What is star anise?
Whenever you enter your kitchen and open your spice box, the most beautiful spice that catches your attention is Chinese Star Anise. This spice can enhance all five human senses. Its aromatic fragrance, unique liquorice taste, flower-shaped structure, dark reddish brown colour, and name that fills music to your ears make it the king of spices. The fruit of the Illicium verum plant, a native evergreen shrub to Southwest China, is known as star anise. The eight points of the star-shaped star anise pod, from which it gets its name, normally contain one pea-sized seed a piece.1
The star-shaped fruit has been around for three thousand years, and it thrives in the climate and soil of southern China and Southeast Asia. Unaware that they came from southern China, British sailor Thomas Cavendish carried star-shaped fruits from the Philippines to Europe in 1578. Its liquorice flavour was added to fruit preserves, syrups, and puddings. Moreover, Europeans harnessed the fragrant qualities of star anise to create a range of alcoholic beverages, such as Greek Ouzo, Italian Galliano, French Pernod and Pastis, and Swiss Absinthe.
The use of star anise became more and more widespread throughout time. Some of the nations where this spice established long-lasting roots in their cuisines include India and Thailand. Nowadays, China is responsible for 80–90% of global star anise production. Vietnam, India, Mexico, and other nations are also producers of this spice. 2
Sometimes, people confuse star anise and anise seed because of their similar flavours and names. Aniseed, which originates from the parsley family, and star anise, which is from the magnolia family, are not related to each other as plants. Star anise seeds are larger and have a deep reddish-brown colour, whereas anise seeds are smaller and resemble fennel seeds more. The seeds also have different appearances.
Anise pods are harvested before they ripen and dried in the sun until they are a deep rusty brown colour. They should be kept in storage with your other dry spices. It must be kept in an airtight container and without contact with sunlight and high temperatures. Anethol, the oil that gives anise seeds their liquorice-like flavour, is responsible for the distinctive flavour. 1
Star anise, which is naturally related to liquorice, fennel seed, clove, and anise seed, has a very strong, distinctive flavour that is warm, sweet, and spicy. It is frequently used in savoury meals; it should only be used in moderate amounts and goes well with citrus, onions, beef, chicken, and beef, as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
It's also critical to distinguish star anise from the highly toxic Japanese star anise, Illicium anistatum, which should not be consumed. It's frequently burned as incense.3
Health benefits of star anise
Let's explore the benefits of anise below.
Active substances with a sweet aroma and flavour profiles also have a variety of therapeutic properties. In current science, star anise research and applications have expanded from the traditional Chinese and Ayurveda medicines, identifying numerous advantages, including:
Many illnesses, including ear infections, urinary tract infections, and more, can be brought on by pathogenic bacteria. Strong antibacterial activities of star anise have been demonstrated, and they may be useful in warding off these dangerous bacterial types.1 A test-tube study showed that star anise extract could help inhibit the growth of E. coli, a kind of bacteria that can cause a wide range of diseases and symptoms, including diarrhoea and pneumonia.4
A source of antioxidants
Antioxidants are chemicals that can guard the body against the development of dangerous free radicals. Consuming sufficient antioxidants can help fight oxidative stress, which can stop the evolution of chronic diseases.1 This can help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, boost skin elasticity, maintain a youthful, vibrant appearance for your skin, and conceal previous scars and imperfections.4
Protects against fungal infections
Strong antifungal qualities in star anise can be used to treat common yeast infections and fungal infections such as Candida albicans, ringworm, and athlete's foot.5
Heart health controls blood pressure and circulation
Star anise is used in traditional Chinese and Ayurveda medicine to increase blood circulation and reduce blood pressure. The phytonutrients in star anise, which are frequently steeped as a tea and have strong anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic characteristics, are ingested through a warm beverage, improving heart health and circulation throughout the body.6
Innate flu fighter
Shikimic acid, an ingredient in antiviral medications, is primarily obtained naturally from star anise. Together, Shikimic acid and the antioxidant-rich substance Quercetin strengthen the immune system's ability to fend against viral diseases like influenza.7
Controls blood sugar
Anethol, the star anise's active component, has been shown in several studies to help manage blood sugar levels when used in conjunction with a healthy diet. Research also shows that the insulin-producing cells, i.e. beta-pancreatic cells, in the pancreas perform better in the presence of anethole.8,9
After meals, star anise is frequently consumed to aid with good digestion. It is mostly used to treat and relieve symptoms, including gas, indigestion, cramping in the stomach, bloating, and constipation.10
Reduces menopause symptoms
Due to its strong estrogenic content, star anise is also fantastic for females assigned at birth who are approaching or going through menopause. Their progesterone levels increase, and their estrogen levels decrease throughout menopause. Many of the adverse effects and symptoms of menopause can be alleviated by eating foods high in beneficial estrogen, such as star anise.11
An anti cancer drug
Tanise-like arabinose, xylose, and glucose are monosaccharides that have excellent effects on decreasing tumour growth and volume, reducing oxidative stress, and boosting the beneficial enzyme. This might be crucial in determining its anti-carcinogenic ability.1,12
Relieves discomfort and inflammation
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) are two cytokines that contribute to inflammation; studies have shown that star anise inhibits their production. As a result, it offers relief from:13
Several natural herbs and spices, including star anise, have the remarkable capacity to change the quantities of specific compounds depending on the environment.
