This was recently recommended to me by a colleague after I complained about insomnia.

From WebMD:

Other uses include treatment of seizures, nicotine dependence, trouble sleeping (insomnia), asthma, and constipation.

Is there any validity to the claim that aniseed (anise) helps you sleep?

3 Answers 3


Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) has a long history of being used for a wide range of ailments, including insomnia. Wikipedia suggests it goes back at least to Pliny The Elder (i.e. the 1st Century AD ), but others (e.g. Jodral, below) cite Hippocrates in the Fifth Century BC.

The book *Illicium, Pimpinella and Foeniculum by Manuel Mirò Jodral (PDF) contains a detailed history of the evidence for its use.

There is evidence from 1889 that it induces sleep and muscular relaxation in humans. In 1973, this was narrowed down to just one component, on rabbits:

At higher doses of the trans-isomer, only slow and wide waves appeared, characteristic of a state of drowsiness; sleeping time was doubled with respect to controls at doses ranging from 300 to 700 mg/kg body weight.

However, the book also explains many of the side-effects and risks, including:

  • Seizures in humans.
  • Catatonic states and death in mice.
  • Confusion with other toxic species with similar names (e.g. star anise).

This does not appear to be a suitable herb to be experimenting with. Your doctor has more carefully controlled doses of more carefully studied and more effective sleep-inducing medicine.



It is possible that Aniseed could help you sleep due to the active ingredient anethole having the following effect:

The pharmacologic effects of trans-anethole most often noted are reduction in motor activity, lowering of body temperature and hypnotic, analgesic, and anticonvulsant effects. By either the i.p. or oral route, administration of more than 10% of LD50 by that route appears necessary for significant effects. (Boissier et al., 1961; Seto, 1969; Gruebner, 1972; Le Bourhis & Soene, 1973).


Sadly I was unable to find the Human LD50 value for anethole, but it is about 2g/kg for rats. (Ref)

According to Haz-map it can cause coma in high dosis:

A mutagen and tumorigen; Causes hepatitis, somnolence, and coma in high-dose feeding studies of rats; [RTECS] Fennel oil is toxic by ingestion--may cause vomiting, seizures, and pulmonary edema; [HSDB] It causes intolerance to anethole-containing toothpaste; Food handlers may develop contact dermatitis to anethole; [Kanerva, p. 1129] May cause irritation; [MSDSonline]


It can be used to help you sleep BUT I have failed to find any medicine to help you sleep where anethole is an ingredient which may be a bad indication.

There is also no dosage recommendation anywhere, so to summarise: It works but you probably shouldn't use it for insomnia. It is however safe as a food additive.

  • 1
    Whoa! 10% of LD50 to get significant effects? Consumed without medical supervision, while the patient is tired? That's a recipe for disaster!
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 2, 2012 at 15:59
  • All we need to know now is whether the anethole is conserved when the aniseed gets turned into Pastis :)
    – Benjol
    Jul 3, 2012 at 11:25

I found very little literature on this subject. The only thing that popped up was a US patent:

Patent US2008/0039526 : Composition for promoting sleep http://www.google.ca/patents?hl=fr&lr=&vid=USPATAPP11843913&id=9runAAAAEBAJ&oi=fnd&dq=anise+sleep+disorder&printsec=abstract#v=onepage&q=anise%20sleep%20disorder&f=false

The herbs are not restricted in particular, and anise, carrot seed, clove, coriander, cypress, cinnamon, juniper, ginger, sweet orange, pine needles, basil, patchouli, bitter orange, fennel, black pepper, bay, peppermint, bergamot, mandarin, myrrh, lemon grass, rosemary, grapefruit, vanilla, hyssop, eucalyptus, lime, lemon, ylang-ylang, cardamom, clary sage, jasmine, geranium, Bulgarian rose, rose, olibanum, chamomile, geranium, sandalwood, neroli, verbena, petitgrain, vetiver, majorum, melissa, rosewood, etc., can be cited as examples. Among these, peppermint is preferable.

This patent obviously describe a compound of products that can be used to promote sleep. Note that the word promote itself give a good clue to answer your question. Moreover, the inventors say that amount a considerable list, peppermint is preferable.

In conclusion, I cannot draw the conclusion that anise cannot treat effectively the insomnia. However, from the lack of valid source and the patent I found allow me to say that it is probably not highly effective.

  • 2
    Patents aren't evidence of efficacy. The Patent Office doesn't check that your invention works, merely that it is apparently innovative, non-obvious, etc.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29, 2012 at 3:25
  • @Oddthinking - You are right, but that is the most serious source of information I found. I will look again today to improve the answer.
    – Zonata
    Jun 29, 2012 at 11:59
  • A patent filing would make for a notable claim on this site, I imagine, but not for a good answer.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 1, 2012 at 14:46
  • anise and aniseed are very rarely studied or mentioned. Digging deeper to anethole (one of the active ingredients) provides the answers. This is an interesting addition, but unfortunately not an answer
    – Tjaart
    Jul 2, 2012 at 15:51

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