Common Scents: Anise

Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils, and how they became popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting.


Like just about every other scent, anise is one of those smells that you either love or desperately hate. If you’re not familiar with anise, think licorice; although the plant is not directly related to licorice, it has a very similar taste and smell.

Anise has many uses throughout history and extends into the modern day. From its use in medicine and food to an inventive use in train building, anise has been valued by an abundance of professionals throughout time.

When you think about anise, you are likely picturing the star shaped fruit and  you’re not technically wrong. True anise actually belongs to the same family as parsley, while star anise belongs to the magnolia family. The common compound that unites them is anethole, which is responsible for that yummy (or yucky) licorice flavor we are all familiar with.

Anise’s Roots 

Anise or pimpinella anisum, is a white-flowered plant that is native to Egypt as well as Greece. True anise produces small seeds, and these are used to produce the licorice flavor. Egyptians are said to have used anise as early as 1500 B.C., and was also mentioned by famous Greek physicians Dioscorides and Pliny. In fact, it was so valued that it was also used as currency!

Star anise is native to the warmer areas of south China as well as Indochina. Used commonly in Asian cuisine, it is one of the most important ingredients in the popular Chinese 5-Spice.


Anise is widely used as a flavoring and can be found in many liquors (including the infamous absinthe), baked goods, tea, black jelly beans, and many more commonly consumed items. Although true anise and star anise are not the same spice by any means, they can be used interchangeably-just make sure to account for the potency of star anise in comparison.

Besides being used as a flavoring, anise has also been used throughout history for medicinal purposes. A few of the ailments said to be eased by anise include:


-bug repellent

-stomach ache


-menstrual cramps 

Anise was also used for/as an:


-pest bait

-lure for fish

-lure for dogs 

Remember: this information is being provided strictly for educational purposes. The FDA has not approved anise or star anise for medical use. The HSCG does not give medical advice and does not advise using or advertising anise or star anise for medicinal purposes.

Steam locomotive builders in Britain also used aniseed oil in bearings so that the smell would alert the engineer in the case of overheating.

Whew! There are lots of different historical uses for this common oil; but how is it made?


Anise essential oil can be produced using either supercritical carbon dioxide extraction methods or steam distillation. The oil is obtained from the fruit of the plant, and the oil is primarily produced in Europe and China.

But, should you choose true oil of anise, or star anise essential oil? That’s a matter of preference. Currently star anise is more widely produced and may cost marginally less then oil of anise (also called aniseed oil).

Final Thoughts 

Love it or hate it, the historical uses and benefits of anise give it an interesting past. There are those who even believed anise had the power to repel the “evil eye”-while we aren’t sure this is the case, anise and star anise can make a great addition to your product line. Try using it with floral or citrus scents to add a new depth to your favorite fragrances!

How-To: Foot Scrubs

While we all dream of having magic slippers that we can click together to bring us to our favorite beach destination, walking the beach in bare feet to exfoliate them is just not always an option! Luckily, making your own foot and hand scrub is simple, and there are many options for customization.

Different Types of Exfoliants 

Before you begin formulating your scrub, you’ll want to decide what you’d like the texture and sensation of the finished product to be. There are a few choices when it comes to choosing your exfoliant, but sugar and salt will likely be the most readily available (who doesn’t have one or both in their cupboard as we speak?).

Sugar granules are generally smaller and more fine than salt granules, which translates to a less abrasive final product. Sugar works well for lip scrubs or scrubs meant for sensitive areas or people with sensitive skin. You’ll find that brown sugar will be the softest, and white sugar will be a bit coarser.

Salt granules are larger and more abrasive, which makes them ideal for a more intensive scrub that is meant for callouses or very rough skin. Salt is commonly used in foot and hand scrubs to help soften the skin.

To fine tune the feel and results of your scrub, you’ll start out with a small amount of your exfoliant and work your way up; the less exfoliant you add, the less abrasive the scrub will be. More exfoliant equals a coarser scrub.

Oils and Additives 

When it comes to adding oils to your scrub, you’ve got many, many choices. Olive oil, coconut oil, honey, and avocado oil are all popular in a scrub meant to leave a replenished feel.

You can also choose to make an emulsified scrub vs. a standard scrub. An emulsified scrub can be described as a lotion and a scrub combined. Because of the addition of an emulsifier such as e-wax, an emulsified scrub does not separate and creates the opportunity for different textures and moisturizers.

