Star aniseThe spice star anise is the fruit of the tree with the Latin name Illicium Verum. The tree bears red or white flowers while the fruit it produces after the flowers has a reddish-brown color, and it has a 8 pointed star shape. Star anise has a aroma, as the name already suggests, like anise, but it also has the aroma of licorice. You can easily add star anise to a herbal tea for a refreshing taste. Star anise is often added as a whole to curries to relase its flavor and it is a ingredient of the Indian Garam masala spice mix. Star anise is also an ingredient of the Chineses five-spice powder, a spice mixture with star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves and Sichuan pepper. Besides these culinary uses star anise also has many medicinal properties.

The medicinal properties of star anise are used for a variety of ailments in traditional Chinese medicine. For example, star anise is used in the treatment of rheumatic ailments, but also in the treatment of colds and the flu. Star anise contains a component called shikimic acid, this substance is used to make the anti influenza drug Tamiflu and the medicine for bird-flu. Star anise contains the largest natural concentration of this acid. Research has shown that when shikimic acid is combined with quercetin your immune system is much better able to ward off viruses. Quercetin is a bioflavanoide substance with a strong anti-oxidant effect. Good sources of quercetin include garlic, onions, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, green tea and red wine. So that's why it's not a bad choice to use star anise to flavor your vegetable dishes and give your immune system a boost.

Star aniseStar anise is also conducive to digestion. It works well against flatulence and bloating, it also stimulates the appetite and it has a protective effect on the stomach. In some Asian coutries they chew the seeds of star anise after meals to aid digestion and freshen the mouth.

Star anise also contains the so-called phytoestrogens. These compounds have about the same effect as the female hormone estrogen. That's why the use of star anise during pregnancy is not recommended. Lactating mothers can utilise star anise to encourage milk production. Because of these compounds star anise can also be utilised with a not occuring menstruation and with problems related to the menopause.  And star anise can be used in the same way as fennel seeds, that contain the same type of phytoestrogens, in order to reduce colic in babies.

Star anise is also traditionally used to increase the libido of the men and women and it has a healthy effect on the genitals of men and women. Because of these and more healthy properties of star anise it's seen as a tonic, a general healthy substance for the body.

Here are some more healthy properties of star anise summed up:

  • Star anise has strong anti-fungal properties and it has a strong effect against Candida, a fungus that occurs naturally in our body but which can grow uninhibited when our microbe balance is disturbed and that can lead to serious infections.
  • Star anise has strong antibacterial activity against all sorts of bacteria that can not be treated with conventional drugs.
  • Star anise has a strong anti-viral effect, it contains the raw material for many anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu.
  • Star anise is a strong antioxidant that provides protection against cancer.
  • Star anise protects the blood vessels and promotes blood circulation.
  • Star anise stimulates the coughing up of phlegm when suffering from colds or asthma, among other ailments.
  • Star anise maintains your energy level.
  • Star anise is a general tonic for the body.

Tip: Put some star anise in a bottle of cold water for a refreshing drink during summertime.