Star Anise (Illicium verum, or Chinese Anise)
Star anise is the fruit of a small tree that grows in Asia. The fruit is star-shaped, usually with eight arms. Each arm is a seed pod. The fruit is picked before it is ripe and then dried to be used as a spice or medicinal herb. The herb has a licorice-like flavor.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Star anise is used to relieve colic, gas, headache and to stimulate the appetite. Flatulence, nausea, vomiting and other gastric distress can also be treated with this herb. It has anti-spasmodic qualities that help relieve upset. It is used in flu medications commercially like Tamiflu, the only drug at this time known to be effective against the Bird Flu.
The herb is known to be antifungal and antibacterial and it has been used to relieve coughs due to its expectorant qualities. It has been used for whooping cough. It can increase the production of milk in new mothers. Some folk remedies recommend the use to facilitate birth and to increase the libido, as well as to relieve menopausal discomforts.
Externally Star anise is used for rheumatism. The seed pod can be chewed as a breath freshener if it doesn't taste too strong for your mouth. This herb can be applied topically for oily skin. The oil is effective against lice.
Other Uses Star anise is one of the flavors used in Chinese Five Spice powder. It is a spice that is frequently used with meat and in Chinese cooking. It is stronger than anise, and is often used in baked goods, confections and liqueurs. It has insecticidal properties and is effective against Japanese termites and adult German cockroaches. It is also a popular fragrance in some parts of the world.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
The herb is sometimes added to other remedies to improve the flavor.
Seed Pod The seed pod that is located inside the round fruit is used medicinally and as a spice.
Be sure the particular herb you use is Chinese, not Japanese. Japanese anise is toxic and is not to be taken internally. There do not seem to be any contraindications for the herb, and there are no known drug interactions.
Preparation and Dosage
Star anise capsules can be taken in doses of 1 or 2 capsules 3 times per day at mealtime with water.
One drop of the oil can be taken internally if it is mixed with a half teaspoon of honey.
For herbal tea, 1 to 2 teaspoons of seeds should be crushed slightly before being added to a cup of boiling water. The tea should steep for 5 to 10 minutes, then strained. A cup can be taken three times per day.