Unexpected Health Benefits Of Star Anise

Star anise is a spice that is widely used in many cuisines around the world. It is obtained from the star-shaped fruit of a small evergreen tree called Illicium verum, which is native to China, according to Healthline. The herb has a long history in cooking and is a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder, as noted in the Handbook of Herbs and Spices. The spice is named "star" anise because of its star-shaped appearance, which is due to the points on the seed pod, explains Healthline. Each dark brown star-shaped pod typically measures 2-3 cm in diameter. According to K Agriculture, the pod is comprised of eight sections, with each containing a small, shiny brown seed. Historically, star anise has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a range of health problems, making it a spice that is not only flavorful but also nutritious. In this article, we will explore a few of these health benefits.

It's great for stomach health

Studies show that star anise may help protect against stomach ulcers. Stomach ulcers (or gastric ulcers) are wounds that develop in the stomach lining, per the Mayo Clinic. They have various causes, such as infection caused by the H. pylori bacterium, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and excessive alcohol consumption. Star anise contains an active compound called anethole, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that make it a potential natural treatment for stomach ulcers, according to a 2007 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. The study investigated the effects of star anise on gastric ulcers in rats. The rats were induced with gastric ulcers and then treated with an extract of star anise. The researchers found that the star anise extract significantly reduced the ulcers' size and inflammation in the stomach lining. This suggests that star anise may be a promising natural treatment for gastric ulcers, though further research is needed to determine if it would have a similar impact in humans.

It contains various antioxidant compounds

Star anise is a spice that is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress and lead to a range of health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and aging, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Star anise contains several antioxidants, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and tannins, as revealed in a 2022 study published in the journal Antioxidants. These antioxidants are believed to have a range of health benefits. For example, flavonoids help reduce inflammation, promote heart health, and prevent cancer, says WebMD.

Another 2007 study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions found that star anise extract had a potent antioxidant effect on the liver cells of rats. The researchers found that the extract reduced oxidative stress in the cells and protected against damage caused by free radicals.

It works as an antifungal

In addition to its antioxidant properties, star anise is believed to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, says a 2020 review published in the journal Phytotherapy Research. Anethole, the active element of star anise, is responsible for its antifungal activity, says another 2010 study published in the journal Molecules. 

Research has shown that star anise can be used to treat a range of fungal infections, including candida. Candida is a type of yeast that is naturally found on our skin and inside our bodies, but if it begins to proliferate excessively, it can cause infections in the mouth, throat, and genital area, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2010 study published in the Korean Journal of Medical Mycology investigated the antifungal activity of star anise extract against several species of fungi, including Candida albicans. The researchers found that the extract had strong antifungal activity against candida.

It can help relieve symptoms of menopause

Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs in women as they age. It marks the end of a woman's reproductive years and is characterized by a range of symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep problems, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness, says the Mayo Clinic. While several treatments are available, many women prefer to explore natural remedies to manage their symptoms. Star anise is one such natural remedy that has been used traditionally to treat menopause symptoms.

Star anise contains compounds known as phytoestrogens that are similar in structure to estrogen — the hormone that declines during menopause, explains a 2004 study published in the journal Planta Medica. These compounds can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, although they are generally much weaker than the hormone produced by the human body, according to Medical News Today. Nevertheless, they still have a mild effect on the body and may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause, as the 2004 study notes.

It's highly nutritious

Star anise is rich in several important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds. One of the most notable nutrients in star anise is calcium. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth and plays a role in muscle function and nerve transmission, explains the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Around 100 grams of star anise contains approximately 646 milligrams of calcium.

Star anise is also a good source of iron and contains 100 grams of star anise contains approximately 37 milligrams of iron. Iron is important for producing red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body, says the University of Rochester.

In addition to calcium and iron, star anise contains several other important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. These nutrients are important for a range of bodily functions, including immune system function, energy production, and more, explains Medical News Today.