Anise or Pimpinella anisum is a flowering plant that belongs to the plant family Apiaceae, which is also known as parsley family. The anise plant is native to Southwest Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean region. The seeds of this plant are crescent-shaped, and they are widely used for culinary purposes across the world. Anise seeds or aniseeds are highly valued as a spice for their sweet, licorice-like flavor.
Aniseed Health Benefits
They are not only prized for their rich flavor, but for several health benefits as well. Aniseeds can alleviate gastrointestinal problems by improving digestion. In India, they are usually chewed after having a meal to ensure proper digestion of food. They can be used for alleviating gastrointestinal or digestive ailments, like indigestion, bloating, and gas. They are also used as a home remedy for treating colic in infants.
Anise seeds are known to possess expectorant properties, for which they can facilitate the expulsion of phlegm from the respiratory tract, and thus provide relief in cough and congestion. They contain phytoestrogen, and they can be effective in alleviating menstrual problems and increasing breast milk. Apart from these, they are known to improve memory, stimulate the pancreas, and provide relief in irritable bowel syndrome and headaches.
Replacing Anise Seed
When it comes to substitution, a few other seeds, like star anise, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds can be used to replace aniseeds in a recipe. The flavor of these seeds closely resemble the smell of anise seeds.
Those looking for a less expensive substitute of aniseeds can go for star anise seeds. Star anise is a small evergreen tree, native to China and Vietnam. The seeds of this plant are an important spice used widely in Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian cuisines.
Like aniseeds, they can improve digestion, relieve abdominal pain and headaches, and prevent colic in babies. It is a source of 'shikimic acid', which is used to make anti-flu drug or Tamiflu. The seeds contain anethole, the same substance that gives aniseed its flavor. One star anise is equivalent to about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed aniseeds, which should be kept in mind while substituting one for the other.
Fennel seeds are an integral part of Indian and Chinese cuisines. They also contain the compound, anethole, which is why their flavor is similar to that of anise seed. However, fennel seeds are more aromatic and sweeter than aniseeds. The medicinal properties of fennel seed are also similar to those of aniseeds.
Caraway or the meridian fennel plant is a member of the same plant family to which the anise plant belongs. Caraway seeds have a delicate, licorice-like flavor, just like the anise seeds. Therefore, they can be used to substitute aniseeds in a recipe.
You can also use anise oil for replacing anise seed. But you have to be a bit careful, as the oil is stronger than the seeds. Moreover, it is always safe and better to use fennel seeds, star anise, and caraway seeds to substitute aniseeds. They are widely used for making savory dishes in Asian countries. But it is also true that no one can completely match the characteristic flavor of anise seeds, for which it is always better to use only aniseeds in recipes like Italian pizzelle, springerle, and aniseed balls or picarones.