The Benefits of Anise

Can It Help Ease Menstrual Pain and Fighting Hot Flashes?

anise
Anise. Anna Yu/Photodisc/Getty Images

Anise is an herb sometimes used for medicinal purposes. Also used to flavor foods and beverages, the seeds of the plant have long been consumed to help assuage digestive issues. In addition, taking anise extract in supplement form is said to treat a variety of health conditions.

Uses for Anise

In alternative medicine, anise is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

Anise is also said to stimulate the appetite, increase the flow of milk in lactating women, promote menstruation, and enhance libido.

When applied topically (i.e., directly to the skin), anise extract is thought to aid in the treatment of conditions like lice and psoriasis.

Benefits of Anise

Research on the health effects of anise is fairly limited, but some studies suggest that the herb shows promise in treatment of certain health conditions. Here's a look at several findings on the potential health benefits of anise extract:

1)  Menstrual Pain

A combination of anise extract, saffron, and celery seed may help alleviate menstrual pain, according to a study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health in 2009. For the study, 180 female students (ages 18 to 27) were split into three groups: one group received the anise/saffron/celery seed mixture, one group received mefenamic acid (a type of anti-inflammatory drug), and one group received a placebo.

Starting from the onset of their menstrual bleeding or pain, each group took their assigned treatment three times a day for three days.

After following the participants for two to three menstrual cycles, the study's authors found that those assigned to the anise/saffron/celery seed combination experienced a significantly greater reduction in menstrual pain, compared to those assigned to the other two treatments.

2)  Hot Flashes 

In a study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in 2012, researchers found that anise may help relieve hot flashes in women undergoing menopause. The study included 72 postmenopausal women, each of whom took either anise extract or potato starch in capsule form daily for four weeks. Compared to the control group, those treated with anise extract had a significantly greater reduction in the frequency and severity of their hot flashes.

3)  Constipation

Taking a combination of anise, fennel, elderberry, and senna may help ease constipation, suggests a small study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010.

In a clinical trial that included 20 patients with chronic constipation, researchers found that the anise-containing herbal combination was significantly more effective than placebo in increasing the number of evacuations per day. The trial involved a five-day treatment period, with the study's authors noting that the herbal combination may help fight constipation by producing a laxative effect.

Caveats

Because anise may have estrogen-like effects, there's some concern that the use of anise supplements may be potentially harmful to people with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as hormone-dependent cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids).

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Alternatives to Anise

Several natural remedies may also help treat digestive troubles and serve as an alternative to anise extract. For example, there's some evidence that remedies like probiotics and aloe may provide constipation relief. 

Here are some more tips on enhancing your digestive health.

To relieve menstrual cramps, consider using such herbs as red raspberry leaf and ginger. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may also help lessen menstrual pain.

For help in taming hot flashes, natural substances like soy and black cohosh may be helpful. In addition, exercising regularly may help soothe menopausal symptoms.

Where to Find It

Anise seeds are commonly sold in grocery stores. You can purchase anise extract in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements, as well as online. 

Using Anise for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend anise supplements as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using anise supplements for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources

Abdul-Hamid M, Gallaly SR. "Ameliorative effect of Pimpinella anisum oil on immunohistochemical and ultrastuctural changes of cerebellum of albino rats induced by aspartame." Ultrastruct Pathol. 2014 May;38(3):224-36.

Karimzadeh F, Hosseini M, Mangeng D, Alavi H, Hassanzadeh GR, Bayat M, Jafarian M, Kazemi H, Gorji A. "Anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects of Pimpinella anisum in rat brain." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Jun 18;12:76. 

Lee JB, Yamagishi C, Hayashi K, Hayashi T. "Antiviral and immunostimulating effects of lignin-carbohydrate-protein complexes from Pimpinella anisum." Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2011;75(3):459-65.

Nahidi F, Kariman N, Simbar M, Mojab F. "The Study on the Effects of Pimpinella anisum on Relief and Recurrence of Menopausal Hot Flashes." Iran J Pharm Res. 2012 Fall;11(4):1079-85.

Nahid K, Fariborz M, Ataolah G, Solokian S. "The effect of an Iranian herbal drug on primary dysmenorrhea: a clinical controlled trial." J Midwifery Womens Health. 2009 Sep-Oct;54(5):401-4.

Picon PD, Picon RV, Costa AF, Sander GB, Amaral KM, Aboy AL, Henriques AT. "Randomized clinical trial of a phytotherapic compound containing Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia augustifolia for chronic constipation." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Apr 30;10:17.

Samojlik I, Mijatović V, Petković S, Skrbić B, Božin B. "The influence of essential oil of aniseed (Pimpinella anisum, L.) on drug effects on the central nervous system." Fitoterapia. 2012 Dec;83(8):1466-73.

Shojaii A, Abdollahi Fard M. "Review of Pharmacological Properties and Chemical Constituents of Pimpinella anisum." ISRN Pharm. 2012;2012:510795.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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