Common name: Star Anise, Badiane, Aniseed Stars, Eight Horned Spice
Part used: Beautifully shaped dried fruit or ‘pericarp’ with the seeds.
Habitat: Star anise has been cultivated in the wider south and southeast Asian region since approximately 2,000BC with crops and naturalised wild trees in China, Hainan, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Philippines and Vietnam, making it difficult to pinpoint the plant’s exact origins.
The tree reaches 10-15m in height, with white bark and a mature trunk diameter of around 25cm, bearing fruit after 6yrs of growth. The leaves are glossy, leathery and elliptic with a pointed tip, arranged in bunches of 3-6. The flowers are either green-yellow or pink-red and beautifully star like, which makes this a decorative as well as a culinary and medicinal spice plant. The eight-pointed star shaped fruit begins as a fleshy, green version of the dried form which is defined and woody, each point like a small brown boat with a shiny seed towards its base.
Folklore and History:
Star anise is a powerfully aromatic spice; ‘anise’ reflecting its sweet smell similar to aniseed. It is classed as a food in the UK and used in many dishes, drinks and products around the world including Garam Masala, Chinese Five Spice, mulled wine, perfume, confectionery, anointing oil and Christmas decorations (Hartvig 2016). Its anethole content turns Ouzo and Pastis cloudy in water.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine star anise is used to clear excess cold from the body, for rheumatism and colic. As it’s common name ‘Eight Horns’ suggests there are usually 8 points to the star, but similar to our four-leaf clover, it is considered lucky in China to find a star anise with more than 8 points (The Homestead Garden 2018).
- Antioxidants: approx.11.3mmol/100g
- Hydroxybenzoic acids
- Sesquiterpenes: Caryophyllene
- Shikimic acid
- Volatile oils ≈ 3-3.5%: Anethole (85-95%), Foeniculin, Limonene, Linalool, Nerolidol, Anethol (phenolic ether), Cinnamyl acetate, Safrole, Methylchavicol
- Antiviral (strong)
- Appetite stimulant
- Immune stimulating
- Insect repelling
- Kills some yeasts
Traditional and current uses:
- Arthritis and rheumatic complaints
- Difficulty sleeping with ‘nervous tummy'
- Indigestion and flatulence
- Infections; upper respiratory, gastric, viral
✨✨SEASONAL MEDICINAL SPICES: STAR ANISE (Illicium verum)✨✨
Don't be fooled into thinking that star anise is simply decoration in your mulled wine! Did you know that the vast proportion of the world's harvests of star anise is used by the pharmaceutical industry for flu vaccines? These delicious, aromatic dried fruits of a the subtropical Illicium verum tree are particularly high in antiviral and antibacterial compounds such as anethole and shikimic acid and during the swine flu outbreak star anise more than doubled in street value due to industry demand! Star anise also has a long history for a safe, sweet and gentle remedy for wind and griping in children. With it's traditional use as a calming remedy, this is a perfect spice for easing nervous tummies, supporting digestion and immunity this winter.
As medical herbalists we are trained to look at available scientific data and use plant medicine safely. We're here to have a chat or point you in the direction of further medical help if you need.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Try making a tea or hot milk with star anise, cinnamon, a touch of orange zest and a dribble of honey.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Some lovely star anise recipes from around the world
Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for educational use only, and is not intended as a replacement for the services of a qualified medical herbalist, doctor or licensed health practitioner. The information contained herein is not diagnostic, always consult a medical health professional before embarking on a treatment programme. Urban Fringe Dispensary disclaims any liability, loss, injury or damage incurred as a consequence of the use and application of the advice given herein.