Lastly, you will want to consider adding a preservative to your scrub. Many customers will use these products in the shower, and since there is a chance of water being introduced to the product, that means there is also a chance of bacterial growth. Adding a preservative will not only prolong your product’s shelf life, but also help to protect it against pesky microbes.  There are currently a few different preservatives at your disposal; be sure to check the manufacturer’s suggested usage to get the exact amount needed. 

Time to Scrub In! 

Below, you’ll find a very simple starting point for your formulation; this recipe is basic and easy to build upon. Starting out simple will help you to get an idea of how the ingredients come together, and what you’d like to change to make the product your own!

You’ll Need: 

1-2 c of sugar or salt, depending on your desired coarseness 

¼ c coconut oil 

¼ c avocado oil 

10-15 drops of fragrance oil (if desired) 

A medium sized mixing bowl 


Measuring cups 


A container to put your finished product in-this recipe will yield approximately 11 oz of product. 

  • Measure your ingredients and combine them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. If you are adding a preservative, you will add it at this step.
  • Stir the ingredients to combine evenly, making sure that there are no clumps or dry salt or sugar spots.
  • Test a bit of the scrub; if it seems to soft, you can adjust the coarseness by adding more sugar or salt.
  • Package and label your finished product!

You did it! This basic scrub is a great starting place for your own customized product that your customers will love! Adding a scrub to your product line helps to diversify your products without a lot of added, complicated labor, and they make a great add-on sale during any time of the year.  Play with texture, additives and scents to enhance your business and your customer’s experience!

Common Scents: Ylang Ylang

Welcome back to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a collection of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils, and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. This week, we’ll talk about ylang ylang!

 This month we are going to talk about everyone’s least favorite essential oil to pronounce: ylang ylang! Pronounced ee-lang ee-lang, this sweet oil is versatile and mysterious, with a heady, floral aroma.


Ylang ylang has been popular throughout history for its purported therapeutic and medicinal qualities. The first official documentation of its use as a medicine came early in the 20th century, when two French chemists working on research on the island of Reunion discovered the healing properties of ylang ylang oil. They reported that they believed it to be an effective treatement for malaria, as well as other digestive and intestinal complaints. The chemists also believed that ylang ylang oil had a calming effect on the heart during times of distress or anxiety. They were hardly the first to come to this conclusion though; in the Philippines, healers turned to ylang ylang oil for treatment for snake and insect bites, as well as commonplace injuries such as burns and cuts and cardiac complaints. The cardiac benefits of ylang ylang oil were also noted in Oriental medicine, where healers used it most commonly for calming the heart.


Ylang ylang oil is derived from the ylang-ylang (cananga odorate) tree, sometimes referred to as the Cananga tree. This tree can grow up to 60 feet tall! Ylang ylang oil is steam distilled from the fragrant flowers of the tree; these flowers do not bloom until at least the fifth year of the tree’s life. It takes approximately 45-50 pounds of flowers to make one pound of oil; special care must be taken in regards to the timing of the distillation to ensure the desired quality.


There are three different grades of ylang ylang oil; extra, first, second and third. Extra grade refers to oil that is taken within an hour of distillation, and is considered the most fragrant; this grade is used most frequently in the perfume industry. First is taken up to four hours after distillation begins, second after approximately seven hours, and third can be taken up to ten hours after distillation begins. Typically, first through third grades are used in soap and cosmetic manufacturing.

Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses 

Ylang ylang enjoys a reputation as a versatile healing oil. Let’s take a look at some of its medicinal and therapeutic uses throughout history:

Mental stimulant

Muscle spasm relief

Lowers blood pressure

Reverses insect and snake bites


Nerve and muscle relaxer 

Remember: the HSCG is providing this information for informational and entertainment purposes only. The FDA has not approved ylang ylang for medicinal use, and we are not providing this information as a recommendation for medicinal use.

Ylang Ylang in Modern Times 

Ylang ylang is a popular fragrance for soaps and cosmetics; its sweet, floral scent is appealing to a wide variety of audiences in an equally wide variety of products. Considered a base note, ylang ylang mixes well with grapefruit, vetiver, marjoram, sandalwood, bergamot, and many others.

Final Thoughts 

Ylang ylang has a rich history and makes a great addition to any citrusy or warm scents you already have in your products! Be creative with this versatile oil; your customer will love it.

Need a little more inspiration to blend your fragrances? Check out our How-To article called Fantastic Fragrances and How to Blend Them: