From its distinct star-shaped appearance to its definite aroma, star anise is a spice you can never resist. It is not only versatile as it packs intense flavor, but also has compounds and elements that make it beneficial for our health.
Many confuse it with anise seed, but star anise is different and has many benefits including killing off fungus and bacteria, fighting off flu, providing a significant dose of antioxidants, improving heart health, and helping your body maintain a steady level of blood sugar.
Coupled with an active lifestyle and nutritious diet, adding this powerful spice into your diet can help improve your health.
In our guide today, we will talk about star anise tea from what it is and its history, to star anise benefits and side effects.
Let’s get started…
This spice is sourced from illicium verum, an evergreen tree that is native to certain regions of China and Vietnam. The tree produces star anise as a fruit, which is used as a spice to add flavor to different dishes.
The star anise fruit is harvested before it ripens and is dried in the sun for it to harden. Popularly known because of its star shape and reddish-orange color, this fruit has a strong, intense aroma.
It has a sweet, licorice-like taste, and in China, it is one of the key ingredients in a five-spice powder alongside cloves, fennel seeds, Sichuan pepper, and Chinese cinnamon. This mixture is typically used in Chinese cuisine. The oil derived from this fruit is commonly added in mouthwash, toothpaste, perfume, and cosmetics.
This spice also contains other medicinal compounds that make it a healthy herb. In fact, shikimic acid, which is extracted from the star anise plant, is an active ingredient in most flu medication such as Tamiflu.
Star anise tea also contains other potent compounds such as vitamin C, anethole, and linalool that makes it beneficial for our health.
As mentioned earlier, star anise originates from China and Vietnam and thus has been a staple ingredient for most of their spices for centuries, thanks to its culinary properties and medicinal value. From providing relief from flu to adding flavor to food, this spice is used due to many reasons, which we will discuss later on.
Star anise made its way to Europe in the 17th century, where it was mostly used in fruit preservatives and syrups to enhance its taste. Today, it is still popular in China and Japan, where most of it comes from, but its usage has spread to other parts of the world as a flavoring spice in many traditional dishes.
Its oil is found in many perfumes, mouthwash, and a wide variety of commercial products. It is preferred for its wide range of medicinal properties.
In addition to its intense flavor, star anise tea also packs a variety of beneficial compounds that can improve your overall health. Here are a few of the many beneficial compounds of star anise spice;
This is a naturally occurring terpene alcohol that has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
This compound is added as an ingredient in many flu medications, but it is also rich in antibacterial properties as well.
In addition to having antioxidants, star anise also packs vitamin C, which helps fight infection.
This aromatic compound, also found in anise seed, helps to fight off cancer, inflammation, and diabetes, while also improving brain health.
There is a pretty good chance that you have used star anise before, even if you did it unknowingly thanks to its versatility and flavorful nature. Back in China and Vietnam, star anise is one of the components of a popular five-spice powder that is added in their cuisines thanks to its signature flavor. It is also added as a secret ingredient in some dessert and baked foods.
Star anise is used in variety of meals and drinks. You can even brew a soothing cup of star anise the next time you need a drink or also add it to your favorite classic Chinese-inspired dish. Its robust flavor makes most meals tasteful.
You can use it as a spice or use it wholly to intensify the aroma or flavor of stew, coffee, tea, soup, or broth. Besides, its sweet undertones help to balance the bitterness of some ingredients, and also amplify the flavor of desserts and sweets.
Oil derived from star anise fruit is commonly used to aid digestive issues and as a natural preservative.
Before we proceed to the benefits of this spice, it is important to point out on thing;
Despite these two sharing a name as well as licorice flavor, the two are not related and come from different plants. Star anise is the fruit of the illicium verum tree, which is a member of the magnolia family. This fruit has a star shape and is often used in Asian cooking. It has a more intense flavor and is more potent than Anise seed
On the other hand, anise is a flowering plant that is categorized in the family of Apiaceae, related to cumin and dill. It is used in making liquors such as ouzo and Sambuca. The seeds are used in breads and herbal teas in the Mediterranean region.
With that distinction in mind, let’s talk about the benefits now.
Even though there isn't enough evidence to prove it, some research suggests that anise consumption could help to prevent constipation (1). Apart from being a spice, Star anise packs a significant amount of fiber which can ease digestion. Although you need just a small amount of the spice in your food, every little bit of fiber counts. Having this nutrient in your diet is essential to soften and loosen stool.
Fiber is vital inside the colon and the intestinal tract, where it attracts water and prevents fecal statis. Fecal statis or constipation is when feces are unable to move anymore, and hence become difficult to pass. Water and fiber can help prevent this.
