Aniseed myrtle (Syzygium anisatum)
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Syzygium anisatum (formerly Backhousia anisata and Anetholea anisata), anise myrtle, aniseed myrtle, or ringwood is an Australian rainforest tree with an aromatic leaf that has a similar essential oil profile to true aniseed. The leaf is used as a bushfood spice and distilled for the essential oil.
The anise myrtle tree has a dense crown and grows up to 45 metres. The leaves are 6-12 cm long with prominently wavey margins and aniseed aroma. Flowers are white and sweetly scented, borne in panicles. The fruit are dry papery capsules 5 mm long.
Anise myrtle’s natural distribution in the wild is restricted to the Nambucca and Bellinger Valleys in the subtropics of Eastern Australia. Anise myrtle has also been commercially cultivated in plantations since the mid 1990’s to meet a boutique demand for spice and essential oil.
Research indicates that anise myrtle oil has antimicrobial activity, including on the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans.
The essential oil of anise myrtle contains anethole and methyl chavicol, which impart aniseed and licorice flavours respectively. The high anethole chemotype is generally considered more desirable for flavouring and can be propagated from cutting to provide consistent essential oil quality. However, it is essential to screen for the presence of cis-anethole, as against trans-anethole, since the cis form is regarded as carcinogenic while trans-anethole is GRAS (generally regarded as safe).
Floyd, A.G., Rainforest Trees of Mainland South-eastern Australia, ISBN 0-909605-57-2.