Chinese Star Anise
What is Chinese Star Anise?
Chinese Star Anise (ba jiao hui xiang, 八角茴香) are aromatic fruit pods from the evergreen Star Anise Plants (Illicium Verum), which are native to China and Vietnam. With its distinctive star shape, pungent aroma and a sweet taste that resembles cinnamon or licorice, Chinese Star Anise is becoming one of the most popular spices around the world.
In Asian culture, Chinese Star Anise is often added to soups and stews. On the other hand, in Western cuisine, Chinese Star Anise is mainly paired with chocolate desserts.
As Chinese Star Anise also carries lots of health benefits, it is often used in natural herbal remedies in many cultures. However, it is important to note that there are a few different variations of Star Anise, of which some are toxic to consume. Hence, it is important to check with your herbalist or healthcare provider on the exact type of Star Anise that you’re using.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Chinese Star Anise falls under the category of ‘Herbs that warm the interior and/or expel Cold’. This herb can be used for Internal Cold with Qi Deficiency or Yang Deficiency. Warm in nature, Chinese Star Anise can help people who have too much Cold in their body, such as those experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance.
Pungent in taste, Chinese Star Anise tends to promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, it targets the Kidney, the Liver, the Spleen and the stomach.
Functions and Benefits of Chinese Star Anise
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Chinese Star Anise include the following:
Chinese Star Anise can warm yang to dissipate Cold, regulate the flow of qi to increase appetite and relieve pain such as joint pain, abdominal pain due to Cold, menstrual and stomach cramping, as well as to ease vomiting and nausea. The herb is also efficient in boosting one’s libido and reducing one’s stress levels.
Modern studies have also discovered that one of the strongest Chinese Star Anise benefits is its ability to boost immunity and fight infections. That is because it contains shikimic acid, an active ingredient of influenza medication, and it possesses antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. This means that this herb may be able to combat drug-resistant bacteria and treat common yeast infections.
Chinese Star Anise can also improve skin health by promoting the elimination of free radicals throughout the body with a high level of various oxidants. It can prevent oxidative stress, minimize the appearance of wrinkles, boost skin elasticity and reduce blemishes.
Chinese Star Anise can act as a remedy for sleep disorders as it possesses sedative properties, which can induce relaxation and sleep to relieve insomnia. Also, Chinese Star Anise can support respiratory health, promote blood circulation, boost bone health and improve digestion. For example, Chinese Star Anise can help to relieve gastric pain and gastrointestinal diseases.
For men, Chinese Star Anise can provide a boost to their energy and increase their sex drive. For women, Chinese Star Anise can regulate menstrual cycles, control mood swings and other hormone-driven side effects of menstruation.
How to Use Chinese Star Anise
Chinese Star Anise can be used in a number of ways, either in the ground or the whole form, but the most popular way to use it is to mix it in other spice mixes, such as the “five-spice” powder that is a popular blend in many cultures.
The “five-spice” powder is a blend of Chinese Star Anise, Cloves, Fennel Seeds, Cinnamon and Sichuan Pepper. The Indian spice blend “Garam Masala” also uses Chinese Star Anise, as does the famous Vietnamese “pho” soup.
On its own, Chinese Star Anise is also used in cooking, baking, marinating or steeped into teas and elixirs. One example of such tea is Chai Star Anise Tea. In the West, the spice has also been used to complement baked items, jams, and syrups, and also certain alcoholic drinks, such as absinthe and ouzo. Other examples of dishes that Chinese Star Anise is frequently added to are stews, sauces, marinades, soups or braised dishes.
When using the pods, it’s a good idea to add them toward the end of cooking because they are strong in flavour. Also, since they are not edible, you should remove them when the dish is ready to serve. The ground spice is used like other powdered spices, but it’s still strong, so start with a small amount and experiment with the flavour to suit your taste.
Cautions and Side Effects of Chinese Star Anise
Quite a number of individuals have varying levels of allergic sensitivity to Chinese Star Anise. Some may experience mild itching or rash whereas some may suffer from mild to severe gastrointestinal distress and inflammation.
It is important to note that excessive use of Chinese Star Anise may also lead to interactions or complications with drugs used for cancer or hormonal regulation.
In addition, as Chinese Star Anise contains active ingredients that have an effect on hormones, especially oestrogen levels, it is best to avoid this herb if you are struggling with a hormonal disorder.
If you have any prescribed medications or are unsure about your allergies, it is best to speak with your healthcare provider before adding Chinese Star Anise to your health regimen.
Here is a summary for Chinese Star Anise:
- Herb name (Chinese): 八角茴香
- Herb name (Pin Yin): bā jiǎo huí xiāng
- Herb name (English): Chinese Star Anise
- Herb name (Botanical): Fructus Anisi Stellati
- Origin of species: Illcium verum Hook. f.
- Part(s) of herb used: Fruit
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Countries with tropical climate
- Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent; Warm; Administrates the Liver, Kidney, Spleen and Stomach Meridians
- Actions: Helps to relieve pains associating with menstrual or gastrointestinal discomforts, such as indigestion
Li, W., Wu, Z., Xia, Y., Tan, J., Zhao, H., Chen, S., … & Zhang, Y. (2022). Antiviral and Antioxidant Components from the Fruits of Illicium verum Hook. f.(Chinese Star Anise). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 70(12), 3697-3707. [Accessed on 22nd October 2022]
Shahrajabian, M. H., Sun, W., & Cheng, Q. (2019). Chinese star anise and anise, magic herbs in traditional Chinese medicine and modern pharmaceutical science. Asian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 5(3), 162-179.[Accessed on 22nd October 2022]
Shahrajabian, M. H., Sun, W., & Cheng, Q. (2020). Chinese star anise (‘Illicium verum’) and pyrethrum (‘Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium’) as natural alternatives for organic farming and health care-a review. Australian Journal of Crop Science, 14(3), 517-523.[Accessed on 22nd October 2022]
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