IN ANCIENT days, anethole - star anise’s primary constituent - was named for the area now considered Turkey and was referred to as the ‘Home of
Star anise was and still is used traditionally to spice food, reduce intestinal gas, aid digestion and as a diuretic. It was valued for its ability to promote vitality and strength and was even used in ancient times as a sex-enhancing aphrodisiac.
It was used in magic to increase psychic awareness and still the mental mind. Along with cassia, cloves, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorns, star anise is one of the Chinese five spices. It is reported that star anise is a key ingredient in Tamiflu, which is an antiviral medication that blocks the actions of influenza virus types A and B. This drug was recently developed to combat swine flu. Star anise is a main source of shikimic acid, found in its seeds.
Star anise is often confused with Anise/Aniseed Oil (Pimpinella anisum), which is native to Greece and Egypt, because it shares a similar name and a rather similar aroma.
Star anise, however, has slightly different properties; both essential oils contain anethole - the constituent responsible for their distinct smell - and antispasmodic properties.
Be careful not to get the Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) as this is a different species that is inedible and highly toxic; and looks almost the same as star anise. The Japanese call it “shikimi” and burn it for incense; it was primarily used around temples and burial sites.
Star of liqueurs
Star anise was brought to Europe by English navigators in the 1500s where it was to become a popular ingredient in aperitifs and was soon indispensable for flavouring liqueurs in France, Germany and Italy. Some of the recognisable star anise flavoured liqueurs are Pernod, Pastis, Galliano and Ouzo. Interestingly, they all turn a cloudy or milky white when water is added or poured over ice.
Pioneering aromatherapist Renee Gattefossé claimed that when essential oils or their constituents are added to products such as liqueurs, they tend to decrease alcohol toxicity by facilitating its elimination through all natural means.
Star Anise has many helpful medicinal benefits. Add it to your pain-relieving toolbox and include it in massage blends to ease arthritic pain, rheumatism or for relief from stiff, sore muscles.
Digestive tea: a drop in a peppermint and ginger herbal tea after meals is helpful to excess wind and burping.
Insect repellent: combine with citronella or lemongrass against mosquitoes and other small insects.
Massage blends: eases arthritic pain, rheumatism and stiff, sore muscles.
Star anise as an expectorant helps eliminate congestion in the respiratory tract and can be used in a diffuser or in chest rubs where it is particularly effective in alleviating the symptoms of coughs, colds, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions. Try massaging star anise onto the soles of the feet to prevent or relieve flu symptoms. As one would expect from spice oils, antispasmodic star anise may be used to assuage digestive problems such as colic, colitis spasms and cramping.
It also eases bloat, excess wind, flatulence and burping. A drop in a nice carminative tea after meals is helpful.
Star anise exerts mild oestrogenic effects (due to the anethole) and may be employed in menopause to ease symptoms, especially for hot flashes. Blended with clary sage and chamomile or geranium, it will ease menstrual cramping. Some women use star anise for increasing the flow of breast milk, promoting menstruation and easing childbirth.
Chakra: Solar plexus
Main magical uses: consecration, clairvoyance, protection and psychic development. It is a powerful protection oil to protect against psychic attacks.
Clean wounds with a wound wash blend that includes star anise to help protect against infections because the antibacterial and anti-fungal effect of anethole in star anise has proven to be effective. Insects do not like star anise oil, making it a very effective insecticide against mosquitoes and other small insects. Combine this spicy note with citronella or lemongrass.
Star anise oil also acts as natural treatment for head lice as a safer alternative to chemical lice treatments; combine with lavender and cedarwood and apply this essential oil sparingly.
Used as a flavouring ingredient for food and beverages, this spice oil may be used in breads, pastries and other types of desserts because of its particular sweetness.
Pudding, strudels and custards are some of the preparations where a few drops of star anise essential oil can be used to add a unique flavour.
In manufacturing, the essential oil is used as a fragrance in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes and toothpaste as well as to mask unpleasant odours in drug products.
Apparently animals like the smell of star anise and it can be used in animal feed, which would no doubt stimulate their appetite and aid their digestion.
Pschye and mind
Calming and relaxing for the mind, when smelt star anise oil restores emotional balance. Tiredness and apathy are dissolved and better sleep patterns reinstated.
Use this balancing oil to ease premenstrual syndrome and also increase sexual drive (libido) as well as treating symptoms of ‘male menopause’.
Star anise oil can be used along with other helpful oils such as chamomile, jasmine or cypress to help those who suffer from Post Traumatic Syndrome.
Primarily anethole (up to 89%), limonene, chavicol.
foeniculin, methyl chavicol, limonene, linalool, nerolidol, cinnamyl acetate. Anethol’s chemical structure is similar to the catecholamines adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and dopamine.
Trans-anethole is the predominant chemical constituent in Star Anise (70-95%6) and accounts for its liquorice-like scent. Aromatherapist, Kurt Schnaubelt believes trans-anethole to be one of the important “soft” phenylpropenes that is used to balance the central nervous system, among other attributes.
The intensity of traumatic memories is softened and their unbidden arrival reduced so that the person becomes detached and distanced enough to process and release trauma at their own pace. It is no longer a flood; rather a more manageable trickle to witness and resolve in a calmer, more stable state.
The scent of star anise allows us to better understand the true ephemeral nature of feelings, which always pass, but accepting and feeling them fully is part of the healing process.
Star anise comes to the rescue of those who experience feelings of victimhood and those who harbour unexpressed anger and tend to externalise blame at their circumstances. Its scent enhances our ability to claim full responsibility for our decisions and our past, however, traumatised that may be.
We summon strength to handle whatever trials come our way and understand that there are no good or bad things in life, just experiences from which we can learn, grow and evolve.
We learn to accept all things as they arise, without taking it all so personally and get on with our life.
Name: Star Anise
Botanical Name: Illicium verum
Common Names: Chinese anise, Badian anise
The Plant: Star Anise is an evergreen tree native to southeast China, Vietnam, India and Japan. It grows up to 10 metres high and the recognisable fruit is star shaped, radiating between five and ten pointed sections which are the actual seedpods.
The Oil: The unripe seeds of star anise are harvested to dry before they are steam distilled to produce pale yellow essential oil. The scent is a top to middle note in perfumery.
Scent: Warm, spicy-sweet and pungent with a deep balsamic-woody undertone. Its sharp, liquorice-like aroma is not unlike aniseed of the umbelliferae family, which gives us a clue to its digestive benefits.
Blends well with: Other spice oils, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, rose, lavender, cedarwood, pine, spearmint and orange.
Indications: Antispasmodic, anti-viral, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant , expectorant, decongestant, expectorant, narcotic, sedative, repellent
Precautions: Dilute well, star anise can be skin irritating, so a low dosage is recommended; add drop by drop to your blends until the desired effect is achieved. (A little goes a long way; Tisserand recommends a dermal maximum of 1.75 per cent.) A patch test should be performed before use for those with sensitive skin.
Avoid in pregnancy, breast-feeding, endometriosis, oestrogen-dependent cancers and children less than five years old. Star anise may inhibit blood clotting so is contraindicated with anticoagulant medications, so not to be used in the case of bleeding disorders.