Star anise - Health Benefits, Uses and Important Facts

Star anise - Health Benefits, Uses and Important Facts

The fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree Illicium verum is used to make the spice star anise.


The star-shaped pods have a lovely appearance and an intriguing flavour that you should try. This warming, sweet spice, which is used as a hidden ingredient in many traditional Asian recipes, may be cooked in broths and braises to enhance the taste.


In addition to its distinctive flavour and culinary uses, star anise is well-known for its therapeutic properties.


About star anise:


The star anise we use comes from the fruit pod of the evergreen shrub Illicium verum, which grows in the arid regions of southwestern China. The star-shaped (thus the name) star anise pod typically contains eight points, each of which carries a single pea-sized seed. The anise flavour is sweet and powerful, and both the seeds and the pod are utilised in cooking. Star anise is available in both whole and ground.


In addition to being used for its distinctive flavour in food preparation, star anise has therapeutic uses as well. It is occasionally known as Chinese star anise and is cultivated in China, Indo-China, and Japan. One of the key tastes in Chinese five-spice powder, star anise is used to prepare tea, season roast duck and other meats, and is a staple element in Chinese cuisine. Star anise is a common ingredient in the well-known soup pho in Vietnamese cuisine. In Western cultures, it is more frequently used to flavour baked items like cookies and cakes as well as liqueurs like absinthe, sambuca, and pastis.


Before it ripens, the star anise pod is harvested, and it is then dried in the sun until it turns a deep rusty brown hue. The characteristic flavour comes from anethol, the same oil that gives anise seed its licorice-like flavour.


Difference between star anise and anise seed


Due to their similar flavours and names, star anise and anise seed are sometimes misunderstood. Star anise, which comes from the magnolia family, and aniseed, which comes from the parsley family, are not members of the same plant family. Star anise seeds are bigger and a deep reddish-brown hue, whereas anise seeds are smaller and resemble fennel seeds more. The seeds also have different appearances.


It's also critical to distinguish star anise from the very poisonous Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, which should not be ingested.



Origin of Star anise:


Over 3,000 years ago, star anise was first utilised as a spice and medicinal in southern China. Star anise arrived in Europe in the late 1500s thanks to an English sailor, and it was rapidly trafficked via the tea route from China through Russia. Due to its sweet flavour, star anise was first only used in puddings, syrups, and jams but was eventually employed in place of anise seed in commercial beverages.


Difference between whole and ground star anise


Different culinary techniques call for whole and ground star anise. To add flavour to braised foods, soups, and stews, entire pods are added; they are then taken out of the food once it has finished cooking. Like other ground spices, star anise powder is used in cooking. The easiest way to use star anise is to buy it whole and crush it as required because powdered star anise quickly loses taste after being ground up. Both the pods and the seeds can be pulverised.


Taste of star anise


Star anise, which is naturally related to licorice, fennel seed, clove, and anise seed, has a very potent, distinctive flavour that is warm, sweet, and spicy. Star anise is frequently used in savoury recipes, despite the fact that its flavour is typically associated with sweet foods. It goes well with citrus, onions, fowl, meat, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and should only be used in tiny amounts.


Culinary use of star anise


Using entire star anise pods or crushed star anise will affect the cooking method. Whole pods can be cooked in soups, sauces, and marinades before being removed just before serving. The pods cannot be eaten since they do not soften while cooking. The pods' flavour is incredibly potent, and if they are introduced to a recipe too soon, they may completely overpower the other components. The ground spice is considerably simpler to use and is added to a dish in a manner similar to other spices.


Bay leaves and star anise are both used in Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. Star anise pods are cooked in soups, stews, and braises when used whole. Similar to bay leaves, star anise is typically taken out of the dish before serving and thrown away. It complements citrus, chicken, and beef in savoury recipes and gives food a contrastingly sweet, licorice-like flavour.


The more pungent ground star anise can be used sparingly in foods and baked products. It is a typical spice in Indian cooking and is used in both chai tea and the spice mixture garam masala. Here is the recipe for our simple homemade garam masala.


How to store star anise?


Both whole and ground spices should be kept in an airtight container out of the reach of moisture, heat, and sunlight. While ground spices start to lose flavour after around six months, whole star anise will stay fresh and flavorful for almost a year. Sometimes the flavour is enhanced by toasting the ground spice before using it.


Health benefits of star anise


Star anise has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, and more recently, it has also been acknowledged in some forms of Western medicine.


  • Antioxidants including vitamins A and C found in abundance in star anise help combat the free radicals that cause diabetes and premature ageing.
  • Thymol, terpineol, and anethole, which are used to cure cough and the flu, are found in the oil made from star anise.
  • Additionally, anise aids in enhancing digestion, easing pain, and easing nausea.
  • Following meals, drink star anise tea to alleviate digestive issues such gas, bloating, indigestion, and constipation. Your favourite masala chai also includes anise as one of the key components.
  • One can improve their sex desire by consuming one glass of water at night that has been laced with crushed star anise seeds!


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