About Star Anise:
Star anise, star anise seed or Chinese star anise is a spice which is obtained from the dried, star shaped pericarp of the fruit from the Illicium Verum plant. The plant comes in the form of a small to medium sized evergreen tree which is native to the regions of north-east Vietnam and south-west China in Asia.
Culinary Uses of Star Anise:
As a culinary spice star anise is a popular flavor in a number of cuisines across the world.
Anethole is the bio-active compound which presents star anise with its characteristic taste.
Star Anise is known to enhance the flavor of meat and hence is an essential ingredient in the preparation of biryani. Moreover it is also an essential ingredient in the preparation of masala chai. Both biryani and masala chai are popular preparations across the Indian sub-continent.
Star anise is a popular ingredient in cuisines of south east Asia, like Indonesian, Malay, Vietnamese and Chinese. It is in fact a very important ingredient in the traditional Chinese five spice combination, which otherwise consists of fennel seeds, Chinese cinnamon, cloves and Sichuan pepper.
In Europe, star anise along with cinnamon are the common spices which are used in the preparation of mulled wine.
Medicinal Uses of Star Anise:
One of the major constituents of star anise is shikimic acid. Almost 90% of the total outcrop of the plant is used for the production of shikimic acid. It is a necessary element in the medicinal synthesis of oseltamivir, sold as Tamiflu, which is an anti-influenza drug.
As per traditional Chinese medication, star anise is said to have warm and dynamic properties. It is administered as a cure for the cold congestion in the digestive system.
The ancient Chinese used the essential oil of star anise, which they obtained through the process of steam distillation, as a diffuser in the clearing of the bronchial tact.
In the year 2009 there was reported to be a worldwide shortage of star anise due to the outbreak of swine flu. The spice is an essential element in synthesis of the anti-flu medication.
Industrial Uses of Star Anise:
Star Anise essential oil, obtained from the Illicium Verum plant is often confused Anise oil which it obtained from Pimpinella anisum. This is because of the similarity between the two spices in terms of appearance, taste and aroma.
Star anise in fact is a cheap substitute for anise for baking and liquor production industry. The essential oil of star anise is rich in aroma and is used as an ingredient in perfumes, soaps and cosmetics.
Also Read: Cloves and Their Benefits