Star Anise: Benefits and Nutritional Facts

Aditi Shenai

September 27, 2023

Star anise, with its captivating aroma and distinctive star-shaped appearance, is more than just a flavorful spice; it’s a nutritional powerhouse waiting to be explored. This enigmatic spice has played a pivotal role in culinary traditions around the world and has recently gained recognition for its potential health benefits. In this article, we will embark on a journey to unravel the nutritional wonders of star anise, shedding light on its composition, health advantages, culinary applications, and precautions for responsible consumption.

While it may seem like a simple ingredient tucked away in your spice rack, star anise holds a rich history and a treasure trove of nutrients that can enhance both your culinary creations and your well-being. Whether you’re a seasoned chef looking to add a new dimension to your dishes or someone curious about the nutritional value of this exotic spice, read on as we delve into the intriguing world of star anise. Let’s discover how this spice, with its intriguing blend of flavour and nutrients, can elevate your food and nourish your body.

What is Star Anise?

A fragrant and visually striking spice, star anise, scientifically known as Illicium verum, is a native of East Asia, particularly China, Vietnam, and Japan. This spice takes its name from its unique star-shaped appearance, which sets it apart from conventional anise seeds. Star anise belongs to the Illiciaceae family and is often used to add a burst of flavour and aroma to various culinary creations and beverages.

Description and Appearance

Star-Shaped Pods: Star anise is instantly recognizable by its dark brown or rust-coloured, woody, star-shaped pods. Each pod typically comprises eight to ten radiating segments, with a central seed in each segment.

Aroma: One of the most remarkable features of star anise is its intensely aromatic scent. The pods emit a sweet, licorice-like aroma, which is a key characteristic in many cuisines worldwide.

Flavour Profile: Star anise boasts a complex and slightly sweet flavour profile with hints of liquorice, clove, and subtle notes of cinnamon. This unique combination of flavours makes it a versatile spice in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Historical Significance

Ancient Origins: Star anise has a long history dating back to ancient Chinese and Indian civilizations. It has been an integral part of traditional medicine and culinary traditions for centuries.

Culinary Uses Across Cultures: Beyond China, star anise has found its way into the culinary traditions of many countries. It is a key ingredient in Vietnamese pho, Chinese five-spice powder, Indian masalas, and Middle Eastern spice blends.

Culinary Uses

  • Flavour Enhancement: Star anise is valued for its ability to enhance the flavour and aroma of dishes. It is often used whole or ground in a wide range of recipes, from soups and stews to desserts and beverages.
  • Beverages: It is a star player in beverages like mulled wine, chai tea, and various cocktails, contributing depth and warmth to these drinks.
  • Preservation: Star anise’s antimicrobial properties have led to its historical use in pickling and preserving food.
  • Medicinal Uses: In some cultures, star anise has been used traditionally for its potential medicinal properties, such as aiding digestion and alleviating coughs.

Nutritional Profile Of Star Anise

According to USDA, 100 grams of star anise contains the following nutrients

Energy: 1410 kJ

Protein: 17.6 g

Fat: 15.9 g

Carbohydrates: 50 g

Fibre: 14.6 g

Calcium: 646 mg

Magnesium: 170 mg

Phosphorus: 440 mg

Potassium: 1.4 g

Health Benefits of Star Anise

Star anise not only adds a burst of flavour to your dishes but also offers a range of potential health benefits. Its nutritional composition includes various vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds that can positively impact your well-being. Here, we delve into the potential health advantages of incorporating star anise into your diet:

A. Digestive Health

Relief from Indigestion and Bloating: Star anise has been used traditionally to ease digestive discomfort, including indigestion and bloating. Its natural compounds may help relax the gastrointestinal tract and reduce symptoms of discomfort.

Potential as a Natural Remedy: Star anise contains anethole, a compound with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. This compound may help alleviate gastrointestinal inflammation and pain.

B. Immune System Support

Star anise is a rich source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress, which can weaken the immune system. Regular consumption of star anise may contribute to overall immune system health.

C. Potential Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Reduction of Inflammation: Some studies suggest that compounds found in star anise, including flavonoids and polyphenols, may have anti-inflammatory properties. These properties could potentially help reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions.

D. Oral Health Benefits

Role in Dental Hygiene: Star anise’s natural antimicrobial properties may contribute to oral health. Chewing on star anise or using it as an ingredient in mouthwashes may help combat bacteria responsible for oral health issues like bad breath and gum disease.

E. Weight Management

Star anise contains compounds that may help boost metabolism and promote efficient energy utilization. While not a standalone solution, incorporating star anise into a balanced diet could support weight management efforts.


Star anise, renowned for its flavour-enhancing qualities, also boasts a range of potential health benefits owing to its nutritional richness. This star-shaped spice is packed with vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds that may positively impact well-being. It holds promise in digestive health, potentially relieving indigestion and bloating through the relaxation of the gastrointestinal tract and alleviating inflammation. Additionally, its abundance of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, suggests potential immune system support. Star anise may also possess anti-inflammatory properties and contribute to oral health by combating bacteria, while its compounds may aid metabolism, offering support in weight management when integrated into a balanced diet. Nonetheless, further research is needed to substantiate these claims, and consulting a healthcare professional is advised before making significant dietary changes.

Culinary Uses of Star Anise

Star anise’s remarkable flavour and aromatic qualities make it a sought-after spice in kitchens around the world. Its versatility allows it to enhance a wide range of dishes, both savoury and sweet. Here, we explore the culinary applications of star anise:

Popular Dishes and Cuisines Featuring Star Anise

  • Asian Cuisine: Star anise is a staple in Asian cooking, particularly Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. It is a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder, used to season a variety of savoury dishes, including stir-fries, braised meats, and soups.
  • Pho: In Vietnamese cuisine, star anise plays a central role in the iconic soup, pho. It infuses the broth with its distinct aroma and flavour, elevating the overall dining experience.
  • Indian Masalas: Star anise is a component of various spice blends used in Indian cooking. It contributes to the complexity of flavours in dishes like biryani, garam masala, and some curry preparations.
  • Middle Eastern Dishes: In Middle Eastern cuisine, star anise can be found in spice mixes used for seasoning rice, meats, and stews. It adds depth and warmth to dishes like pilaf and lamb-based preparations.

Tips for Incorporating Star Anise into Recipes

  • Whole or Ground: Star anise can be used whole or ground, depending on the recipe. Whole star anise is often added to simmering dishes to infuse flavour, while ground star anise is suitable for baked goods and spice blends.
  • Balancing Act: Star anise has a potent flavour, so use it sparingly to avoid overpowering your dish. Start with a small amount and adjust according to your taste.
  • Infusions: Star anise can be used to make flavorful infusions for beverages and desserts. For example, steep it in hot water for a soothing tea or incorporate it into custards and syrups for desserts.
  • Complementary Flavors: Star anise pairs well with ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and garlic. Experiment with these combinations to create unique and aromatic dishes.

Cautionary Notes on Excessive Use

While star anise can enhance the taste of your dishes, it’s essential to exercise moderation due to its potent flavour. Excessive use may lead to an overwhelming liquorice-like taste, which may not be suitable for all palates. Additionally, some individuals may be more sensitive to its flavour, so it’s advisable to start with small amounts and gradually adjust to your preference.

Precautions and Possible Side Effects

While star anise offers a wealth of culinary and potential health benefits, it’s important to be aware of precautions and possible side effects associated with its consumption. Here, we outline key considerations:

  1. Allergic Reactions

Some individuals may be allergic or sensitive to star anise. Common allergic reactions include skin rashes, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect an allergy to star anise, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

  1. Potential Interactions with Medications

Blood-Thinning Medications: Star anise contains compounds that can have a blood-thinning effect. If you are taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin or aspirin, consult your healthcare provider before adding star anise to your diet to prevent potential interactions.

Antidiabetic Medications: Star anise may affect blood sugar levels. If you are taking medications for diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely when consuming star anise and consult your healthcare provider to adjust your medication if necessary.

