Anise has been used since ancient times as an excellent ingredient for aiding digestion. In some cultures, a couple of anise seeds are chewed after every meal, while others prefer to steep the seeds in tea. To make anise tea, simply crush some anise seeds, and stir these into a cup of boiling water. Allow them to steep in the hot liquid for around 10 to 15 minutes, and then drink a cup after a large or heavy meal. In addition to aiding digestion, the tea is a great relaxant.
Another great medicinal use for anise is that it serves as a decongestant for people suffering from breathing difficulties. Anise features as a prominent ingredient in cough syrups and cough drops – this is because it has a positive effect on the secretory cells found in the respiratory tract, and has antimicrobial properties.
In addition to medicinal benefits, anise also has several culinary uses. Since it is fennel-like in taste, it can be used to flavour fish, poultry and stews, and also features in many desserts, like pastries, cookies, and cakes. Various confectioneries, like black jelly beans, are flavoured with anise, and it is also a major component in drinks like the Mexican atole de anís or champurrado.
Along with flavouring food, anise is also used in certain types of liquor. Drinks like the Middle Eastern arak, Turkish rakı, French spirits absinthe, anisette and pastis, and Italian sambuca are all flavoured with anise. It is also added to certain types of root beer, and is rumoured to be one of the key secret ingredients in the French liqueur Chartreuse.
While it is popular enough among humans, anise serves as a temptation to certain types of animals too. Dogs are particularly fond of anise seeds, much like cats are fond of cat nip, and it is frequently used in drag hunts. In addition, attaching anise to bait can also prove an effect lure for fish.