Edition 69: July 2014
Essential Oil of the Month
Powerful oil aids digestion and breathing
THE MEDICINAL properties of aniseed were known long ago in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and the herb was also used in Chinese medicine.
Anise was listed in Dioscoride’s De Materia Medica (78 AD), Europe's first guide to medicines, which became the authoritative reference for herbal treatments for more than 1700 years.
The herb was used as a spice to flavour food and beverages as it is still employed today, especially in liquors as a digestive agent. Pernod and absinthe, the Greek “ouzo” and the Turkish “Raki”, are such examples.
Anise oil has a distinct sweet flavor that can also be employed in culinary preparations, including curries, deserts and hot drinks.
In India and certain other countries, anise is still used in mouth fresheners and toothpastes.
In ancient Greece it was a popular remedy for relieving wind, colic and rheumatism and is still employed as a staple in cough and respiratory formulas. The seed has even been used in smoking mixtures.
One of aniseed’s star attractions is its ability to help breathing troubles, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders.
Severe sneezing may be reduced when five drops of aniseed is mixed with one tablespoon of almond oil and rubbed into the upper neck region
This oil possesses remarkable expectorant qualities, relieving chest complaints and coughs by loosening phlegm deposited in the lungs and respiratory tracts.
Being a mild anti-convulsant and a broncho-dilator, it can offer help to asthmatics.
Aniseed's phytochemicals, including creosol and alpapinene are responsible in helping to break up congestion and ease coughing as well as being antiseptic to the mucous membranes.
Do use the oil in a vapouriser to make use of its respiratory assistance.
Anise oil’s other star act is aiding digestion. It promotes and accelerates healthy digestive function and also enhances appetite, which explains its usage in aperitif and after-dinner liquors.
A useful practice is to serve desserts containing aniseed or to have a glass of warm water with few drops of aniseed essential oil in it to aid digestion, especially after a heavy meal.
Aniseed is an effective carminative that promotes removal of gases and their formation in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, thereby helping combat flatulence, digestive discomfort and general indigestion.
Other digestive problems may be remedied through the use of aniseed including dyspepsia, constipation, and general indigestion.
The oil is a smooth muscle anti-spasmodic, relieving stomach cramping and discomfort. For general dyspepsia and stomach upset in children, it can be helpful to add few drops to a massage blend, for a gentle clockwise massage of the abdomen.
This oil has mild purgative properties and is safe to use to cleanse and purify the intestines, which in turn helps enhance bowel movements and prevents constipation. It gets things moving by stimulating peristalsis.
Aniseed oil may be used in vapour therapy to help dispel nausea and vomiting. It can certainly be used as a mouthwash and helps relieve bad breath.
Aniseed oil’s anti spasmodic nature brings relief, relaxing contractions from other types of spasm in the body such as excessive contraction in the muscles, nerves, the respiratory tract and internal organs. The resulting severe coughs, cramps and convulsions may be calmed by the pertinent use of aniseed.
Aniseed oil acts as a vermifuge and this insecticidal property can kill worms present in the intestines, a common problem with children.
Due to its potent smell and insecticide abilities it can be added to insect repellent blends, including those blends targeting lice and ticks from the scalp. Such a blend, that also exhibits antimicrobial activity, could be of use to treat scabies and other infectious fungi, yeast, and bacteria. Use it safely in vaporisers, fumigants and sprays to drive away insects.
A small amount of this oil included in massage blends can bring relief from rheumatic and arthritic pains by stimulating blood circulation and also by reducing sensation of pain in the affected areas.
The oil acts as a general stimulant in smaller doses, encouraging the secretion of enzymes and hormones and thus the whole metabolism.
It acts a tonic for the circulatory system and it has been used as a stimulant in cardiac fatigue. Migraine and vertigo sufferers benefit from aniseed and maybe even those afflicted by hangover.
This essential oil has anti-septic properties and helping to heal of wounds and other minor infections. It helps to control scabies or ‘itch mite’.
It is interesting to note that aniseed essential oil has been called ‘The fisherman's friend,’ and possibly best known for its use in fisherman's soap and the famous very strong lozenges.
Anise oil is said to remove all human scent so that fish will be more apt to bite and used in the lozenges, it would help clears the breathing channels for the susceptible fishermen exposed to deep chills.
Another important chemical constituent of anise is anethol, which has estrogenic properties, promotes menstruation, and helps prepare the body for childbirth. These hormonal actions may be the reason behind anise's ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Aniseed oil may ease painful menstruation and cramping as it is a powerful emmenagogue that helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and relieve pre-menstrual symptoms. It promotes the onset of menstruation with its strong oestrogen mimicking properties.
Along with its umbelleriferae cousin fennel, aniseed in herbal form is used to increase milk secretion with nursing mothers and facilitate birth. Sexual problems such as impotence and frigidity are helped, as the Romans long ago believed in its aphrodisiac qualities.
Diffuse aniseed in a burner:
For a euphoric and mood-enhancing effect that invigorates a tired mind yet minimizes over-excitement; to open emotional blocks and recharge vital energy. For sweet dreams add some neroli and Roman chamomile and for a stabilizing effect following a hangover.
Aniseed oil is also used in aromatherapy for its tranquilising effects as a sedative when used in higher dosages; while small doses of the oil may adversely act as a stimulant.
Due to its relaxing effects and somewhat narcotic or numbing effects, it is used as a sedative for anxiety, nervous afflictions including depression, anger and stress; also for insomnia.
Utmost care should be taken while administering it in higher doses, mindful of its narcotic and adverse effects, particularly in children.
Aniseed can calm down epileptic and hysteric attacks by slowing down circulation, respiration and nervous response, if administered in higher dosages (contrary to its stimulating properties when administered in lower dosages).
