Surprisingly, anise and licorice are not at all related. You might think of the candy when you think of licorice. But licorice itself is actually a type of plant.
Anise and licorice taste almost identical. There are, of course, some differences. But they can very often be used interchangeably.
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That said, there are some important differences that you should consider before swapping one for the other in a dish.
Here is the lowdown on the differences, and similarities, between these two plants.
Anise is a plant that is also known as aniseed. Aniseed is often confused with licorice. Many people believe that licorice candy is actually flavored with aniseed. But this isn’t the case.
Anise is part of the Apiaceae plant family. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia.
The plant and flower of anise have long and thin green stems. And fanned out white flowers. They are similar in appearance to cow parsley.
Anise has a very similar flavor to licorice. But they are slightly different. Anise isn’t as sharp and bitter as licorice. While it does have a very strong flavor.
It isn’t as overpowering as licorice. It is very aromatic, and its flavor is present in both the plant and the seeds.
Despite its name and flavor, star anise is not related to anise. Star anise is a spice that is, unsurprisingly, shaped like a star.
It bears an identical name because of the flavor. But they grow in different areas and are parts of different plant families.
Licorice, spelled as “liquorice” in some other English-speaking countries, is more commonly used than anise. Licorice has an incredibly similar flavor to anise.
But they are from different families. Licorice is from the flowing plant of the bean family Fabaceae.
The flavor of licorice comes from the root of the plant. Licorice roots are sold dried as they are. But they are not commonly sold separately.
Uses for Anise
Anise is used to flavor lots of different recipes. It is used in different food dishes and alcoholic drinks. It is also commonly used in herbal medicine. (Make sure to read on for the health benefits of anise.)
One of the most common ways that anise is consumed is through tea. Star anise is also used to flavor teas, especially chai. So make sure to keep an eye on the ingredients used in the tea. Anise tea is sometimes also known as aniseed tea.
Anise is mostly used in seed form. This is where most of the flavor is held. But anise tea can also be made from the dried leaves of the anise plant. As is the more traditional method for making most teas.
Here is a quick recipe for making anise tea:
- Boil water in a kettle or in a saucepan on the stove. (Not in the microwave.)
- In a teapot, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of anise tea. If you don’t have a teapot, you can use a tea infuser. You can even use a sieve, especially if you have a small one. But don’t add the tea straight into the cup. This will result in the leaves floating around in the tea. This will not be pleasant.
- For most other teas, it’s best to pour the water over the leaves immediately after it has boiled. But, in order to protect the medicinal properties of anise tea, it’s best to allow the water to stand and cool for a few minutes.
- After a few minutes have passed, pour the water into the cup or teapot. Allow the tea to brew for around 2 to 3 minutes. This will allow the leaves to infuse properly with the water. Then drink and enjoy.
Anise is also used to flavor alcohol. Most famously it is the primary flavor in the drink absinthe. Absinthe is an incredibly strong drink.
Most commonly associated with artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Absinthe is between 90 and 148 proof and famed for its bright green color. It is said to be so strong that it can cause hallucinations.
Anise has long been used as a remedy for minor ailments.
These can include an upset stomach, gas, a “runny” nose, and can also help someone develop a more productive cough. This is to help remove phlegm.
It can also be used as a diuretic to improve the flow of urine. And can be used to aid digestion and ease constipation.
Benefits of Anise
Anise, especially as a tea, is consumed primarily for its health benefits. Although, of course, some people do enjoy the flavor.
Here are some of the health benefits that many people claim are associated with anise.
- Improves digestion.
- This is considered to be one of the primary benefits of anise. It is one of the reasons why anise is often consumed as a tea. Drinking the tea is an easy way to consume anise. But it can also be drunk after a meal to help with digestion.
Anise can also be used to treat specific digestive problems. The most common of which is constipation. Anise can also help with increasing a sense of appetite.
Reduce the symptoms of depression.
This is quite a bold claim. And no one is suggesting that anise can cure depression. But a study has shown that anise might be able to treat its symptoms.
In the study, anise seed extract was shown to have a powerful antidepressant effect on mice.
There have been several studies on this. All of which have shown that anise can reduce the symptoms of depression. But, of course, this is not a cure. Nor is it a replacement for treatments prescribed by a doctor or medical professional.
- Protect against stomach ulcers.
Stomach ulcers are usually caused by bacteria in the stomach. This can cause indigestion, nausea, and a burning sensation.
Studies have shown that anise can reduce the secretion of stomach acid. This can help to prevent the cause of stomach ulcers. But, there is little evidence to show whether anise can have an impact on a stomach ulcer itself.
