Native to the eastern Mediterranean region, Asia Minor, Greece and Egypt, this dainty member of the carrot family has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years and finds an honourable mention in the famous Ebers Papyrus, which dates back to 1500 BC. Aniseed has a pleasant, sweet, aromatic flavour that is often used to disguise other, less appealing ingredients, especially in compound medicines. Today it has lost much of its medicinal reputation, though it is still an important flavouring agent and particularly in demand for the manufacture of certain alcoholic beverages such as Raki, Ouzo, Pernod and the like. In Rome it was traditionally baked into special wedding cakes, probably to add a little stimulating sweetness to the wedding night. Aniseed became very popular in Britain, but was rarely grown here because the climate was not conducive to bringing the plants to fruition. Thus, most aniseed was imported and apparently in quite large quantities, a situation which King Edward I knew to exploit for his own purposes: being short of funds he simply levied an import tax on aniseed to raise money to pay for repairs to London Bridge.
Aniseed's sweet aroma not only appeals to humans - animals are also highly attracted by it. Aniseed is to dogs as catnip to cats - the fake rabbit used in Greyhound races is stuffed or scented with aniseed - and rats, mice and fish are also attracted by its scent. Rumour has it that it wasn't so much the pipes of the Pied Piper that lured the rats of Hamlin, but rather the content of his pockets, which were stuffed with Aniseed. Aniseed is also sometimes used as fish bait.
In the past it was much valued as a smooth muscle relaxant, especially for nervous indigestion, cramps and flatulence, but also, when cooked in milk, as an excellent agent to soothe coughing fits and tight chests. It is mildly galactagogue and old herbals often mention its aphrodisiac properties.
Used in love magic to open the heart chakra and clear emotional blockages that may prevent one from finding love. Worn as a magical amulet it may help finding contentment and happiness. Aniseed is used to stuff dream pillows to ward off nightmares and induce a restful, happy sleep. It safeguards the soul on spirit journeys and astral travel and offers protection against nightmares. It may be used to open the inner eye to prepare for divination rituals and psychic channelling. Use it as a special offering if your spirit or totem animals are dogs, or to invoke Anubis.