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Star Anise

Star anise spice

What is Star Anise?

Star anise is a spice used in cooking, medicine, perfumery and other industries. Star anise is the dried fruit of the natural star anise tree, which, when dried, is used as a spice. A box with star anise seeds has the shape of an eight-pointed star, in the rays of which the seeds are contained. Sometimes the number of rays in a star anise may differ up or down, but, in any case, the star anise has an easily recognizable star shape. Star anise has a unique aroma, due to which it is widely used in cooking and other areas of human activity. The appearance of star anise is so recognizable that it has become, in combination with images of cinnamon sticks, the personification of all spices. The image of star anise is used both for advertising any spices, and for products that are not directly related to star anise, for example, coffee or tea. The taste of star anise can be described as simultaneously bitter, sweet, astringent and pungent, the aroma of star anise is very subtle and quite complex.

The Use of Star Anise in Cooking

Star anise has long been widely used in cooking in the Far East, and has now gained worldwide popularity. Star anise is used in recipes for sweet desserts and meat dishes, sauces and gravies, soups and drinks. Star anise is also part of many seasonings. An example is the "Chinese five spices" seasoning, which includes star anise, fennel, Sichuan pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Star anise goes well with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and allspice, fennel and other spices. In the commercial production of spirits and other beverages, it is not the star anise itself that is predominantly used, but the essential oil of the star anise, obtained in the process of steam extraction. It is worth noting that star anise is a very strong spice, and you need to be careful using it in cooking.

Star Anise Essential Oil and the Use of Star Anise in Medicine

In medicine, star anise is used to improve the taste of certain types of medicines. The active ingredient in this case is star anise essential oil, which has a strong odor.

The Benefits and Harms of Star Anise

The benefits of star anise are undeniable - it has an anti-inflammatory effect, helps get rid of depression, and also has an antispasmodic effect. Star anise essential oil is used in aromatherapy, but somewhat less frequently than anise essential oil. This is due to the fact that star anise oil is a potent remedy. In small doses, star anise oil has a calming effect on the human body, and in large doses, on the contrary, it excites. Contraindications for the use of star anise essential oil in medicine may be individual intolerance to star anise, pregnancy, or an allergic reaction of the body. In these cases, star anise can bring not benefit, but harm. In addition, applying star anise essential oil to the skin can cause irritation or burns.

Scientific Name of Star Anise

Star anise spice is the fruit of a plant known as real star anise (Illicium verum) - a species of the genus star anise (Illicium) of the Schisandraceae family. Star anise Illicium verum is sometimes referred to as Chinese anise, not to be confused with Japanese anise Illicium anisatum, which is highly toxic. Star anise is not related to the common anise Anisum vulgare, although the two are sometimes confused due to similarities in name.

Star Anise and its Cultivation

Star anise is a medium-sized evergreen tree, reaching a height of 8 meters. The star anise tree is propagated by seeds and grown in China and Japan for export and the domestic market. Star anise fruits are harvested before they ripen, then dried in the sun. Star anise can be grown outdoors in regions where temperatures do not drop below -5°C (23°F), as this plant does not tolerate low temperatures well. Another option for growing star anise at home is to plant it not in open ground, but in a container. Although the star anise is a tree, growing it in a container will limit its growth and allow it to be grown temporarily or permanently indoors.

In What Form Can You Buy Star Anise?

Star anise is sold in several forms. The most expensive spice is whole stars of star anise, without damage. You can also buy star anise in the form of star anise fragments damaged during harvesting and transportation - such a spice costs less than selected star anise, but the star anise seeds retain their integrity. Another sale option is ground star anise, which can be bought in the form of a powder that is convenient for use in cooking, but in this case it will be difficult to check the naturalness of the spice, you just have to trust the seller. In addition, like all ground spices, ground star anise quickly loses its flavor and aroma due to the evaporation of essential oils.