Have you ever used star anise in your sweet and salty dishes? The star anise that we use in cooking is the Chinese star anise, a botanical name Illicium verum, which is otherwise the fruit of an Asian tropical tree. There is also a Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, which you shouldn’t use for cooking and it’s toxic.
The Chinese star anise has a brown color, and shape like a star. In cooking, people use the entire spice, and for medicinal purposes, you can find it in a form of tea or essential oil.
Health Benefits Of Star Anise
This spice has antiviral properties because it effectively fights against several different types of viruses including herpes. Researchers have confirmed that star anise helps prevent further spread of the virus, and the Chinese have put it in a well-known anti-flu medicine, Tamiflu. The negative side is that the star anise does not act preventively but is fighting against the virus after the infection.
It contains anethole, which gives it a specific taste that resembles chicory. Studies have shown that anethole is very effective against certain types of bacteria. It can inhibit the growth and development of Escherichia coli in the body as well as Staphylococcus aureus. Escherichia-derived from infected food usually affects the digestive system causing diarrhea and vomiting, while Staphylococcus aureus found on food usually affects the skin.
Antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties
The same component anethole that successfully fights off bacteria has proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. An animal experiment has shown that the components of anethole work just as effectively as the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin. Anethole also has antioxidant properties and kills fungi.
- Moreover, you can use star anise as treatment of bronchitis, asthma, and cough as well as many digestive disorders such as flatulence, poor digestion, cramps, and nausea.
- Because of the beneficial anethole, which is 75-90 percent in this spice, it is recommended for breastfeeding mothers for better milk production because it has an estrogen effect.
- You can use star anise water on babies and children to treat clogged nose.
How To Use It
Star anise is commonly used in Chinese and the Vietnamese cuisine, but it found its way to western civilization. You can use it in soups, stews, and dishes that require long-term cooking. It is one of five spices that make up a popular Chinese blend.
You can add it to sweet dishes and drinks, especially compotes and mulled wine. It is perfectly compatible with cinnamon and vanilla.
As a replacement for star anise, you can also use anise seeds. But, you should double the amount because their aroma is much milder.
Note: Many years ago, a medical journal published that people often mixed Japanese and Chinese star anise. Japanese anise proved to be very toxic for babies, as otherwise this spice was used as a medicine against colic in traditional Asian medicine. Parents shouldn’t give star anise to their babies. Adults should also be cautious about consuming tea from this spice and should ensure that tea does not contain Japanese anise.
If you want to use star anise for medical purposes (tea or essential oil), you should consult your doctor.