One spice that you may have never used in your cooking before but have most likely tried, perhaps without even realizing it, is star anise. Star Anise is the main ingredient that gives a nice warm bowl of pho it’s distinct flavor, so if you’re a fan of this Asian soup on cool winter days, you can thank this spice for that.
Often described as sweet and licorice-like, it brings a very unique flavor to whatever you prepare it with.
Not only does star anise deliver a delicious punch of taste, but it also offers great nutrition as well. Let’s look at some of the delicious star anise benefits so that you can see why you want to give this a chance in your diet plan.
It Destroys Harmful Bacteria
Perhaps the most exciting benefit that star anise offers is the fact it can kill off harmful bacteria in your body, which can then reduce your risk of a number of ill health conditions. Bacteria infections can range in severity from an annoying ear infection, a urinary tract infection, all the way to something more serious such as pneumonia.
We live in a world right now where doctors are fast to prescribe antibiotics for just about everything as it appears to be a quick fix and will get you feeling good again. It very well may fix your problem initially, but what you might not realize is that this is leading to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which will not respond to those same antibiotics if used again. Likewise, using antibiotics definitely does kill off the bad bacteria in your system, but also kills off the friendly gut bacteria as well. If you are not taking a good probiotic supplement such as P3-OM, this means that now your entire gut microbiome has been changed for the worse.
Star anise appears to help provide antibacterial activities (1) against many strains of bacteria that have become antibiotic resistant, so it could come in and save the day when conventional medicine will not.
An Antioxidant Powerhouse
A common goal that everyone needs to have in their diet plan is to consume more antioxidant rich foods. We encounter a great deal of free radical damage each and every day from the environment we live in and this sets us up for experiencing the increased risk of disease states. Disease can be born out of oxidation, which is caused by these free radicals slowly eating away on our tissue cells.
Antioxidants are substances that help to protect against the free radicals, warding them off before they do great damage to your body. Therefore, getting enough of these in your meal plan is essential.
Some research (2) has even found that a powerful antioxidant intake from your diet may help you safeguard against cancer, so for anyone with a family history or who simply wants to take all the steps they can against this condition, star anise will be a worthwhile investment.
While fresh fruits and vegetables are often considered to be the main antioxidant sources in our diet plan, spices and herbs can also pack quite a powerful punch as well.
Great For Fungal Infections
Along with being able to put a stop to harmful bacteria in its tracks, star anise may also do a number on fungi as well. The most commonly noted conditions that come from fungal infection in the body include athlete’s foot, jock itch, as well as yeast infections, so if you are a frequent sufferer of any of these conditions, you’ll want to consider bringing star anise into you diet plan.
Fungal infections are typically not as serious as bacterial infections can be and don’t range across such a wide spectrum of diseases or conditions, but they definitely can be quite a nuisance and unpleasant to deal with if one is not careful.
Many women for instance suffer from recurring yeast infections, so it isn’t just a one-off incidence they are dealing with here but something that tends to happen time and time again. As such, finding a healthy non-medical way to cope can be important to help avoid any side effects that medications can bring. And, by including star anise in the diet more often even when the yeast infection is not present, you might just help prevent the situation to begin with.
Enhanced Blood Glucose Regulation
Another great benefit that star anise will bring to the table is improved blood glucose regulation. When blood glucose levels rise and fall over time, this is what will set you on a downward spiral to weight gain, feeling unwell, and quite possibly, the development of diabetes.
With diabetes incidence rates running high in today’s society, we are seeing that more people are starting to sit up and take notice of what their blood glucose readings are at. This is a good thing because high blood sugar is not only linked to diabetes, but can also be connected to heart disease and stroke as well. Indirectly, it can lead to higher blood pressure, which then puts you at a risk of both of these conditions.
One of the absolute best ways to control your blood glucose levels is to remove all processed carbohydrates and sugar rich foods from your diet as these are the foods that are delivering the powerful hit of glucose in the first place. When you eat slower digesting carbohydrates instead and make sure to pair your carbohydrates with a protein at each and every meal, this is when you will reap great blood glucose control.
This is also one reason why low carbohydrate diets are so en vogue right now. With this type of diet, you aren’t putting any sugar into your bloodstream, thus you tend to control blood glucose levels exceptionally well.
Not everyone should use a very low carb diet however (athletes for instance need carbohydrates to function optimally in their chosen activity), so this is where simply looking for ways to regulate blood glucose becomes more important.
Cinnamon is one commonly known spice that can be used to help with blood glucose regulation, but in addition to that, star anise can also be utilized.
While cinnamon is more conventionally used in sweeter tasting dishes (however can certainly be used in non-sweet tasting dishes as well), star anise is more versatile and can be used in many main course meals. So it’s a great idea to use the two in combination. When you can’t use cinnamon, turn to star anise and vice versa. Sometimes, you can even use them both together to really pack a powerful punch of blood glucose regulation.
