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Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)

Plant family

Apiaceae (parsley family)

Botanical synonyms

Scandix odorata


The plant is of Western European origin. It is a common garden plant in parts of Western Europe, mainly Scandinavia.

Used plant part

Leaves, mostly used fresh. The unripe fruits are a good substitute of anis.

Sensoric quality

Strong fragrance, reminiscent to licorice or anis, sweet taste (particularly, the stem). Both fragrance and taste are strongest in the unripe seeds. See also licorice for sweet spices.

Main constituents

Cicely leaves contain an essential oil (0.05%), which is rich in the phenylpropanoids anethole (85%) and methyl chavicol.

Cicely (plants with flowers and unripe fruits)


Cicely has only small importance in today's cooking. Since it is tolerant to cold, it is a useful herb for the inhabitants of Scandinavia for it provides fresh fragrant leaves nearly all over the year.

Because of the sweet fragrance, cicely fruits are a good substitute for anis, fennel or even licorice; the leaves may be used instead of chervil, although it will probably take some time to get used to their much more dominant aroma.

In Scandinavia, cicely is common to flavour stewed fruits. Cicely fruits and stalks may, furthermore, help to save sugar because of their naturally sweet taste.

Source :

European Masters Degree in Food Studies - an Educational Journey

Master in Food Safety Law is an initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands