Herb of the week – Star anise

Star anise heats the yang and regulates the flow of qi. It is a hot and spicy herb and acts on the Spleen, Stomach, Kidneys and Liver.

Welcome to the Herb of the week! Here you can find short presentations of favorite herbs, common uses and some extra information related to Chinese and Greek / Western herbal medicine.

I was late to include the herb that we will deal with today in my decoctions in a more systematic way. The reason is that I considered it as a “simple aromatic and digestive herb”. With this year’s cold and the intense changes in my environment, I am in an environment with more humidity, it happened to need it and to learn more about it. Let’s talk about the star anise.

Its taste is reminiscent of ouzo, sambuca, tsipouro, licorice and fennel. But although it has been used for the preparation of beverages, it has more medicinal properties that we find in both traditional Greek/Western herbal medicine and Chinese.

Star anise is different from anise, but they belong to the same family as fennel. It is used in cooking but also in decoctions which will be mentioned below.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine it belongs to the herbs that warm the inside/remove the cold. Star anise heats the yang and regulates the flow of qi. It is a hot and spicy herb and acts on the Spleen, Stomach, Kidneys and Liver.

In T.C.M. it is used:

  • To stimulate the appetite.
  • As a painkiller.
  • For acute or chronic constipation from heat/fire.
  • To stimulate the movement of qi and body fluids.
  • For the recipe of 5 spices.
Star anise graphic

In western herbal medicine it is used as an herb that helps the respiratory, for stomach disorders, heartburn and various digestive problems, to treat psoriasis with direct use on the skin as a poultice.It soothes coughs and asthma attacks.

In the asteroid anise we find a large amount of sikic acid, which was used for the pharmaceutical composition of the flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

Suggested combinations:

A favorite drink that it is consumed all year round in India is Masala chai. Until the recipe is uploaded in detail, you can use it as described here. You will need 6 cardamom seeds, 5 whole cloves, 2 star anises, 5-6 black peppercorns, 1 Ceylon cinnamon stick, 3 pieces of fresh ginger, and 1 tbsp. black tea. Boil them for 5-7 minutes and leave them in the water for 10-15 minutes. Then we use the sweetener of our choice and milk of our choice.

 

Star anise is used for the powder of 5 spices which is a traditional Chinese recipe to add umami flavor to foods and is considered to be the “magic powder of wonders” because spices with excellent properties are used. You will need 10 star anises, 2.5 tbsp. fennel seed, 2 tbsp. Sichuan pepper, 1 small Ceylon cinnamon stick, 6 whole cloves. Of course if you have powder from all these ingredients just mix them and follow the next steps. Roast the whole spices in a dry non-stick pan over medium to high heat until they smell great. Be careful not to burn them because they will be bitter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Grind the spices in a coffee/spice grinder, blender or with a mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight container and enjoy the recipe of 5 spices in savory and sweet recipes.

Caution! It is generally a common and safe herb, but should not be consumed by people who do not tolerate heat, have yin deficiency, blood deficiency, dryness or have frequent sweating. Those who have liver diseases such as hepatitis should avoid star anise. Anethole may have toxic effects on the liver. Do not consume by those suffering from liver cirrhosis. It does not mix well with alcohol use. If we take it in large doses and for a long time it can become a drug with bad results for the blood circulation and it can reach congestion.
All the information provided is informative, if someone has health problems or wants to follow a specific treatment, it is good to refer to an herbalist and even with the supervision of their doctor in cases of prescripted medicine. In cases of herbal therapy, an herb is rarely used by itself and is needed to be monitored by a trained herbalist for the right combination.