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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Aniseed, as aphrodisiac

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Aniseed is a member of the parsley family and native to the Eastern Mediterranean. Nowadays it grows in all warm climates. Anethole is the oil that accounts for the distinctive sweet-licorice taste. Both the leaves and the seeds have this flavoring, which is used in breads, cakes, and confections in parts of Europe and the Middle East, in curry and seafood dishes in India and neighboring countries, in various dishes in Southeast Asia, and as the flavoring of such alcoholic drinks as the French pastis and Greek ouzo. It is also chewed after a meal in India to sweeten the breath. And, yes, the seeds are used whole or ground.

Anise or Aniseed, less commonly anĂ­s (stressed on the first syllable) (Pimpinella anisum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to the eastern Mediterranean region and southwest Asia. It is a herbaceous annual plant growing to 50 cm tall. The leaves at the base of the plant are simple, 2-5 cm long and shallowly lobed, while leaves higher on the stems are feathery pinnate, divided into numerous leaflets. The flowers are white, 3 mm diameter, produced in dense umbels. The fruit is an oblong dry schizocarp, 3-5 mm long.

Its other names are Anise, Aniseed, Sweet Cumin, star anise, Chinese anise, illicium. Its seed, leaves, oil, and anethole are what it is commonly valued for.

Anise leaves are used to treat digestive problems, to relieve toothache, and its essential oil is used to treat lice and scabies. In India, aniseed (Saunf in Hindi ) is also used as mouth freshener. It is also used for flavoring some foods.

Historically, this herb had been used for many centuries. The ancient Greeks, including Hippocrates, prescribed it for coughs. Ancient Romans used Anise in a special cake that concluded their enormous feasts. Historically, the herb was used because of its flavor (licorice flavor), as an aid for digestion, as an aphrodisiac, for colic and to combat nausea.

Ancient Chinese physicians used the herb as a digestive aid, flatulence remedy, and breath freshener. Early English herbalists recommended the herb for hiccups, for promoting milk production for nursing mothers, for treatment of water retention, headache, asthma. Bronchitis, insomnia, nausea, lice, infant colic, cholera, and even cancer.

But what about its aphrodisiac properties?

Because of its aromatic and countless medical properties, it was traditionally considered as an aphrodisiac. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that you could increase desire by sucking on anise seeds. Also, its sweet, licorice taste is believed in many cultures to stimulate the libido and increase desire. It also contains estrogenic compounds (female hormones) which have been reported to induce similar effects to testosterone hence an increase in male potency and libido.

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