Originating in southern China, star anise is a star-shaped fruit with a licorice-like flavour that lends a soft, exotic scent and taste to a meal. Traditionally used as a spice and also as a healing herb, the health benefits of star anise are numerous. The seed and oil have various medicinal properties.
By itself, whole star anise is frequently used to sweeten soups and meat stews and is an essential ingredient in the traditional five-spice powder. One or two pieces are usually enough to flavour 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 a better option.
As a warming spice, many people use star anise to treat digestive ailments, such as bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, indigestion and constipation. Star anise is also 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 that was developed to combat swine flu.
Like most therapeutic preparations for spices and herbs, star anise can be boiled in water and made into a tea. This beverage is said to help relieve several ailments like bronchial cough, indigestion, and the lower abdominal pains.
1. Grind the herb by placing the spice in a coffee grinder or by crushing the herb with a clean hammer. If using a hammer, you could put the star anise in a thick plastic bag to reduce the mess.
2. After crushing the herb, place half of a teaspoon in 1 cup of boiling water, and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Strain away the bits of star anise with a sieve and the beverage is ready to consume.
Tip: While purchasing star anise, make sure you have the right kind. Star anise looks almost exactly like Japanese star anise, a spice that’s inedible and highly toxic.
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