Amazing wild anise

wild anise

Picture by Franz Eugen Köhler


Wild anise, Pimpinella anisum, is a self-seeding annual that has now been naturalized in most places in the world so it grows in most countries. It likes areas where it gets plenty of moisture and a combination of both sunlight and shade. This makes proper identification important, since it often grows in the same areas that water hemlock grows and the two plants have a somewhat similar appearance. The identification really isn’t difficult, though, because crushing a wild anise leaf or seed releases an unmistakable and pleasant licorice-like aroma. Water hemlock, which is poisonous, has a disagreeable smell.

The number of ways that wild anise can be used medicinally is large. The best part is that this herb has a mild action, to the point that it can be used for even young children. I had this knowledge affirmed when I went camping with my wife, our son and daughter in law and three of our grandchildren.

It had taken about an hour and a half to drive our vehicles to our intended camping place. It took another hour to set up camp. Our youngest grandchild was cranky and whimpering, but I gave it little thought since the infant was obviously in unfamiliar surroundings. His whimpering continued well after dark when he finally fell asleep.

A child’s pain

I was up the following morning long before anyone else was awake and took in the wonderful sights and smells of the forest. My son finally got up and was joining me in a cup of coffee when his wife also got up. We enjoyed the peace and tranquility for only a few minutes when the infant grandchild awoke. He immediately began crying.

My daughter in law brought him out of the tent and attempted to calm him, but the crying simply got louder. He was obviously in pain. Finally, my son explained that he was teething and they’d forgotten the prescribed teething medication at home. He said that considering how much pain the child was in, he felt that he had no option but to go back home to where the medicine was. I knew that it meant the end to the camp trip since neither of us had the money to make the trip back out to camp and then to home a second time.

Locating the herb

I told him to give me a half hour or so, to see if I could find any wild plants that might help, since I then knew what the child’s problem was. I walked out of camp, looking at various plants, without any particular plant in mind. I knew that there are many plants in the forest that have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, though some would be unsuitable for an infant.

It didn’t take long before I saw the wild anise. It was past the bloom and had several green seeds developing. I knew that it was anise, but tore off a leaf and crushed it, smelling it to make the identification positive. I picked a dozen of the green seeds, and returned to camp.

Instant relief

In camp, I explained to my daughter in law that the seeds were from wild anise and that I was sure that it would take care of the child’s pain. The young one was screaming in pain by then and I told my daughter in law to take several of the seeds and crush them between her fingers, then to swab the juice on the baby’s inflamed gums. She was doubtful but did as I said.

The child tried pushing her away as she got her finger into his mouth and swabbed the anise juice on his gums. Then he tasted the licorice flavor and immediately afterward the natural medicine of the anise took effect. His crying stopped abruptly and he opened his mouth for his mother to apply more of the anise juice.

Successful use

We stayed in camp another two days, without any further problems. The anise took away the teething pain and eased the swelling so it didn’t return. If it had, I knew where we could get additional wild anise, and I even showed my daughter in law how to identify the plant. Neither she nor my son could believe how fast the anise worked. Much later, after the camping trip, their doctor confirmed that anise was good for the treatment of teething and toothache pain, but was actually safer than the medication that was normally prescribed; Children’s Tylenol.

Anise is a good wild herb to learn to recognize and a great one to learn how to use. Since it is found growing in so many places, it is often easy to come by. Yet this wild herb is even one that can be used to treat children. It is one of the herbs that grace gardens, woods and often even the cupboards.

This is one of the plants I wrote about in treatments for toothache pain.




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