The antioxidant levels and magnesium content of star anise have been linked to studies' findings that spice has some sedative qualities. This spice can help patients with insomnia and irregular sleep patterns by stimulating the release of certain neurotransmitters that promote relaxation and sleep.14
Treatment for respiratory illnesses
Cough, sore throat, and bronchitis are just a few of the respiratory diseases Star Anise is a great and effective treatment for. A cup of anise tea may be capable of helping reduce inflammation and eliminate the underlying infection.15
Together with a substantial amount of iron, star anise has a high concentration of antioxidants such as linalool, quercetin, thymol, terpineol, caffeic acid, anethole, kaemferol, and terpinol. Little levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C are also present in star anise. Shikimic acid, lipids, and dietary fibre are some additional active ingredients and organic acids that give Star anise additional health advantages. One tablespoon of entire star anise fruit contains only 23 calories, making it one of the lowest-calorie fruits around.
- Linalool: A chemical with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Vitamin C: In addition to being good for your skin, vitamin C strengthens your immune system and protects you against bacterial infections.
- Anethole enzyme: Helps in overcoming cancer, high blood pressure, and hypertension while protecting the health of the nervous system.16
Uses of star anise
Uses for star anise include whole spices, tea, essential oils, and seeds.
Indian and Chinese cuisines both frequently employ star anise in their preparation. The star-shaped spice is known as "chakra phool" in India. It is a key ingredient in "garam masala" and is utilised as a nutritional supplement in the food sector. Incredibly adaptable and flavorful, It's one of the primary ingredients in five-spice powder, it imparts the distinctive flavour of Vietnamese pho, and it's even a hidden ingredient in some baked goods and desserts.17
It can be used whole or ground to intensify the flavour and scent of soup, stew, coffee, or broth. Moreover, its sweet undertones can enhance the flavour of sweets and desserts or even balance out savoury dishes. Products including carrot and tomato powder, dried beet, garlic and cabbage flakes include star anise. Moreover, it is a flavouring ingredient in confections.
Furthermore, star anise oil is frequently used as a natural preservative and to soothe digestive problems.18
Side effects and other concerns
The usage of star anise as a food flavouring is LIKELY SAFE. Without more information, it is impossible to determine whether using it as medicine is safe. When applied to the skin, some substances might result in blisters, scaling, and other skin issues like oedema. The well-known spice known as Chinese star anise (Illicium verum Hook f.) is used in many different cultures. It is used widely as a colic therapy for infants. Yet, it has been proven that the Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum L) is harmful to the gastrointestinal and nervous systems.
- Even today, as science and technology evolve and discoveries are made, nature continues to provide humanity with a wide range of advantages. Humans are benefiting from traditional ayurvedic and Chinese remedies that rely on plants like star anise.
- Maintaining traditional knowledge of Chinese and other Asian medical practices is essential for both the preservation of traditional Chinese medicine as a significant cultural resource and the use of organic products to lead sustainable lives.
- As the main constituents, anisaldehyde, anethol, estragole, eugenol, pseudisoeugenol, methyl chavicol, umbelliferon, estrols, terpene hydrocarbons, and polyacetylenes are found in anise seed oil. Both pharmacological and clinical effects of plant oil exist.
- The same compounds that give star anise its distinct flavour also provide a wide range of health advantages. Tamiflu is an antiviral drug using shikimic acid as its primary active component. The spice is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and the essential oils contain potent polyphenols, including anethole, linalool, estragole, pipene, and limonene, which are potent antioxidants.
- Together, these phytonutrients promote organ and bone health, balance hormones and neurotransmitters, strengthen the immune system, combat bacteria, viruses, and fungi, reduce oxidative stress, and treat a range of ailments and disorders.22
- Star anise is the king of spices, and that is not an understatement. The flavours of star anise are potent. It is simultaneously spicy, sweet, and earthy. Adding it to hot drinks, broths, and stews will be beneficial to our health.
With the large variety of benefits it has to offer, adding it to our routine can do wonders. As quoted by Hippocrates, " Nature itself is the best physician". Thus, we should appreciate this unique star-shaped fruit capsule that enriches our life with health advantages.
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