Friday, July 3, 2015

The ABCs of Essential Oils: Anise

I love scrolling through alphabetical lists of essential oils, and have often thought of featuring an essential oil for each letter. This series will include one oil for each letter, and will primarily include information on the scent and aromatic uses of the oil. Please note that I am not an aromatherapist, and don't intend to write about any health benefits or safety precautions. If you are interested in those issues, I recommend reading Robert Tisserand's and Rodney Young's book Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition.


Anise, including aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) and star anise (Illicium verum)

Star anise in potpourri.
The main constituent of star anise and aniseed (anise seed) is anethole, which gives them their characteristic "black licorice" odor. Interestingly enough, licorice does not smell like anise in its natural state, but it is flavored with anise.

Anise is great for soap- it's inexpensive for an essential oil, and it has high odor intensity, making it a cost effective choice. A high flash point means that it works well in hot process, too. Some use aniseed to make a "fisherman's soap," because it's supposed to hide the human odor so you catch more fish. I cannot personally vouch for that, but it'd be nice if washing with aniseed soap before scuba diving or snorkeling meant that you could get closer to the fishies. Not that I've been scuba diving or snorkeling either.

In Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, Arctander primarily writes about both types of anise in terms of flavor, though he notes anise seed oil is good at masking noxious odors. I like blending anise with lavender, and it also blends well with a variety of citrus oils. I also like it blended with cocoa absolute for a gourmand scent. Small amounts in an amber or fougere fragrances. If you want to try it in a perfume blend, start with just one drop (a good practice with any EO, really).

Other EOs with an anise note:
Aniseed Myrtle (Backhousia anisata)
Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulage)
Basil, Methyl Chavicol chemotype (Ocimum basilicum ct methyl chavicol)

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