Behind the Brew: Star Anise


Star Anise

Illicium verum


  • Although star anise has a strong licorice flavor like anise and fennel, it’s not related to them—it’s a cousin of the magnolia vine.
  • A chemical (shikimic acid) in star anise is used to make the anti-flu drug Tamiflu. More star anise is grown for medical use than for cooking ingredients!
  • Don’t confuse true star anise (Illicium verum) with the Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum)—one is delicious, but the other is poisonous!

Tips and Tricks

  • Try chewing star anise seeds or sipping star anise tea after a meal—it improves digestion and freshens the breath.
  • Have joint problems? Try sipping a star anise tisane made by steeping 2-3 whole pods in boiling water for 15 minutes; it’s a traditional Chinese remedy for rheumatism.
  • Want to add an Eastern flair to your cooking? Star anise is a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder, Vietnamese pho noodle soup, and in Indian garam masala spice mixtures. Try adding a pinch of the powdered spice to your next curry or stir fry.
  • Look for star anise in soaps, toothpastes, and more—its antibacterial properties and strong, spicy smell make it popular in bath and beauty products.
  • Star anise can be used as pest control! Putting whole star anise pods around your kitchen, or applying a line of star anise essential oil outside your house, may help keep away termites and cockroaches.

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