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The amazing star anise and its health benefits

We consume star anise but not aware of its health benefits.

Written by Ranita Ganguly |Updated : September 25, 2014 3:05 PM IST

Health benefits of star anise

Star anise, commonly known as chakra phoolin hindi, is frequently used as an exotic spice in Indian as well as chinese cuisines. Due to its strong aroma, we Indians often use it in some rich and delicious dishes like biryani, chicken, sea foods and in China, it is an important ingredient of a spice called the 5 spice powder which is used almost in all chinese recipes. But have we ever thought that the small flower-like fruit can be a storehouse of some key ingredients which may combat several illness apart from imparting flavour to dishes?

Common health benefits of star anise:

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  • Fights against free radicals: Antioxidants fight against free radicals (atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons) that can cause cellular damage and may be responsible for diseases like diabetes, heart problems or even cancer. It is constantly being produced in our body as a metabolic byproduct. The excessive production and deposition can be neutralized only by consuming a rich source of antioxidants. Reports from India (in 2007 by Dr. Bhatnagar, School of biochemistry, Devi Ahilya University, Bhopal, M.P) and abroad have shown a potent antioxidant property of star anise [1]. The antioxidant property is due to the presence of a chemical called linolool. Vitamin A and C also contributes to this property to a large extent.
  • Combats fungal infections: Star anise helps to combat a very common problem of skin called candidiasis, caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. This fungus generally affects superficial skin, mouth, throat or even the genital areas. It was observed by some Korean researchers that essential oils and some extracts of star anise possess potent antifungal property [2].
  • Fights against bacteria: In recent years, microorganisms have developed multiple drug resistance and causes serious infections. There is a challenge for the scientists to develop new generation antibiotics which will be able to overcome the crisis. Star anise as an antibacterial agent has also been tested by many researchers and its oil has been found to be effective in receding cough due to asthma and bronchitis due to its expectorant property. Apart from that, star anise has been shown to be effective against almost 70 drug resistant bacterial strains [3].
  • Effective in flu treatment: Shikimic acid is a chemical present in star anise and has a potent antiviral property when it combines with another compound, quercetin, an antioxidant rich substance. Combination of these two chemicals helps to prevent influenza[4]. In China and Taiwan, scientists are testing this combination for bird flu treatment.
  • Helps people with rheumatism: The oil of star anise has been found to be beneficial in patients with rheumatism and also with lower back pain. Regular massage with the oil containing star anise helps.
  • Improves digestion: In china and other south east asian countries and also in US, star anise tea is consumed mostly after meals as it helps to treat digestive ailments, such as bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, indigestion and constipation and also activates the metabolic enzymes. Though in India, the consumption of star anise tea is low, but we should know that it is an important ingredient of masala chai. Intake of such tea may help to overcome such problems.
  • Beneficial for women's health: In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise was given to women during pregnancy and lactating period as it was believed to boost the mother's immunity and increases milk secretion. This was scientifically studied in recent times and it has been observed that star anise has an estrogenic effect due to the presence of a substance, anethole, which modulates the hormonal function in women.
  • Helps people with sleep problems: Star anise has a sedative property and may be helpful for people with sleep disorders.

So, after knowing all the health benefits of star anise one must be eager to incorporate this magic spice in their meals. It can be mixed with tea, can be added in all non-vegetarian dishes like chicken, duck, pork or other sea food recipes or even added in rice and pulao. For vegetarians it is also a very good option since various kinds of curries, jams, and shakes can be prepared with a touch of star anise.

References:

1. Yadav and Bhatnagar. Chemo-preventive effect of Star anise in N-nitrosodiethylamine initiated and phenobarbital promoted hepato-carcinogenesis. School of Biochemistry, Devi Ahilya University, Khandwa Road, Indore 452017, Madhya Pradesh, India. Chemico-Biological Interactions (Impact Factor: 2.97). 10/2007; 169(3):207-14. DOI:10.1016/j.cbi.2007.06.032

2. Park and Seong. Antifungal Effects of the Extracts and Essential Oils from Foeniculum vulgare and Illicium verum against Candida albicans. Korean Journal of Medical Mycology.2010; Dec 15(4):157-64.

3. Yang, et al. Chemical Composition and Antibacterial Activities of Illicium verum Against Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010; 13(5): 1254-62.

4. Bertelli, et al. Immunomodulatory activity of shikimic acid and quercitin in comparison with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in an "in vitro" model. 2008; 80(4): 741-45.

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