Pimpinella anisum L. (Anise)

Distribution and Importance

Anise originated in the eastern Mediterranean region and is native to Asia Minor, Greece and Egypt. Principal anise-growing regions are Spain, the Soviet Union, France and North Africa as well as some parts of Germany. Moreover, anise is commercially cultivated in Chile, China and the USA. The plant belongs to the Umbelliferae family, has a distinct spicy-aromatic (anise-like) smell, and an aromatic-sweetish taste, with greyish-green upside-down pear-shaped, and about 2-mm-long schizocarps of the 1-year-old herb-like plant which may grow up to 50 cm. The plant has fine fusiform roots, the ribbed stem is branched and has pubiscent leaves. The lower vegetative leaves are roundish-reniform, whereas the upper vegetative leaves consist of narrow-leaved pinnas. The blossom is an umbel with filamentous involucral bracts and white and short petals. As a medicinal herb and aromatic plant, anise is one of the oldest cultigens. Hippocrates used anise for the treatment of jaundice and, in the Middle Ages, it was taken as a medicine for cough and cancer, as well as for cases of snake and scorpion bites, mental diseases and epilepsy; it was even used as a diuretic. The first legal certification of anise oil dates back to the beginning of the 16th century. The annual world production of anise oil, including coriander oil, amounts to as much as 500 tons. Anise fruit and its essential oil are used as a spicy seasoning (in biscuits, Vinschgl = a “long-time bread” from South Tyrol and preserved fruits), as a flavour additive in the field of oral hygiene (in toothpastes and gargles), in the confectionery industry and for the production of alcoholic beverages, such as herb liqueur or anise brandy. In medicine, the carminative, spasmolytic and expectorant effects of the drug and oil are of interest. Moreover, the plant’s importance is shown nowadays in its adaptation into essential European pharmacopeias: DAB 8 (FRG), DAB 7 (GDR), OAB 9 (Austria), Helv. VI (Switzerland) and Ph. Eur. III (Europe).

Pimpinella anisum L. (Anise): Conclusions

Anise cell suspension cultures represent a suitable model system for the study of plant differentiation problems. They present biochemical, as well as morphological aspects. On the basis of a suitable hormonal composition of the medium and an optimal initial cell density, high yields of desired embryonal stages may be consistently obtained. Like many other plant cell cultures, anise undifferentiated callus and suspension cultures are characterized by low yield of secondary substances. In terms of percentage, the composition of the lipoquinones, coumarins and steroids is, to a great extent, equivalent to the intact plant, but the quantities detected are distinctly reduced. In this case, however, it has to be taken into consideration that many compounds are accumulated in special plant cells, so that the required morphological preconditions in undifferentiated cultures do not exist for the accumulation of such compounds. The detection of anethole and other components of the essential oil, on the other hand, shows that basically a biosynthesis of such substances is possible even in undifferentiated tissue. Through a two-phase culture system, a concentration of those lipophilic substances could be gained. A prerequisite for this purpose is, however, to clarify the high concentration variations of the individual components of the essential oil during the sub-cultivation period. Another way to achieve a concentration may be feasible with the induction of embryogenesis. Such a method would make a cultivation of differentiated cells, as far as possible to the primary leaves. Comparative studies of field-grown plants and suspension culture seedlings should clarify both the qualitative and quantitative composition of secondary substances in the plantlets. For the time being, however, the use of anise cell cultures is of predominant importance for the elucidation of biochemical pathways and not for the economic production of essential oil.


Selections from the book: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants II”, 1989.