Safe Consumption Guidelines

Moderation: Due to its strong flavour and potential side effects in excessive amounts, it’s best to use star anise in moderation. Start with small quantities and adjust according to your taste preferences.

Consult a Healthcare Professional: If you have underlying medical conditions or are on specific medications, consult a healthcare professional before incorporating star anise into your diet, especially if you plan to consume it regularly or in larger quantities.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals should exercise caution when using star anise, as there is limited research on its safety during these periods. It’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider before consumption.

Child Safety: Keep star anise and its essential oil out of reach of children, as even a small amount can be toxic if ingested in large quantities.

Use Whole Star Anise: When using star anise in cooking, it’s preferable to use whole pods rather than ground star anise to easily remove them from the dish before serving.

HealthifyMe Suggestion 

Star Anise has a very interesting flavour profile and can be used while stewing fruit as an alternative to or along with cinnamon. Take a pot of water and add in some whole star anise and optionally cinnamon sticks. Add in brown sugar and mix well. Heat the water and add in the fruits. Once the water boils, reduce the heat, lid the pan and cook for at least 20 minutes or until the fruits are soft. Cool and then serve.


Incorporating star anise into your culinary repertoire can open up new dimensions of taste and aroma while potentially offering health advantages. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or an adventurous home cook, let star anise’s allure inspire your culinary creations, always with an eye toward balance, flavour, and well-being.

So, the next time you reach for this starry spice, savour not only its taste but also its potential to brighten your dishes and enhance your journey to good health.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is a star anise, and how does it differ from a regular anise?

Star anise is a spice that comes from the fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree. It is characterized by its distinctive star-shaped pods. While it shares a similar flavour profile with regular anise, they come from different plants. Star anise has a slightly stronger and more complex flavour compared to regular anise.

2. How can I use star anise in cooking?

Star anise can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It is commonly used in Asian cuisines, such as Chinese and Vietnamese, to flavour soups, stews, and braised meats. It can also be used to infuse flavour into beverages like tea and cocktails. Ground star anise is suitable for baking and making spice blends.

3. Are there any health benefits to consuming star anise?

Star anise is believed to offer several potential health benefits, including aiding digestion, supporting the immune system due to its antioxidant content, and having anti-inflammatory properties. It may also contribute to oral health and metabolism regulation. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.

4. Can I use ground star anise as a substitute for whole star anise?

Yes, you can use ground star anise as a substitute for whole star anise in recipes. However, be cautious with the quantity, as ground star anise is more concentrated in flavour. Start with a smaller amount and adjust to taste.

5. Are there any precautions I should take when using star anise?

Yes, there are some precautions to consider. Allergic reactions to star anise are possible, so if you experience any adverse symptoms, discontinue use. Star anise can also interact with certain medications, particularly blood thinners and antidiabetic drugs, so consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns. Additionally, always use star anise in moderation to avoid overpowering flavours.

6. Can I give star anise to children?

It’s generally not recommended to give whole star anise or its essential oil to children, as even small amounts can be toxic if ingested in large quantities. It’s important to keep star anise out of reach of children.

7. Where can I purchase star anise?

Star anise is widely available in most grocery stores, spice shops, and online retailers. You can find it in whole or ground form, and it’s often sold in small jars or bulk.

8. How should I store star anise to maintain its freshness?

To keep star anise fresh and maintain its flavour and aroma, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and moisture. Properly stored, it can retain its quality for up to one year.

Reference Sources 

  1. Pimpinella anisum in the treatment of functional dyspepsia: A double-blind, randomized clinical trial
  1. Star anise (Illicium verum): Chemical compounds, antiviral properties, and clinical relevance
  1. Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Star Anise (Illicium Verum) in Murine Model

About the Author

M.Sc in: Dietetics and Applied Nutrition from Manipal University. Worked: All over India and have been involved in helping set up nutrition departments in start ups. Interested in lifestyle based nutrition. Mantra: A healthy lifestyle isn't a choice to be made or discarded, it's a way of life!

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