The Star anise, botanical name Illicium Verum, is a licorice-flavored star-shaped fruit, mostly grown in China, Japan and Vietnam. It is dark brown in colour, with eight seeded petal-like segments. The fruit is usually picked before ripening and then dried to be used as a spice or a medicinal herb. However, it is considered to be more potent than the regular anise seed, otherwise used in the West.
Apart from its culinary uses, Star anise is a popular herb used in the Indian Ayurveda medical system and ancient Chinese therapies for centuries. Mentioned here are some of the key medicinal values of Star Anise, and its importance in Ayurveda:
Star Anise is prescribed as an excellent digestive aid. It is used to relieve colic, and other symptoms related to flatulence including headache, nausea, vomiting, gastric distress, and to stimulate the appetite. The anti-spasmodic properties help relieve the stomach upset.
Given, its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and expectorant properties, it is widely used in treating coughs, particularly whooping cough, asthma and bronchitis. Therefore, it is used as an ingredient in some cough mixtures. Ayurveda believes that Star Aniseed helps in tackling the mucus accumulation, owing to presence of kapha dosha in the intestines.
It promotes reproductive health in women, and is good for lactating mothers, as it helps increase breast-milk secretion. It also helps relieve discomforts associated with menopause, but, only when taken in the right quantities after consultation with a physician.
Due to the presence of a compound, Shikimic acid, star anise is used in preparing drugs for curing influenza and flu virus. It is already used commercially in flu medications, including the Tamiflu, the only drug effective against the Bird Flu.
Star anise is also said to possess carminative, stimulant, stomachic and diuretic properties.
Star anise is also recommended as a natural breath freshener, and can be chewed with cardamom pods, after a meal.
Star anise, in the oil form, is an effective relief for pain associated with rheumatism.
Star anise helps boost ones overall well-being, due to its high anti-oxidant properties, owing to the presence of Linalool compound.
The insecticidal properties of the spice, makes it effective against lice, termites and cockroaches.
Tea: To make a tea, crush 1 to 2 teaspoons of seeds and add to a cup of boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for five to ten minutes and strain. Add 4tsp of honey and 4 tsp. of glycerin to the resulting solution. Take 2 tsp. of this syrup every few hours for relief from hacking coughs.
Infusion: The seeds should be gently crushed prior to use, so as to release its volatile oils. Add a cup of boiling water to 1-2 tsp. of seeds, and allow it to stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Take a cup of this infusion thrice a day before meals to treat flatulence.
Oil: One drop of oil can be taken internally, after mixing with half a teaspoon of honey.
Capsule: When consuming in capsule format, take 1 or 2 capsules thrice a day at mealtime with water.
Caution: When purchasing star anise, ensure that you get the Chinese star anise, as it is considered safe. The Japanese variety is said to contain sikimitoxin, a toxic substance, which has been associated with certain medical conditions including seizures, vomiting, and jitteriness.