that grows mainly in China. Anise is in the parsley family and star anise is in the magnolia family.

    • One of these days, I’m going to get a distiller for making essential oils and this is one of the plants I want to distill. A few drops in a small glass of water is excellent as a mouthwash for humans and dogs. :)) A person can use regular anise extract for the same thing, but it grows wild throughout the Pacific Northwest, so it is easy to come by here, too.

    • The two plants are extremely similar in a number of ways; appearance, aroma, and uses. Both are related to carrots, parsley, dill, caraway, coriander, and cicely. Wild fennel has yellow blossoms, though, while wild anise has white flowers (usually). Both have flower clusters arranged in flat umbrels, and the base leaves look a lot like flat-leafed parsley. They are so similar that many botanical sources treat the two plants interchangeably, despite the fact that they are different species and the genus isn’t the same. Wild anise is Pimpinella anisum. Wild fennel is Foeniculum vulgare.

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