Star Anise: properties, benefits

Beautiful to look at, star anise is also rich in beneficial properties for the body. But we must be careful: taken in high doses star anise has important contraindications.

Star anise is the fruit of a plant with the botanical name Illicium verum, belonging to the Illiciaciae family. It is a tropical plant, native to Asia but widespread all over the world, evergreen and which can reach up to 10 meters in height.

Star anise has a characteristic star shape with 8 woody points, inside which there is a brown and smooth seed. It is harvested before maturation has taken place and is subsequently subjected to drying. It differs from Japanese star anise, deriving from the Illicium anisatum plant, which has a toxic substance inside.

The taste of star anise, given by the presence of a compound called anethole, is somewhat reminiscent of licorice and is very strong so just use small quantities to flavor dishes and herbal teas.

It is the main source of shikimic acid, a compound used in the production of anti-viral vaccines. Not surprisingly, in traditional Chinese medicine, star anise has always been used for its anti-flu properties. Now let’s see what it contains and its nutritional values.

Star anise: calories and nutritional values

Star anise is a decidedly caloric fruit: for 100 grams of product there are over 380 calories and 7 grams of fat. It has a high carbohydrate and fiber content as well as a fair amount of some minerals. Furthermore, as we have seen, it contains anethole, an aromatic compound present in the essential oils of some plants such as dill, anise and fennel. It has a digestive and diuretic action, counteracts spasms and the formation of intestinal gas. It also performs antiseptic activity.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of star anise:

  • Kcal: 385
  • Carbohydrates: 75 g
  • Proteins: 4.25 g
  • Fat: 7.65g
  • Fibers: 11.12 g
  • Soccer: 43 mg
  • Iron: 2.5 mg
  • Magnesium: 55.5 mg
  • Manganese: 9.8 mg
  • Sodium: 12 mg

Star anise: benefits

Star anise enjoys several health benefits. In short, it has antiseptic and antimicrobial activity, stimulates diuresis, has anti-inflammatory properties, promotes the production of breast milk, has expectorant properties and promotes digestion. Let’s now explore all the properties of star anise.

✓ Antimicrobial properties

From a study, it emerges that star anise exerts an antimicrobial action, effective against bacteria, fungi and yeasts. This activity is mainly due to the anethole it contains. It can therefore be used in the form of an infusion for colds and flu. Furthermore, thanks to this property, star anise is useful against vomiting and diarrhea of ​​bacterial origin.

✓ Stimulates diuresis

An infusion based on star anise is able to stimulate diuresis, counteracting water retention. To prepare it, you can add a piece of star anise to 200 ml of water and boil for 5 minutes, then let it rest for another 10. To enhance its diuretic effect, it is recommended to take it together with a herbal tea based on seeds of fennel.

✓ Promotes milk production

The administration of star anise in sows, during pregnancy and lactation, increases the production of milk but not only. In a study, some sows were fed diets containing 0.5% star anise. At the end of the study it was found that the addition of star anise effectively improves the lactation performance of the sows. In particular, star anise supplementation during lactation improved the weaning weight of the born pigs and milk production. The effect of increased milk production is due to the presence of two substances in star anise, called diantheole and photoantheole.

✓ Has expectorant properties

The essential oil of star anise has an effective secretolytic and therefore expectorant action. For this reason, it could be used against respiratory tract diseases such as catarrhal cough and bronchitis.

✓ Fights cold sores

To be precise, the action of star anise is not to defeat cold sores, but to prevent it from reproducing, worsening the symptoms. This activity is due to the anethole present in star anise.

✓ Has anti-inflammatory activity

Always thanks to anethole, star anise (in particular its essential oil) is a powerful anti-inflammatory. To benefit from this property, you can add 10 drops of essential oil to 50 m of sweet almond oil, and massage the body in case of muscle pain.

✓ Promotes digestion

The infusion of star anise carries out a beneficial activity towards the digestive system because it stimulates the digestive process and counteracts the formation of abdominal gas. For this purpose it is useful to be taken after meals, for example in a digestive herbal tea.

How much star anise a day

To obtain the benefits seen above without side effects, it is recommended to take 2 or 3 grams of star anise per day. It is also possible to consume it every day, on dishes or in herbal tea. If we opt for the essential oil it is good to follow the instructions on the package (generally a few drops are enough).

Star anise: usage tips

This spice is used in the kitchen to flavor sweets and dishes in general, however, you must have some small precautions before using it: you have to let the pods boil in water and then grind them with a mortar until you get a fine powder. At this point it is possible to add them to the food to give a strong flavor. Particularly suitable also in stewed vegetables. Alternatively, you can find ready-to-use star anise powder.

Star anise is also great for use on the skin as it helps fight acne. The only precaution to use is to dilute the essential oil of star anise (for example with almond oil) before rubbing it on the part to be treated with the help of a sterile gauze. It can also be applied to the skin to ward off lice.

Star anise herbal tea

To use star anise in herbal teas, you can use it in powder form or, if we have purchased the whole berries, you can roughly chop them and put them in the herbal tea. To make an herbal tea with star anise only, simply boil a coarsely broken berry (or a teaspoon of powdered aniseed) for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn off the heat, leave to infuse for another 10 minutes and finally filter. If, on the other hand, we want to experiment with other combinations, there are several infusions that we can make with this spice, below we offer you one with a detox effect.

In particular, to detoxify the liver it is possible to prepare a herbal tea based on star anise and other medicinal herbs. In a cup of boiling water, boil for 10 minutes a tablespoon of mix (which we can prepare in any herbalist’s shop) consisting of the following herbs: 20g of dandelion, 30g of milk thistle, 15g of turmeric root, 20g of mint and 15g of star anise. After 10 minutes, filter and drink. It is recommended to take this herbal tea between meals and preferably during the morning. Continue for at least 20 consecutive days.

Contraindications and side effects of star anise

Star anise is contraindicated in children because it can cause intoxication. This is not true in the case of breastfeeding: as we have already specified, in fact, anise helps the production of milk and therefore, if taken in very small doses, it has no repercussions in infants who take breast milk. In general, the contraindications of star anise are all linked to high doses of the product.

The indigestion of aniseed in fact produces vomiting, diarrhea or rapid eye movements. In severe cases, convulsions can also occur. In general it is necessary to consult your doctor every time you take medicines before taking star anise because it could affect the normal functioning of the drug.

All in all, as we anticipated at the beginning, there is a particular species of poisonous star anise. This is the case of the Japanese species (illicium anisatum) which is toxic to the nervous system and can cause convulsions even in small doses. In Europe the import of this species is prohibited, but if you travel to Asia pay attention: the fruits of this toxic species are smaller, less hollowed out and less regular in shape.


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