Star anise is aptly named. Part of the tree that is used as spice is its eight-pointed star-shaped pod. These pods or fruits are harvested before they ripen and are usually dried.
It shares a name with anise which is a flowering herb. But star anise is a completely different plant that is native in China and Vietnam while anise is found more often in the Mediterranean region. Naturally the former is mainly a part of Asian cuisine while the latter is typically an ingredient in European cooking. It has been reported however that because star anise is less expensive to produce but provides comparable flavor, it may gradually replace anise in its culinary uses.
Star anise rightly belongs in the Superhuman Food Pyramid because of the wonderful therapeutic effects it can provide as well as its dense nutritional profile.
Keep reading to take a look at how star anise can help you become Superhuman…
Star Anise Benefits:
In the previous post about fennel, it was mentioned that anethole is one of its active organic compounds. The same substance is also significantly present in star anise which explains the similarities in flavor and aroma between the two. The antibacterial and anti-fungal effect of anethole has been studied and proven. Along with being an expectorant, these properties make star anise a good remedy for coughs and sore throats.
Another quality of anethole is that it acts in a small way like the female hormone estrogen. Other compounds in star anise that have this quality are diantheole and photoantheole. This explains why traditionally the spice is used to alleviate premenstrual syndrome and is said to increase libido.
Star anise is the main source of shikimic acid. This substance boosted the spice’s prominence in Western medicine as it is one of the main components for making the anti-influenza pharmaceutical called Tamiflu. This is the drug that has been recently developed to combat swine flu. Shikimic acid is found in the seeds of star anise.
For such a small spice, star anise is chockfull of vitamins and minerals. 100 grams of the spice delivers 21 milligrams of Vitamin C, 311 IU of Vitamin A, 646 milligrams of calcium, and 440 milligrams of phosphorous. It also provides moderate amounts of various B-complex vitamins such as:
- Pantothenic acid
Like most of the spices and herbs that have been presented so far, star anise is a carminative and helps ease digestion.
Star Anise Practical Uses:
Star anise is one of the five spices in Chinese five spice powder. The other four components are cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, and Sichuan pepper. Simply ground star anise along with the other spices and make your own mixture of this Asian seasoning. It’s up to you to set the proportions and determine the resulting taste.
By itself whole star anise is frequently used to sweeten soups and meat stews in other types of cuisines. One or two pieces are usually enough to flavor a large bowl as the taste can be overpowering. If you plan to use it as a spice rub, powdered or ground star anise is more practical.
The spice is also commonly used in breads, pastries and other types of desserts because of its particular sweetness. Pudding, strudels and custards are some of the preparations where star anise can be used to add a unique flavor.
Like most therapeutic preparations for spices and herbs, star anise can be boiled in water and made into a tea. The beverage can then be taken to relieve several ailments like bronchial cough, indigestion, and the lower abdominal pain associated with PMS.
A word of caution when purchasing star anise – it looks almost exactly the same as Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum). This is a different species that’s inedible and highly toxic. The Japanese call it “shikimi” and burn it for incense.
In the next post, I’ll tell you how you can use garlic in your quest to Become Superhuman.
In the meantime, if you care to jump ahead, here is a complete listing of the herbs, spices and sweeteners on Superhuman Food Pyramid:
If you have questions, comments or feedback about how to use star anise, the Superhuman Food Pyramid, this website, or other aspects of Becoming Superhuman, then leave your thoughts below, as well as any tips you have on how to use star anise.