Star anise, which looks like a star, is an inevitable spice in Indian cuisine, especially in preparing the tasty ‘Biriyani’. It shares many properties with aniseed. The eight-pointed star anise smells like aniseed but botanically it is quite different. Their aromas are almost identical and they share chemical components including athenole and methychavicol which have many medical properties. Star anise is less likely irritating to the skin than aniseed and it should still be used with caution.
Anise should not be confused with star anise. Star anise is a star-shaped fruit that grows as an evergreen bush in China and Southeast Asian countries. The essential oil of star anise is an inevitable ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Culinary and medicinal benefits of star anise
1) Poultice containing star anis and other hot spice decoctions is used as a cure for arthritis.
2) Traditionally star anise has been used as a mouth wash. Chewing it has been serving as a natural breath freshener.
3) In traditional Chinese medicines, star anise is used as a digestive aid, promoting health of female reproductive organs. It is effective for lactating mothers to increase breast-milk secretion.
4) Insomnia and its side effects with so many diseases are the results of modern life. Star anise can be much helpful in solving this problem since it can also be used as a sedating medicine and its sedating properties to ensure a good sleep.
5) Star anise is an important ingredient in dishes that are simmered in soy sauce. It flavors in different ways in various dishes. It is used as a powder added in other roasted spices. In India, they are stored and added in dishes to add taste and flavor.
6) In the western countries, star anise essential oil is extracted by steaming and is used as to flavor wines. It is also used in the west to flavor desserts and baked foods.
7) In Japan, star anise has a ritual value and is grown in temple gardens and tombs. The bark from the star anise tree is burned as incense.
8) The traditional medicinal systems of the east, especially in India and China, have been using star anise for many diseases. Since it is digestive and stimulant, it has been serving as a remedy for intestinal cramps.
9) In Homeopathy star essential oil is used to prepare tinctures. It adds potency to the homeopathy medicines.
10) An extract, called Shikimic acid got from the star anise, is the key ingredient of the flu drug oseltamivir. Hence it is used for preparing drug for curing influenza or the flu virus.