So, regularly drinking anise tea might help to keep ulcers and general indigestion away. But it cannot be claimed as a cure for stomach ulcers.
Uses for Licorice
As mentioned above, licorice is much more commonly used than anise. It has a slightly stronger flavor.
And can be more easily used in different dishes. Here are some of the most common uses for licorice.
Candy is by far the most popular way of consuming licorice. It is especially popular in the UK in the form of Licorice Allsorts.
These are candies that are made by combining licorice, coconut, and sugar. They also sometimes include aniseed. But licorice is the primary ingredient and flavor.
In the US, licorice is most popularly used to flavor Twizzlers. This might be surprising for anyone who has never tried a Twizzler. Twizzlers also have a strawberry flavor. And are a red candy that is shaped like a twisted rope.
Due to its strong flavor, licorice is excellent for flavoring alcohol. It can be used to flavor relatively plain spirits such as gin and vodka. But has also been used to flavor tequila and other stronger alcohols.
Due to the intensity of its flavor, licorice can essentially be used to flavor anything. In most cases, it will easily be the most dominant flavor.
Licorice is also popularly used in tea. This can usually be found more easily than anise tea. And they do have some similarities. So, if you can’t find anise tea, look for licorice tea instead.
Licorice tea is said to protect against infections, relieve an upset stomach, reduce acid reflux, and aid digestion.
Benefits of Licorice
Similarly to anise, licorice has long been used as a herbal remedy. The claims around licorice are very similar to those around anise.
But there are a couple of differences. Here are the main benefits associated with consuming licorice.
- Antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Some clinical studies have shown that licorice can help with skin inflammation and infection. This means that regularly consuming licorice can potentially reduce the prevalence of pimples and similar issues.
This also means it is good for cleaning wounds. It will reduce the bacteria around the wound. Which will allow the skin to repair faster.
Licorice is also said to help reduce eczema. Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a skin condition that affects many people. But some suffer with it on a chronic basis. Eczema can be caused by several different factors.
One of which is a bacterium that can infect the skin. One study has shown that licorice root extract can be used to combat this bacterium.
- Relieving an upset stomach and stomach ulcers.
Similarly to anise, licorice can be used to calm an upset stomach. Unlike anise which can help to reduce the potential for ulcers to appear, licorice can be used to treat stomach ulcers. This is because licorice extract can help to reduce nausea, stomach pain, and heartburn.
- Hepatitis C.
This is one of the most impressive potential benefits of licorice. Doctors in Japan injected Glycyrrhizin into patients with chronic hepatitis C. Glycyrrhizin is the main compound in licorice which gives it its flavor.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, Glycyrrhizin has been demonstrated to work against hepatitis C in cells. It might even be the basis for a future treatment of the illness.
- Sore throat.
Licorice can help to reduce the irritation and pain of a sore throat. This is suggested by a study which gave a licorice solution to patients following a surgery which involved a breathing tube.
This study showed that gargling the licorice solution helped to reduce the severity of this kind of sore throat as much as using a ketamine gargle.
- Tooth Decay.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, licorice might be able to reduce tooth decay. This is by combating the bacteria which causes tooth decay.
(This would be, of course, mostly when consumed as an extract. This definitely doesn’t mean eating licorice candy is good for your teeth).
That said, the evidence for this is limited. It has only been demonstrated in a laboratory setting. It is yet to be proven in human trials.
Fennel is a vegetable which interestingly has a very strong licorice flavor. Its flavor is also close to that of anise. This is interesting as it is not related to either licorice or anise.
This means that there are a number of herbs, spices, vegetables, and plants which all have identical flavors. But they are not at all related to each other.
Overall, the differences between anise and licorice are very interesting. They have an almost identical flavor. But they are not even remotely related to one another.
The plants grow in different environments. And, while used for similar recipes and medicines. But they also have very different benefits.
So, when it comes to flavoring food, they can be used interchangeably. But, if you’re looking for specific health benefits, then it’s worth considering the differences.
Anise and licorice, despite being very different plants and bearing no relation to each other, have similar properties. These properties do differ slightly.
But both licorice and anise have similar health benefits. So, as anise is a lot rarer than licorice, there are some instances where you will be able to swap out anise for licorice.
One of these is in tea. Licorice tea has very similar properties to anise tea. In fact, it could be argued that licorice tea has even more benefits than anise.
Plus, it is more readily available. The choice, however, is of course down to personal preference. Some people would never be able to taste the difference between the two. (Especially those who do not like the flavor). But, some people can tell the minor differences. So ultimately it comes down to taste.