star-anise[toc]The beautiful star anise looks like a spice straight from fantasyland. Its star-like shape makes this Chinese-Vietnamese native looks like the crown jewel of the spice world. The fruit of an evergreen tree, the spice is harvested right before ripening for optimum quality, taste, and properties. It has a bitter taste that adds intensity and texture to your dishes.

Like several other spices, it has numerous health benefits and is used in medicinal preparations as well. Let us understand a little more about it and how this star-shaped spice works for your health.

What is star anise?

You can easily confuse the taste of star anise with anise seeds if it was not the peculiar shape of this spice. It is derived from a medium-sized evergreen tree found in China and Vietnam and used heavily in Indian and Chinese cuisine. While the Chinese use it for cooking meats, the Vietnamese use it in their popular soup, Pho. The Indians, on the other hand, use it in the spice mix garam masala for various curries and chai tea masala. It is also used whole in many delicacies.

This is a fruit pod that contains seeds. The taste is mostly sweet with a strong licorice-like effect. To get the best flavor, you should be using the pods whole and letting them infuse the dishes slowly while cooking. This helps the flavor in lasting longer. Grounded star anise is good for garnish but loses flavor very quickly. If you are looking for a distinctive taste, you must opt for the pods. Make sure that you don’t eat the pods.

There are two kinds of star anise available on the market currently- the Chinese variety and the Japanese variety. It is important to differentiate between the two. The Chinese variety is used in cuisines while the Japanese variety is toxic and harmful for human consumption. Instead, it is used as incense. You must ensure that you are using the food grade variety of the spice.

The health benefits of star anise

Apart from being a popular spice used in various Asian cuisines, star anise is well known for its health benefits. It is mostly used for handling digestive ailments. The regular use of the spice in spice mixes helps in keeping the digestive system healthy. Besides, it also comes with a healthy dose of Vitamin C, which helps in reducing coughs and colds. The benefits are listed in detail below.

Antifungal and antibacterial

Star anise is the sun-dried fruit of an evergreen plan with antifungal uses. It is very helpful in yeast infections, especially candidiasis, commonly known as candida. A weakened immune system is often unable to fight this fungal infection on its own. Star anise could handle the symptoms of the problem, eradicating the fungus from the mouth, throat, intestines, and genitals effectively. It is mostly used as an essential oil to treat fungal infections for the most potent results.

Bacteria can also be killed using star anise essential oil. It can be used for common bacterial infections very effectively. Some species of bacteria have become immune to antibiotics over the years. Scientists have tried to eradicate these bacteria with the help of star anise extracts, and the results have been promising.

Great remedy for influenzas

Influenza or cough/cold remains one of the most annoying of all conditions. They occur regularly in some people whose lives are completely disrupted because they catch influenza more easily. Star anise is greatly helpful in this condition. It contains an anti-flu compound called Shikimic acid. This compound occurs very rarely in nature and is only found in gingko other than star anise, albeit in smaller and less potent quantities.

Shikimic acid can help in viral infections and treat seasonal flu with ease. It helps in strengthening the immune system as well. Therefore, you can use it for treating flu as well as protecting against them.

Powerful antioxidant

Free radical damage is associated with aging and a weakened immune system. Free radical damage or oxidation of the cells can also develop into cancer. With regular use of star anise, especially as part of your diet, you get great antioxidant properties to protect your cells from damage. Star anise has a high concentration of Vitamin C and another lesser-known compound linalool. Early research has pointed the efficacy of antioxidant compounds found in the spice against cancer cells.

Better digestion

As we mentioned above, star anise is known mostly as a digestive aid. Using star anise tea regularly can help in reducing gas, constipation and other digestive problems. Nausea and abdominal cramps can also be reduced with this spice. If you feel chronically bloated, enjoy a warm cup of star anise tea or masala chai tea to help ease the problem. Regular consumption of the spice can help in keeping your gut healthy and aiding better absorption of nutrition in your body.

Female health

The spice has an estrogenic effect on women. This natural, plant-based estrogen helps in maintaining women’s hormonal health. It helps in keeping your periods healthy and avoiding late or missed periods as well. With a natural estrogen dose, your body can cope with menstrual difficulties much more easily, and you notice a considerable increase in your overall health as well.

This is not all. The spice is also prescribed to pregnant women. As it is antibacterial, antifungal and has antioxidant properties, it helps in keeping the body fit and the immune system strong during pregnancy. Post-natal effects of the spice include better milk production. The anethole compound found in the spice is great for keeping your gut, tissues, and even your baby healthy.

Star anise is an important yet inexpensive spice. You should include it in your diet to keep your digestion healthy and give your immunity a steady boost every day. Keeping essential oils/extracts made from the spice will also be helpful in treating various infections. Make sure that you include it on your grocery shopping list and enjoy the benefits of this beautiful and useful spice.

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Matt Williamson
My name is Matt - fitness freak by choice. I intensively study and write about nutrition and health related topics. After reading and researching intensively on human health, I aspire to proliferate the wisdom that I acquired in a simple way.