GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A biennial or short-lived perennial herb up to 70 cms high with crinkly bright green foliage, small greenish-yellow flowers and producing small brown seeds.
DISTRIBUTION: Native to the Mediterranean region, especially Greece. It is cultivated extensively, mainly in California, Germany, France, Holland, Hungary and Egypt.
HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: It is used extensively as a culinary herb, both fresh and dried. It is a very nutritious plant, high in vitamins A and C; also used to freshen the breath. The herb and seed are used medicinally, principally for kidney and bladder problems, but it has also been employed for menstrual difficulties, digestive complaints and for arthritis, rheumatism, rickets and sciatica. It is said to stimulate hair growth, and help eliminate head lice.
ACTIONS: Antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, depurative, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypotensive, laxative, stimulant (mild), stomachic, tonic (uterine).
EXTRACTIONS: Essential oil by steam distillation from the seed.
CHARACTERISTICS: A yellow, amber or brownish liquid with a warm woody-spicy herbaceous odour.
PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Mainly apiol and myristicin, tetramethoxyally-benzene, pinene and voliatil fatty acids.
SAFETY DATA: It is moderately toxic and irritant-myristicin has been shown to have toxic properties, and apiol has been shown to have irritant properties; otherwise non-sensitising. Use in moderation. Avoid during pregnancy.
AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: Circulation, muscles and joints: Accumulation of toxins, arthritis, broken blood vessels, cellulitis, rheumatism, sciatica. Digestive system: Colic, flatulence, indigstion, haemorrhoids. Genito-urinary system: Amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, to aid labour, cystitis, urinary infection.
OTHER USES: Used in some carminatve and digestive remedies, such as ‘gripe waters’. The seed oil is used in soaps, detergents, colognes, cosmetics and perfumes, especially men’s fragrances. It is used extensively in many types of food flavourings, especially meats, pickles and sauces, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.