In Chinese medicine, the star anise is used to boost milk production in lactating mothers. It features a compound called anethole which is believed to be responsible for its odor. The odor mimics the activity of estrogen and has a structural similarity to dopamine, which can inhibit the release of prolactin. As a result of dislodging dopamine, it may helps to boost milk production even though it has not been proven by any valid clinical trial yet (2).
It is sometimes used when new mothers have difficulty in producing milk after giving birth primarily via cesarean section. Also, if it’s the first child for a mother, the star anise can help boost milk production. Note that you should only use anise seed to make your tea or you may look for its capsules if you are breastfeeding.
Research (3) shows that anethole, the compound responsible for the odor of this herb, is an effective insect repellant outside the body. While most repellants require you to apply them on the skin, consuming the star anise will prevent you from mosquito bites as well as other insects.
People living in tropical climates can use the insecticide properties of the star anise to keep off insect bites. Include it in your diet regularly to stay free from malaria and dengue.
To begin with, the star anise offers generous amounts of antioxidants, which helps reduce the risk of infection by boosting your body immunity. Not only this, star anise provides another amazing mechanism, thanks to its compound known as shikimic acid (4).
The compound is an essential component used in the manufacture of flu medicine and vaccines. The good news is that it is a rich source of this compound. Therefore, diets with lots of star anise can significantly reduce your risk of flu during the flu season. Next time you find yourself under the flu weather, just brew a cup of star anise tea to gain the flu-fighting power.
Many things cause sleeplessness, but the leading cause is stress and anxiety. This is because worry may increase the level of adrenaline, which inhibits sleep. Star anise is vital to modulate some of these hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn causes sedative actions.
In case you are undergoing through a phase of poor sleep, ingest some star anise, and you may experience the difference in sleep quality (5).
Also, some research suggests some compounds found in star anise pods could have powerful antifungal properties (6). Fungal infections can be hard to treat and be seen in various forms such as athlete’s foot and jock itch.
Apart from treating infections on the skin, it can help normalize the body’s candida colonies (7), especially in women. When candida Albicans colonies go out of balance, one can become susceptible to yeast infections.
You can keep the discomfort and embarrassment of yeast infections at bay with star anise which prevents the multiplication of fungal organisms.
One of the primary structural proteins found on the skin is collagen, whose primary role is to keep the skin looking smooth. Anise star is a rich source of Vitamin C, which is an important component of collagen as it prevents wrinkles and premature aging (8).
The spice also contains Vitamin A, which keeps off some UV rays and reduce any damage that could result from excessive exposure. Vitamin A also helps minimize scarring due to stretch marks or acne hence enhancing the wellbeing of the skin.
Lastly, star anise also contains tannins which boost the skin tone by strengthening the muscles’ firmness.
During menopause, estrogen levels may drop significantly in women leading to various unpleasant effects. While some women brave the storm, it can be an extreme experience. To avoid this, some may undergo estrogen replacement therapy, which is a valid option (9).
Additionally, it is recommended that you ingest foods which have estrogenic properties to help you manage the symptoms. One of the sources is star anise, which is not only spicy but can also help ease your symptoms and make the symptoms less unpleasant.
Now that you have known the star anise benefits, can we talk of when you should avoid it? Yes!
Star anise tea can be consumed by adults and children over the age of 5. However, there are exceptions. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not take this tea. There is no enough evidence to show its side effects, but still, there is no guarantee its safety on pregnant mothers.
Also, don’t buy Japanese star anise variety as it can be toxic, but we will talk this more in the side effects sub-topic (10).
Also, people with ovarian, uterine, breast, and liver cancer should not take this tea as it is known to have an estrogenic effect. In case you have any chronic medical condition, consult your doctor before consuming this tea.
Star anise coming from China (from illicium verum tree) is perfectly safe for consumption and is that’s the reason it is extensively used in most Chinese cuisine. However, the one sourced from its sister plant called illicium anisatum that is native to Japan contains sikimitoxin, which is toxic to humans.
The side effects of consuming star anise from Japanese plant include muscle spasms, vomiting, nausea, jitters, seizures, and irritation.
If you experience any of these symptoms after drinking tea labeled star anise, call your doctor as fast as possible. This tea is burned as an incense in Japan and is not meant to be consumed.
It reaches the market because of ignorance, accident, or a way of saving money. Therefore, ensure to buy star anise tea only from recognized and reputable dealers.
We have come to the end of our guide, and we do hope that you are now in a better position to understand the usage and benefits of star anise tea.
Star anise is a great culinary ingredient that does more than making food and tea taste good; it boosts your health too.
Therefore, do yourself a favor and add this spice to your diet and your health will improve substantially.