Although there is some similarity in taste and aroma between licorice, anise and fennel, the latter two are not in the same family. Anise and fennel are related to each other, though. They are members of the carrot (Umbelliferae) family.
If you’ve ever looked at licorice, you’ll notice that there is red licorice and black licorice. Chances are good, the red is made with anise. Many brands of black licorice also use the milder herb, due to the many precautions, side effects and interactions licorice root can cause. Here is a little more information about them and how they are used in herbal remedies.
Anise: In cooking, this is used primarily for desserts. It has been used for a variety of reasons from the times of the Ancient Egyptians. It’s good for digestive and respiratory complaints. It can be used on children for these problems. Several skin care products also use anise as well.
Fennel: If you smell Italian seasonings, you may detect a faint odor of licorice. That would be the fennel. The leaves and seeds can be used as a seasoning, and the bulb is a favorite vegetable. As an herbal remedy, fennel is used in a similar manner as anise. While it can promote lactation, it is unwise to consume it if you are nursing. It is known to cause serious neurological problems in infants when the mother drinks fennel tea.
Licorice: While anise and fennel are biennials, licorice a perennial. The root and inner bark are the useful parts, and it has been used for thousands of years. It is a natural sweetener, so is sometimes included in herbal preparations to mask an unpleasant flavor. It coats whatever it touches, so it’s often used for sore throats, coughs, upset stomachs and ulcers.
Unfortunately, it has a lot of problems. It can raise blood pressure, so if you have high blood pressure, don’t use it or eat foods flavored with it. The sweetener can cause problems for diabetics, as well.
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement program. If you have special dietary needs, you may want to ask about these herbs for both food and as a healing home remedy. If your doctor is unfamiliar with them, ask to be referred to a nutritionist.