What Is Star Anise?
Star anise is an evergreen tree from the plant family Schisandraceae. The generic name Illicium derives from the Latin illicium, meaning allurement, and refers to the attractive fragrance of this group of small trees and shrubs. Star-anise tree bears star-shaped fruits which turn rust-red color when ripen. Interiorly, these fruits envelope amber-colored seeds. Both the seed as well as fruit husks used as spice in cooking.
Star Anise Plant and Cultivation
Star anise is grown widely in tropical areas of East Asia and Southeast Asia. Plants are propagated from cuttings or seeds, which nestle inside the points of the star-shaped fruit. Seeds are collected from high-yielding trees and sown within three days of collection or else stored wet at 5°C for up to a year. Seedlings are planted out in a well-manured field when they are three years old. Star anise gives off a strong, attractive aroma, making it pleasant to cultivate.
Star Anise Description
An evergreen tree up to 15 m tall. Trunk about 25 cm in diameter with white bark. Glossy, leathery leaves are held in bunches of three to six. Its flowers are Solitary, yellow-green, sometimes flushed pink to dark red, with 7–12 tepals, up to 20 stamens (male organs) and usually 7–9 carpels (female organs). Usually produced from March to May and from August to October. Star Anise Fruits are Star-shaped, consisting of a ring of single-seeded, dark reddish-brown carpels attached to a central column. The fruits are fleshy, but on drying become woody and wrinkled. Usually produced from September to October and from March to April.
Uses of Star Anise
Star anise oil is a highly fragrant oil used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams. About 90% of the world's star anise crop is used for extraction of shikimic acid, a chemical intermediate used in the synthesis of oseltamivir.
10 Health Benefits of Star Anise
1 - Antirheumatic - Star Anise can give relief from rheumatic and arthritic pains by stimulating blood circulation, and by reducing the sensation of pain in the affected areas.
2 - Antispasmodic - Star Anise, being a relaxant and an anti-spasmodic by nature, relax these contractions and give relief from the ailments caused by spasms are cramps, coughs, aches, diarrhea, nervous afflictions and convulsions.
3 - Aperient - Star Anise has mild purgative properties, but is safe to use. Unlike other synthetic or harsh purgatives, it is not hard on the stomach and liver and does not leave you exhausted and fatigued. When taken in low dosages, it helps clear motions and cures constipation, resultant flatulence, and indigestion.
4 - Carminative - Due to its carminative properties Star Anise promotes the removal of gases and as a digestive, it does not let it form, as indigestion is the cause of excess gas.
5 - Cordial - The warming effect of star anise on the respiratory and the circulatory systems makes it a cordial. This property helps counter colds, the deposition of phlegm, and problems like rheumatism and arthritis.
6 - Decongestant - Star anise is very effective in clearing congestion in the lungs and the respiratory tracts for conditions like asthma and bronchitis.
7 - Digestive - This property of anise is very commonly used to promote digestion. It has been an old practice to chew Anise seeds, to serve desserts containing Anise, or to have a glass of warm water with few drops of anise essential oil in it to aid digestion, especially after a heavy meal or a feast.
8 - Expectorant - This oil is really remarkable as an expectorant and this property earned it an impressive reputation. It loosens mucus or phlegm deposited in the lungs and respiratory tracts and gives relief from cough, heaviness in the chest, breathing troubles, asthma, bronchitis, congestion and other respiratory disorders.
9 - Insecticide - Star Anise is toxic to insects and smaller animals, therefore its smell keeps insects away. For this reason, it can be employed to drive away insects by using it in fumigants, vaporizers, and sprays.
10 - Sedative - Due to its somewhat narcotic or numbing effects, it is used as a sedative for anxiety, nervous afflictions, depression, anger, and stress as well as for symptoms such as insomnia due to its tranquilizing and relaxing effects. This effect is particularly visible when it is used in higher dosages, since in very small doses, it acts as a stimulant.
Producing Countries of Star Anise
Star Anise is indigenous to South Eastern China. China produces about 80% to 90% of the world’s star anise. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, Vietnam, India and most other countries in Asia.
Consuming Countries of Star Anise
United States and the 15 European Union member states are the greatest worldwide importers of Star Anise.
Recipe for Beverages with Star Anise
Spiced Holiday Tea
Ingredients: A: 2 cups water B: 3 tea bags (unflavored black tea) C: 4 star anise D: 1 3 inch cinnamon stick E: 1 cup passion fruit nectar F: 3 tablespoons honey G: 2 tablespoons lemon juicePreparation Method
A: In a medium saucepan bring water to boiling. Add tea bags, anise, and cinnamon stick. Reduce heat. B: simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes. Discard tea bags and cinnamon stick. Stir in nectar, honey, and lemon juice. Heat through. C: Pour tea mixture into four heat-proof cups, floating a star anise on top of each.
Recipe for Cooking with Star Anise
Chicken Simmered in Soy and Star Anise
Ingredients: A: 1 tablespoon grated ginger B: 2 teaspoons sesame oil C: 1/4 cup soy sauce D: 1/2 cup Chinese wine or 1/2 cup dry sherry E: 2 star anise F: 1 cinnamon stick G: 1 tablespoon brown sugar H: 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts I: 1 bunch bok choy or 1 bunch chinese greens, trimmed and halvedPreparation Method
A: Place the ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, cooking wine or sherry, star anise, cinnamon stick and sugar in a frying pan over high heat and bring to a boil. B: Add the chicken and cook for 6-7 minutes on each side or until cooked through. C: Add the greens to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until tender. D: Place chicken and greens on serving plates and spoon over pan juices as sauce. E: Serve with steamed rice.
Recipe for Dessert with Star Anise
Chocolate-Star Anise Pots de Creme
Ingredients: A: 8 ounces heavy cream B: 2 ounces whole milk C: 2 tablespoons star anise D: 2 egg yolks E: 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolatePreparation Method
A: Combine the cream, milk and star anise in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes. B: Strain the cream mixture from step 1 and return the liquid to the same pot. C: Return the heat to medium and add the sugar and egg yolks to the pot. While whisking, bring the mixture to 180 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, this step will take about 5 minutes. The mixture is done when it’s just thick enough to coat the back of your silicone spatula. D: Take the pot off the heat and add the chocolate chunks. Using a clean utensil, whisk to incorporate the chocolate. E: Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, then portion into four small ramekins. F: Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and chill. The pots de creme will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Top with whipped cream and candied fennel just before serving.