References to anise date back to the sixth century BC when Pythagoras mistakenly believed that simply holding the seeds in the hand could prevent epileptic seizures. The Romans cultivated anise for its fragrance, flavour and medicinal properties. A popular Roman spice cake included anise, bay leaves and cumin. It was served after heavy meals, especially wedding feasts, and performed the dual roles of both a dessert and a digestive aid. Anise today is still widely used for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal qualities.
The spice has traditionally been used in protection and meditation incenses. It is supposed to ward off evil and sleeping on a pillow containing aniseeds will prevent nightmares. A sprig of anise hung on the bedpost will reputedly revive departed youth.