Woe unto you, scribes, and Pharisees, hypcrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone"
--St. Matthew 23:23
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This member of the carrot family is native to Southwest Asia and North Africa. What we call "anise seeds" are actually the fruit of this annual half-hardy plant, which grows about 18 inches high with heart-shaped leaves and a stalk that produces an umbrella of white flowers.
The distinctively licorice taste and smell of anise comes from anisic aldehyde--and it is made into a potent liqueur, now mercifully substituted for Absinthe, famed Parisian drink of artists that actually poisoned them over time, it being derived from the narcotic and poisonous oil of wormwood. Anisette (or ouzo), by contrast, not only doesn't hurt you, it actually helps you, especially if you're undergoing a bout of gassiness.
This carminative is known to relieve flatulence: you can either chew the seeds or make a tea of them by boiling 1/2 teaspoon in a pint of water, then straining.
The anise plant is mentioned in the Bible--St. Matthew (above) mentioning it as he recounts Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees who administered the Mosiac Law--those who worry about tithes and forget about heavenly truth.