Star anise is named after its distinctive star-shaped appearance. The star-shaped fruit with eight-pointed pods grows on the small evergreen tree named Illicium verum. Thanks to its rich flavour and unique taste, it is an unmissable spice in Asian cuisine.
But the fruit also features as a star in traditional Chinese medicine. Packing a blend of several beneficial compounds, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, the fruit helps boost the immune system, improve digestion, and provide relief from respiratory ailments. Read through to know about the amazing star anise health benefits and the delightful uses of the star anise spice.
Star Anise Composition
The star anise benefits are typically linked to its unique composition. The spice is exceptionally rich in several health-promoting compounds. These are:
- Anethole – Anethole confers a sweet, liquorice-like flavour of star anise. The compound also has high anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
- Shikimic Acid – Shikimic Acid is generally used in the manufacturing of antiviral drugs. It fights off viral infections and helps boost the immune system.
- Quercetin – It is a powerful flavonoid with high antioxidant properties. It helps reduce inflammation and protects against chronic diseases.
- Linalool – These are volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons present in star anise. The compounds are responsible for the typical floral scent of star anise. It has a sedative effect and helps reduce anxiety.
- Cineole – These are terpenes with a spicy aroma. They possess high antimicrobial properties which help improve respiratory health.
- Limonene – These are terpenes with a citrusy scent. They possess both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Along with these powerful bioactive compounds, star anise also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron that manifold its health benefits.
Star Anise Health Benefits
Star anise health benefits are widely pronounced in traditional Chinese medicine. However, in the recent past, the star anise benefits have also been accepted into some Western medicine practices. Here are some of the potential health benefits linked with the use of star anise:
1. Improves Respiratory Health
Star anise contains compounds that enhance respiratory health. The presence of Cineole allows for easy breakdown of mucus, making it easier to expel. It has compounds that soothe a cough, alleviate congestion, and help reduce airway inflammation that triggers asthma and bronchitis.
2. Better Digestive Health
Star anise is known for its antispasmodic properties which provide relief from digestive issues like bloating, gas, and stomach cramps. It may also help promote healthy digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and promoting gut motility.
3. Strengthens Immune System
Compounds in star anise hold the potential to strengthen the immune system. Its high antioxidant properties help protect against free radical damage. It also contains shikimic acid which possesses high antiviral properties.
4. Better Menstrual Health
Regular use of star anise may improve menstrual health by reducing inflammation and alleviating menstrual pain and cramps. The spice helps regulate hormone levels, promotes relaxation, and improves blood flow.
5. Improves Neurological Health
High amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in star anise directly improve neurological health. These compounds cut down inflammation, protecting against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They also help slow down the progression of the disease.
6. Oral Health Benefits
The use of star anise also improves oral health. High amounts of antibacterial compounds fight against harmful bacteria in the mouth that cause tooth decay and gum disease. This also helps eliminate bad breath, hence can be used as a breath freshener and it reduces toothaches.
7. Assists in Lactation
New mothers who experience low milk production can benefit from star anise spice. The spice is known for its galactagogue properties that stimulate the production of prolactin, a hormone essential for milk production.
8. Improves Sleep Disorders
Star anise spice contains Linalool, a compound known for its sedative effect which reduces anxiety and leads to better sleep. Its promising relaxant properties help improve sleep disorders.
9. Reduce Menopausal Symptoms
Star anise provides phytoestrogens, compounds that mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body. This helps maintain hormonal balance. The compounds in star anise exhibit high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which reduce inflammation and oxidative stress – factors that worsen menopausal symptoms.
Side Effects of Star Anise
Star anise is generally safe to consume. When used in cuisines, it does not trigger any major side effects. However, when used purely as a herbal supplement, it can cause side effects which are majorly linked to its excessive consumption. These are:
- Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
- Allergic reactions like itching, hives, or swelling of the face, tongue, or throat.
- Neurological problems like seizures, hallucinations, and confusion.
- Interfere with anticoagulants and affect blood clotting.
- Can stimulate uterine contractions in pregnant women
Precautions While Using Star Anise
Although star anise is generally safe to use, a few precautions are to be taken when consuming it. These include:
- Talk to your doctor before consuming star anise for possible drug interaction.
- Always use star anise in moderation.
- Avoid using star anise spice during pregnancy.
- Carefully administer star anise to infants and young children and watch out for any allergic reactions.
- Purchase star anise from a reputable source to ensure quality and safety.
How to Use Star Anise?
To enjoy the several star anise health benefits, use it in any of the following ways:
- Cooking: Star anise is a common spice which adds flavour and aroma to dishes. It can be used in soups, stews, and curries.
- Tea: Enjoy the many benefits of star anise tea by steeping a star-shaped pod in hot water for a few minutes.
- Infused oil: Add crushed star anise pods to a glass jar with neutral oil. Let it stay in the sunlight for a few days. Add infused oil to add flavour to salad dressings or marinades.
- Potpourri: Dried star anise when added to potpourri mixtures add fragrance to a room.
Culinary Delights With Star Anise
Star anise is much loved for its flavour and aroma. Here are a few time-tested recipes using star anise:
1. Chicken Biryani with Star Anise
Chicken biryani is a delicious Indian cuisine made from fluffy basmati rice and tender chicken flavoured with aromatic spices. Here’s the complete recipe for Chicken biryani:
- 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes
- ½ kg chicken cut into pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1-2 star anise pods
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2-3 green chillies finely chopped
- 1-inch ginger finely grated
- 2-3 cloves
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 2-3 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/4 cup blended yoghourt
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp ghee
- Chopped coriander leaves and fried onions for garnishing
- Heat ghee in a large pot over a medium-high flame. Slowly slide in all dry spices – star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds. Stir quickly and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add sliced onions. Cook until golden brown.
- Add finely chopped garlic, ginger, and green chillies and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add red chilli powder, turmeric powder, and salt to taste.
- Add the chicken. Cook until golden brown.
- Add blended yoghurt and mix well to coat the chicken evenly.
- Drain the soaked rice and slowly drop it into the pot. Add water to cover the rice by about 1 inch.
- Bring it to a boil on a high flame. Subsequently, lower the flame and cover the pot with a lid.
- Cook for about 20 minutes. Check if the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and fried onions.
- Serve hot.
2. Masala Chai with Star Anise
Adding star anise spice to the most popular beverage – hot tea, can spell magic in taste and health benefits. Here’s how to prepare your cup of masala chai with star anise:
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- ½-inch piece of freshly grated ginger
- 2-3 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 1-2 star anise pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cloves
- 2-3 black peppercorns
- 2 black tea bags
- Sugar to taste
- Take water in a saucepan. Drop in all the dry spices – ginger, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and black peppercorns.
- Bring to a boil on high flame. Reduce the heat to low and let the spices simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Drop the tea bags and allow them to steep for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the milk and sugar, to taste.
- Strain the mixture into tea cups and serve hot.
Star anise is a powerful spice widely acknowledged for its rich taste and earthy aroma. Thanks to its rich plant compounds including antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols, it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. Star anise health benefits include better respiratory health, a strong immune system, and reduced menstrual symptoms. The high antibacterial properties aid in digestion and promote oral health.
However, excessive use of star anise spice can cause side effects. It is therefore important to use star anise in moderation and be aware of its potential side effects and possible drug interactions. It is always advisable to consult a healthcare provider before adding star anise to your diet or supplement regimen.