(ἄνηθον, anethum) occurs in Mt 23:23, "Woe unto you — for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin." By the Greek and Roman writers it was employed to designate a plant used both medicinally and as an article of diet (Pliny, 19:61; 20:74; Apicius, 6:5, 9). The Arabian translators of the Greek medical authors give as its synonyme shabit, the name applied in Eastern countries to an umbelliferous plant with flattened fruit commonly called "seed," which is surrounded with a dilated margin. In Europe the word has always been used to denote a similar plant, which is familiarly known by the name of dill. Hence there is no doubt that, in the above passage, instead of "anise," ἄνηθον should have been translated "dill;" and it is said to be rendered by a synonymous word in every version except our own.
The common dill, or Anethum graveolens, is an annual plant, growing wild among the corn in Spain and Portugal; and on the coast of Italy, in Egypt, and about Astrachan. It resembles fennel, but is smaller, has more glaucous leaves, and a less pleasant smell: the fruit or seeds, which are finely divided by capillary segments, are elliptical, broader, flatter, and surrounded with a membraneous disk. They have a warm and aromatic taste, owing to the presence of a pale yellow volatile oil, which itself has a hot taste and a peculiar penetrating odor. The error in translation pointed out above is not of very great consequence, as loth the anise and the dill are umbelliferous plants, which are found cultivated in the south of Europe. The seeds of both are employed as condiments and carminatives, and have been so from very early times; but the anethum is more especially a genus of Eastern cultivation, since either the dill or another species is reared in all the countries from Syria to India, and known by the name shabit; while the anise, though known, appears to be so only by its Greek name ἄνισον. In the Talmudical tract Masseroth (of Tithes), 4:5, we read, "The seed, the leaves, and the stem of dill (שָׁבָת, shabath') are, according to Rabbi Eliezer, subject to tithe" (comp. Gemara, Aboda Sara, 1, 2), which indicates that the herb was eaten, as is indeed the case with the Eastern species in the present day; and, therefore, to those acquainted with the cultivated plants of Eastern countries, the dill will appear more appropriate than anise in the above passage (see Celsii Hierobot. 1, 494 sq.). SEE DILL.
The proper anise (Gr. ἄνισον) is the Pimnpinella anisum of Linnaeus, an Eastern annual umbelliferous plant, the seeds of which are principally employed in the manufacture of cordials or liqueurs, and as a remedy against flatulence. Indeed all these kinds of plants, like the common fennel, possess a warming medicinal property. SEE AROMATICS.
There is another plant very dissimilar in external character to the two named above, the leaves and capsules of which are powerfully carminative. This is the "star anise," or aniseed-tree (illicium anisatum), which belongs to the natural order Magnoliacaes. In China this is frequently used for seasoning dishes, etc.; but the species of this genus are not natives of the Bible lands, and must not be confused with the umbelliferous plants noticed in this article. SEE BOTANY.