Star anise is the fruit of a tree called Illicium verum which you can grow if you have enough space and live in a tropical climate. This spice is quite versatile and it is used in many Hindu, Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. It is also used in beverages, desserts and general dishes. However, the health benefits of star anise are quite numerous as it is antibacterial, anti fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Do not confuse star anise with anise because they are completely different plants and they are not related, although they have similar licorice taste. Both star anise and anise have medical benefits and culinary uses.
Star Anise Uses
This fruit does not have much nutritional content since it has no fat, calories, proteins, carbohydrates or sodium. However, the plant compounds found in star anise are wonderful for your health. This includes linalool, quercetin, flavonoids, polyphenols, anethole, gallic acid and shikimic acid. Star anise also has vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and vitamin C. As well as calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and zinc.
Health benefits of star anise have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Practitioners used it to treat all sorts of infections, digestive problems, acne, colds and coughs. Steep start anise in water to make a tea to treat all of these conditions.
This spice came to Europe in 1578, when British sailor Tomas Cavendish brought the fruits from Philippines. Which were used to enhance the favors of fruit preserves, puddings and syrups. They also used them to produce many liquors. This fruit has been accepted into Western medicine more recently, but still more studies need to be done.
You can incorporate star anise into your meals. This spice can be used whole or as a powder. It goes well with clove, cardamom, cinnamon and coriander. Star anise is part of the chines “5 spice” and the Indian “Garam Masala” blends. Many Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese recipes include it. Since it is sweet (sweeter than sugar) this spice is also added to desserts and beverages including coffee.
Health Benefits of Star Anise
Antifungal health benefits of anise are due to the flavonoid anethole (also found in fennel and anise) which also gives it its unique flavor. Terpene linalool may suppress infectious fungi formations on human cell walls according to this study. Apply star anise essential oil topically to treat skin infections.
Research has found that star anise essential oil is a powerful anti fungal, that may prevent fungal growth on plants. Star anise could possible be used as a natural preservative for fruits and vegetables just like tarragon. As consumers become more educated, they are demanding natural substances in their food.
A study found that health benefits of star anise include antibacterial properties when tested against more than 50 drug resistant bacteria. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research since, which is a shame since the author suggest this herb could be included in antibiotic medicines.
Test tube studies also showed that the bioactive compounds found in star anise could treat urinary track infections caused by bacteria. Health benefits of star anise could also be used to reduce the growth of E. coli but its not as effective as antibiotics.
Antiviral (Fights the Flu)
Star anise is a component in Tamiflu, an antiviral drug for influenza A and B. A molecule called shikimic acid taken from star anise is what gives this fruit its antiviral abilities. Consuming star anise in food or drinking it in tea can help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of getting the flu. Test-tube studies show that the essential oil found in star anise may treat other viral infections such as herpes type 1.
A study done on mice showed anti-inflammatory properties, which is one of the health benefits of star anise. This study focused on inflammation in the mouth and intestines.
Antioxidants protect you against harmful free radicals and oxidative stress, which cause chronic diseases. Health benefits of star anise include high antioxidants content, which help fight (and prevent) cancer cells and reduce tumors. Star anise has 13 to of the 25 active compounds that act as scavengers finding free radicals.
Natural remedies are used to help new mothers who need assistance producing milk, especially those that have delivered by cesarean. Health benefits of star anise include a compound called anethole which is similar to dopamine, that inhibits prolactin release and milk production. So this compound in star anise attaches to the dopamine receptors, blocking them from attaching, which results in higher prolactin levels and more milk production. Western lactation supplements usually include anise, fennel or fenugreek which contain similar active compounds to star anise.
Star anise has estrogenic properties that can help women going through menopause since they balance their hormones naturally. This fruit can help reduce hot flashes and prevent osteoporosis.
Antifungal properties of star anise can help treat candida colonies which cause yeast infections. This fruit inhibits the excess growth of colonies so fungal organisms cannot multiply.
Stress and anxiety are responsible for insomnia for many healthy people. Worrying causes a rise in adrenaline, which stimulates and stops sleep. Health benefits of star anise can regulate levels of these hormones and neurotransmitters, acting as a mild sedative. Drink a cup of star anise tea nightly when needed.
Anethole works as an insecticide in and out of the body. This is quite unique as most repellents need application to work. Buy a repellent that contains star anise or dilute essential oil in a carrier oil to apply on the skin. Regular consumption of star anise can keep you from getting bitten, which is especially beneficial to those who live in the tropics. Star anise essential oils can be used as natural pesticides in crops.
Health benefits of star anise include the prevention of atherosclerosis. This is due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Atherosclerosis forms when fatty materials accumulate in the walls of arteries and prevent the passage of blood. Thus affecting the body’s ability to pump blood, causing blood pressure to rise. This condition, if left untreated, can cause strokes or heart attacks.
Polyphenols found in star anise also help promote good circulation, manage blood pressure and keep blood vessels healthy. Calcium and potassium found in star anise help with the overall cardiovascular system.
Star anise can help lower blood sugar levels which cause diabetes. Too much blood sugar also causes problems with vision, nerves, as well as heart disease and stoke. A study done on yeast cells found that the polyphenols found in star anise show anti-diabetic properties.
Both Chinese traditional medicine and Ayurveda use this fruit to treat different types of stomach problems, such as pain, infections and constipation. Health benefits of star anise include a significant amount of fiber which stimulates the digestive tract and reduces constipation. It also lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. Anethole decreases abdominal pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and can reduce alcohol caused stomach ulcers. Star anise shares active compounds with other spices such as anise seed, cloves, cinnamon and fennel.
Skin and Oral Health
Health benefits of star anise include its capacity of reducing free radicals which damage skin cells and cause signs of early aging. This fruit is rich in vitamin A and C which are strong antioxidants. Vitamin A replenishes damaged skin cells, reducing the appearance of stretch marks or scars. While vitamin C is an important part of collagen production.
Using star anise (normal anise also has this benefit) in mouthwash or toothpaste significantly decreases the number of bacteria found in the mouth. This is because star anise is a powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and has astringent properties.
Bacteria and inflammations cause skin conditions like acne. Health benefits of star anise can also help improve skin texture and shrink pores since it is a botanical astringent.
Precautions of Star Anise
Star anise is generally considered safe for most people, however it may cause allergic reactions. Anethole, a main component in star anise, mimics estrogen which may produce hormonal imbalances. It also increases prolactin which can be a problem for women with high prolactin levels. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be cautious about using the health benefits of star anise.
Chinese star anise is what people consume, but it looks just like the Japanese star anise which is toxic. Do not pick them in the wild as you may be picking the wrong specie. There is no problem with this if you buy your spices from reputable sources. Do not give star anise to children and infants if you are not certain that it is the Chinese variety.