Aniseed targets the Manipura chakra of the solar plexus, stimulating the digestive fires and the centre of our personal power.
The oil therefore helps us organise our minds and better decide what needs to be ‘burned’ away or retained.
Massage aniseed into the solar plexus to better assimilate and metabolise both food and information. Digestion is accomplished through heat; therefore food is burned to create our vital energy.
Aniseed provides courage and support for moving into the world. It encourages us to set our goals and concentrate on what we need to do and think, to achieve our aspirations.
Massage blend for Constipation and Flatulence: Add 10 drops of aniseed oil or five drops aniseed and five drops of fennel oil to one tablespoon of vegetable oil and massage into the belly in firm, clockwise strokes.
Respiratory Congestion: Add one drop of aniseed, one drop of peppermint and one drop of eucalyptus into a bowl of hot water, and inhale the vapours under a towel.
Botanical name: Pimpinella anisum
Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) Carrot family
The Plant: Anise is a flowering plant, of the Umbilliferae family, that grows less than a metre high with feathery leaves and tiny white blossoms. It is the greyish-brown seeds that are crushed before distillation to increase the yield. It is native to the Mediterranean region and South-West Asia. The oil is mostly produced in India, China, and Spain and the best oil is reputedly from Turkey or Egypt.
Scent: Aniseed oil is pungent and warm with an edible, sweet, liquorice-like aroma. It is similar to fennel oil, only richer and sweeter. This essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the dried fruits of anise plant and it is clear, thin and pale yellow in colour. It contains up to 90 per cent anethol, its prime constituent, which is responsible for its characteristic smell. Sometimes the oil solidifies in cold temperatures, and can be hand-warmed to liquefy before use.
Blends well with: Bergamot, fennel, cardamom, cedarwood, ginger, juniper, lemongrass, patchouli, black pepper, mandarin and tangerine. Use only very small amounts, anise oil can dominate blends and can be used as a “masking” agent.
Therapeutic Properties: anaesthetic/analgesic, aphrodisiac, anticoagulant, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, aperient, carminative, galactogogue, decongestant, digestive, expectorant, diuretic, tonic (heart), insecticide, sedative, and parasiticide, vermifuge.
Uses: Aniseed oil’s main therapeutic benefits are for the respiratory and digestive systems. Other uses include alkalosis, blood oxygenation, colitis, constipation, diverticulitis, increases oestrogen, fertility, hormonal imbalance, PMS, menopause, irritable bowel syndrome, flatulence, parasites, prostate cancer (blended with frankincense).
Precautions: Use aniseed in moderation. It can irritate sensitive skin and has been known to cause dermatitis in some individuals. Information regarding its safeness during pregnancy differs among sources; we would recommend that it be avoided due to its emmenagogic and estrogenic properties. This latter property may aggravate certain types of cancers. Small doses may be beneficial for lactation. In heavy dosages, it has narcotic effects. It is poisonous to certain small animals and birds and should be avoided by babies under 12 months and not be given in heavy dosages to children.
What Herb is That?
Astringent herb for bruising
WITCHAZEL was highly valued by the Native North American people as a traditional remedy for its healing properties.
They applied poultices soaked in a decoction of the bark to treat tumours and inflammations.
The early settlers in the 18th Century quickly adopted the herb and its use spread to Europe, where it became a staple in various countries’ pharmacopoeias.
The Witch Hazel (or Witchazel) is a small woodland tree that is native to North America (Eastern parts) and Canada.
It produces distinctive flowers in winter, followed by brown fruit capsules that, when ripe, eject two seeds up to four metres away from the tree.
It can grow up to two metres and has been cultivated in gardens as ornamentals. Trees are grown from hardwood cuttings or from seed in autumn.
For medicinal purposes the leaves are harvested in summer and dried. They are odourless and have a bitter, aromatic taste. The bark is harvested during the autumn to be dried as quickly as possible in the shade.
The herb itself is primarily used externally for its astringent and haemostatic properties.
It is very soothing to treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids, reducing the distension, inflammation and discomfort.
In this application it can be made into a balm or lotion as it helps damaged blood vessels beneath the skin. This action is probably due to the flavonoids and the large quantities of tannins present in the herb.
Witchazel is helpful for damaged facial veins, restoring their normal structure when applied in a face toning product.
Protective agent for wounds
Use for cleansing wounds as the tannins have a drying, astringent effect, which causes the tightening up of proteins in the skin and across the surface of abrasions.
This creates a protective covering that increases resistance to inflammation and promotes the healing of broken skin, protecting it from infection.
It also may be used for inflamed and tender skin conditions such as eczema, even if the skin is weeping - but it is best applied to where skin has not been significantly broken.
It also deals beautifully with bruises, dispersing the stagnant blood and it reduces inflammation of sprains and other injuries. It is a cleansing herb that helps arrest bleeding in wounds and cuts and relieves the itch from insect bites.
For inflamed gums and sore throats, witchazel can be used as a mouthwash, where its naturally astringent quality comes into its own. A very well diluted infusion has also been prescribed for tired and red eyes.
The tea taken internally has a history of being used to stop bleeding from the lungs and other organs, including the uterus for heavy menstrual bleeding.
This also applies in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and mucous discharge, whereby the herb tightens up the mucous membranes of the intestines and stops gastro-intestinal bleeding.
Distilled Witchazel, known as Hamamelis water, is a popular household choice and recommended for general external use.
Botanical name: Hamamelis virginiana
Parts Used: Dried leaves, bark or flowering twigs
Key Actions: Astringent, anti-inflammatory, haemostatic - stops internal and external bleeding.