It May Help You Ward Off The Common Cold And Flu
When flu season is upon you, you may dread falling ill to the nasty bug that’s going around. While a few days off work may sound like a treat, it’s not when you’re coughing, achy, and running a fever. The flu is anything but fun so you’re probably up for anything that may help you side-step it altogether.
While washing your hands regularly and not touching your mouth, nose and eyes is the best defense against the flu, it turns out that star anise may come in a close second.
Star anise is a great flu fighter because it contains a compound called shikimic acid, which is also the same compound found in Tamiflu, which is a commonly used medication that can help fight off the flu.
Interestingly enough, research (3) has suggested that if you combine shikimi acid with quercetin, which is found in many different foods including apples, peppers, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, cranberries, olive oil, and beans, you may get an even more powerful flu fighting combination than taking the Tamiflu or other medications designed to combat this very illness.
So when you feel those telltale symptoms of a flu brewing such as a runny nose, fever, and a scratchy throat, consider going for that bowl of pho. Not only will the hot liquid help clear up your sinuses, you’ll get the combination of star anise with the vegetables such as broccoli or cabbage to help you treat yourself before things get to a severe level.
Just Note: you may want to ask the server to lighten up on the noodles for this bowl and double up on the veggies for maximum protection.
Heart Boosting Benefits
Along with taking care of your blood glucose levels, another must-do to help sustain better health is to ensure that your heart is in top shape. Heart disease is currently one of the leading causes of death in today’s world and this can be largely thanks to our lifestyle choices today.
We are relying far too heavily on processed and fast foods and not consuming nearly enough fresh produce, fatty fish, and healthy fats, all of which help ward off heart disease.
Additionally, technology and automation have practically taken away the need to be active in today’s society, so it’s not uncommon at all to see many people getting very few minutes of physical movement each day.
Together, this means heart disease is dramatically on the rise. While nothing is going to make up for the lack of physical exercise and poor diet, you can do other things nutritionally speaking that can help lower your risk factor. If you’re a ‘work in progress’ on those two main components, the little things can add up and reduce your risk in the meantime while you get it all together.
Star anise works to help combat heart disease by providing a powerful dose of antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress and go on to prevent the build-up of harmful free radicals that can lead to heart attacks.
Star anise may help to reduce the overall build-up of plaque in the arteries, which is one of the leading factors that may be linked to the inflammation that will go on to increase your risk for heart disease.
On top of that, it may also help to normalize blood pressure and lipid levels when you are consuming a diet that’s rich in fat, which would otherwise increase your risk for heart attack.
While star anise can’t completely stop you from having a heart attack, especially if you are doing many things that point you in that direction, it may help to ‘lessen the blow’ so to speak.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between anise and star anise?
Don’t confuse the two! Despite the fact they do have a similar name and their flavor happens to be quite alike as well, they are very different spices. Anise is a herb in the parsley family and produces small seeds with a licorice-like flavor. It is often used when preparing candy.
Star anise however is widely used in Asian cooking and is part of the signature Chinese ‘five spice’ powder. It’s used to prepare soups, sauces, teas, and in both savory and sweet dishes.
What can I do with star anise?
Star anise is great for almost any Vietnamese and Chinese dish. It’s used in soups, stews, as well as braised dishes and is the main ingredient in the Chinese five-spice powder, which also includes cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and Szechwan peppercorns.
Is a star anise edible?
For the most part, yes. Chinese star anise is generally recognized as safe to eat. However, take note that Japanese star anise (illicium anisatum) is not edible, therefore you should refrain from ingesting actual pieces.
What does star anise taste like?
Star anise offers a mild and fragrant licorice flavor that most people truly enjoy.
So as you can see, there are many great benefits to getting some star anise into your diet plan. This spice is quite versatile and can be used to make teas, soups, sauces, and even baked goods, so there is no shortage of ways to begin including it in your diet plan. Star anise can also be used whole, simply tossed into some broth while cooking or it can be used ground up, added to baking.
It can also be utilized in both sweet and savory dishes, so no matter what your taste preference happens to be, you can likely find a way to include this powerful spice in your menu. Don’t overlook this spice next time you’re shopping for new herbs and spices to bring home to flavor your foods with. It may just become a quick new favorite and will help take your health up a notch in the process.
1. Yang, Jyh-Ferng, et al. “Chemical composition and antibacterial activities of Illicium verum against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.” Journal of medicinal food 13.5 (2010): 1254-1262.
2. Genkinger, Jeanine M., et al. “Fruit, vegetable, and antioxidant intake and all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular disease mortality in a community-dwelling population in Washington County, Maryland.” American journal of epidemiology 160.12 (2004): 1223-1233.
3. Bertelli, A. A. E., et al. “Immunomodulatory activity of shikimic acid and quercitin in comparison with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in an “in vitro” model.” Journal of medical virology 80.4 (2008): 741-745.