Chinese Star Anise

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Chinese Star Anise Illicium verum

Star anise is a wonderful foodstuff medicinal plant.

Derived from the star-shaped fruit of the evergreen tree Illicium verum, also known as ba jiao hui xiang, this spice has a rich history in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in contemporary medicine in East Asian countries. Today, the two raw materials obtained from Chinese* star anise – the fruit and the essential oil, are important medicines worldwide and have been listed in The European Pharmacopoeia since 2002.


Traditional Use.

Chinese star anise has been a staple in addressing various ailments, including digestive disorders, colic, back pain, rheumatism, emesis (vomiting), insomnia, and colds. Its widespread use extends to the food industry as a spice.

 

Science & Medicine.

Recent pharmacological investigations affirm the traditional applications of Chinese star anise, highlighting its potent biological activities, including antibacterial, antifungal, anthelmintic (anti-worm), anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. These actions mean this plant plays a pivotal role in both the cosmetic and food manufacturing industries.

For coughs

Its therapeutic potential extends to addressing dry coughs or bronchitis, attributed to expectorant, secretolytic, and spasmolytic (anti-spasm) properties. Consequently, it finds wide application in the production of antitussives (anti-cough medications).

Chinese star anise’s gastroprotective, spasmolytic, antinociceptive (pain sensation lowering), and anti-inflammatory properties open avenues for potential use in treating colic, various pain types, and skin diseases. Beyond its medicinal attributes, the pleasant anise-like fragrance qualifies it for use in natural breath fresheners. Moreover, Chinese star anise exhibits estrogenic effects.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) report underscores the fruit and essential oil’s suitability as expectorants or stomachics in humans. Additionally, it recommends their use as spices in alcoholic beverages, sweets, or toothpastes, showcasing the versatile applications of Chinese star anise beyond medicinal realms.

Antimicrobial

Recognized for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties, Chinese star anise proves effective against Influenza A in laboratory studies. It stands as a key source of shikimic acid, which used in the pharmaceutical industry for the production of drugs and is a crucial precursor component in oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), an antiviral medication for influenza A and influenza B.

 

Cosmetic Use.

Chinese star anise takes the spotlight in the cosmetic realm as the primary source of shikimic acid. This compound boasts a spectrum of benefits, including exfoliating, deodorizing, anti-acne, anti-dandruff, whitening and moisturizing. It also regulates the amount of secreted sebum, and in addition, has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, hair-growth stimulating, antifungal as well as the anti-aging effect.

 

Chemical composition.

The unique chemical composition of star anise encompasses phenylpropanoids, flavonoids, neolignans,
monoterpenoids, and sesquiterpenoids, all valuable bioactive secondary metabolites.

Trans-anethole

The fragrant essential oil extracted from the fruit emerges as a robust reservoir of the phenylpropanoid compound trans-anethole (“AN-uh-thohl”), constituting approximately 72–92% of the oil. Trans-anethole (E-anethole), an isomer of anethole, imparts the characteristic aroma to I. verum.

Widely employed in the food, perfume, and pharmaceutical sectors, anethole, specifically trans-anethole, stands out for its sweet flavour and aromatic scent. Recent studies underscore its standalone attributes, revealing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anti-obesity properties, positioning trans-anethole as a potential natural dietary supplement.

Furthermore, research indicates that anethole showcases anti-anxiety-like effects and neuroprotective qualities through anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic (cell death), and antioxidant mechanisms.

The multifaceted benefits of trans-anethole extend its application beyond the sensory realms to therapeutic and potential dietary supplementation.


How to take Star Anise.

This wonderful spice enhances various rice dishes and sauces, proving particularly delightful on winter evenings when added to warmed milk of your choice, complemented by turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and honey.

The recommended average medicinal daily dose of I. verum fruit is 3g and that of essential oil is 0.3g.

It is used for veterinary applications, though it is essential to seek guidance from a professional. Chinese star anise can be incorporated into veterinary preparations at a concentration of 2.88%, alongside other active ingredients. Common applications of formulations containing I. verum in cattle, sheep, and goats include the treatment of gastric disorders such as forestomach atony or acute indigestion. The recommended dose for cattle weighing over 200 kg is 20 g, while for sheep and goats, it is 15 g less.

CARE

Consult a NIMH medical herbalist first if you are taking any plant at a medicinal level if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, have any medical condition or allergy or are taking medication. 

Distinguishing Chinese star anise from Japanese star anise is crucial due to potential toxicity. The fruit of I. verum cannot
be easily distinguished from that of Illicium anisatum – Japanese star anise. Japanese star anise contains anisatin, shikimin, and
shikimotoxin, these compounds are highly toxic and can cause inflammation in the kidneys, urinary tract, and gastrointestinal tract.

Chinese star anise is generally well-tolerated, with minimal reported side effects at recommended doses. However, caution is advised for specific populations.

 

  • If you have enjoyed learning about Chinese Star Anise, and found this information to be valuable and informative you may consider donating a pound or two. Your donation will help us to continue our research and enable us to share the fascinating history and use of medicinal plants for health, medicine and the mind.
  • Star anise is a wonderful foodstuff medicinal plant.
  • Derived from the star-shaped fruit of the evergreen tree Illicium verum, also known as ba jiao hui xiang, this spice has a rich history in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in contemporary medicine in East Asian countries. Today, the two raw materials obtained from Chinese* star anise – the fruit and the essential oil, are important medicines worldwide and have been listed in The European Pharmacopoeia since 2002.
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