This flowering plant is native to the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. It is in the Apiaceae family of plants and related to the Carrot and Parsley plants. The seeds have a very sweet and aromatic flavor and have been used in numerous culinary and confection products including Black Jelly Beans, and Italian Pizzelle cookies. Ancient Romans used to serve a cake at the end of a large meal as a digestive enhancer. Some say the tradition of serving cake at a festivity came from this ancient Roman tradition.
When an herb is used in a similar way across multiple cultures it speaks to the intelligence of the plant expressing itself for a very specific use. Anise has been added for flavor and to aid digestion in multiple cultures. The seeds are referred to as a carminative which is an herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitates its expulsion.* Since assisting digestion usually helps correct other issues, it is not surprising that reports of other benefits exist. Anise seed was referenced in work by Pliny the Elder as a sleep aid when chewed with a small amount of honey. Maude Grieve in A Modern Herbal references Anise seed as a “pectoral” for use in supporting the lungs during a cough.*