Star Anise, the beautiful spice
Native to China and Northern Vietnam, star anise is a spice that has both health benefits and culinary applications. This is a unique spice and identified by its seven or eight-pointed pod that is found in the shape of a star. This pod is picked before it has ripened and then sun-dried giving the pod a rich brown color. The sun-dried pod is then utilized in various ways throughout the world.
Star anise is a staple of many Chinese dishes such as teas or roasted duck, and in Western cultures, it is used for baking. Cakes and cookies may find star anise amongst their ingredients list. In soups, such as the Vietnamese pho, the whole pod is utilized to enhance flavor. In baked goods, the pod is ground down and used like traditional spices. The flavor profile is similar to that of anise as they both contain the essential oil, anethole. Anethole gives a hint of licorice or cinnamon depending on how your pallet is because it is warm, spicy, and woody.
Health Benefits of Star Anise
The health benefits of star anise come from more than just the essential oil compound. Other compounds found within star anise are:
• Gallic acid
• Shikimic acid
Star anise’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties may come from the combination of these compounds found within it. There have been some animal research testing that suggests the antioxidant component may contain anti-cancer properties. The types of properties that could potentially reduce tumor sizes.
Tamiflu has the main ingredient of shikimic acid, one of the compounds found within star anise. Since shikimic acid for some pharmaceutical products to treat influenza, star anise is the primary source utilized by pharmaceutical producers. The essential oil, anethole, has been shown by some research to treat viral infections like herpes simplex type.
In addition to its antiviral benefits, star anise also shows potential with antibacterial benefits. Some research has shown that it may help with preventing urinary tract infections. Other research has shown that an extract has effectiveness against some drug-resistant pathogenic bacterial. Finally, a study has shown that an extract can help prevent the growth of E. Coli.
Regardless if in the kitchen, home remedies, or in pharmaceutical production, star anise has a place amongst vast categories. Keeping this in mind, star anise should become a staple in the spice rack for any level of the culinary arts. The potential health benefits of what is in one’s spice rack can be a tasteful fight against ailments.