star anise seed

Star anise seed is a spice obtained from a small tree plant called star anise. The botanical name of the plant is Illicium verum. Since the fruit resembles a star, it is called star anise and the seeds from the fruit is star anise seeds. The flavor of the seed resembles anise, fennel seeds or licorice.

Origin and medicinal properties

While anise and star anise may resemble each other in their popular nomenclature, they are distinctly different species grown in different territories. Anise is native of Mediterranean and Middle East regions and star anise is native of china and Vietnam.

The star anise tree has been grown originally in south Asian countries. The seeds are used in culinary as well as in medicine preparations. China and japan are known to use these seeds in their traditional medicines. However, the Japanese star anise is found to be poisonous and not used for culinary purposes. Since both resemble in appearance greater care must be taken in identifying them for any particular use. Not only the seeds but the whole fruit is used for similar benefits.

Shikimic acid is the chemical compound extracted from the star anise seeds. Shikimic acid is the vital ingredient in pharmaceutical formulations used in preparation of drugs to cure influenza and the medicine marketed as Tamiflu.

Shikimic acid is sourced from different fruits and seeds but the concentration of the acid in star anise is much more than others.

Star anise seed is much sought after due to its antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Of the three uses antioxidant property makes star anise precious.  Free radicals produced in the body during metabolism has the effect of causing cancer. Hence the free radicals in the body has to be either neutralized or excreted. Here star anise plays a major role by neutralizing the free radicals. Since free radicals are unwanted by-products of metabolic process, it has to be neutralized by consuming food and food supplements containing antioxidants in abundance. Star anise is one such spice that can be liberally used in food preparations in order to get rid of dangerous free radicals.

Some of the health benefits derived by using star anise seeds are:

Treats digestive disorders

The digestive system of the body is improved thereby preventing ailments due to indigestion, bloating and disorders occurring due to formation of excess gas in the stomach. It is used as an appetizer due to its positive effect on digestion.

Relieves colic pain

Colic in babies can be cured by administration of star anise infusion in water on a regular basis.

Respiratory disorders

Inhalation of star anise seed removes the congestion in the respiratory tract. The oil extracted from star anise seeds contain thymol terpineoland anethole, which are used in preparation of medicines to treat cough and influenza. The seed is used in preparation of cough syrups, lozenges and expectorants as one of the ingredients.

Anti-aging property

Availability of vitamin A and C in star anise seed, in addition to the antioxidants not only eliminate free radicals but also prevent premature ageing and diabetes.

Treats nausea

Consumption of tea prepared from star anise seeds, besides improving the digestion, helps in relieving cramps and cure nausea.

Boost libido

Consumption of decoction made of the seeds have the potential to enhance sexual desire in men.

Other benefits of Star anise seeds are:

  • The seed as well as its oil are used in culinary as a flavoring agent
  • Since star anise tea has a mild estrogenic effect, women find it useful both during premenstrual stage in regulating the menstruation cycle and during lactating period by improving production of breast milk.
  • The oil of star anise is used in manufacture of cosmetics, soaps, Perfumes and even tooth paste for fragrance and taste.
  • The oil is also used in some bitter drugs as a mask to facilitate comfortable usage.
  • Star anise is generally used in culinary preparations along with other spices but one can notice that the pleasant fragrance of star anise is standing out among all. It is used both in food and beverages.
  • Star anise oil is used as an external application to reduce pain due to rheumatism. Diluted form of the oil is applied on the skin to cure skin related disorders.

Star anise seed tea is prepared by just boiling a few dry fruits with seeds in water and extracted. Other spices like cinnamon can be added for better taste.

As a word of caution, Japanese star anise is not used for culinary purposes due to its poisonous character. However the same is used for fragrance in non- culinary usage in addition to pharmaceutical preparations. Consumption of star anise is not known to produce any side effect. But its estrogen content makes it not consumable by cancer patients.

Kripa Sivasubramanian, MBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. After a long stint in the Technology sector, she took up courses in natural medicine and yoga. Ms. Kripa is certified in Ayurvedic yoga for Dosha. She is also certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.