What are the health benefits of consuming star anise?

There’s a secret weapon in your spice cabinet as you read this. It is star anise also known as phool chakra. This savory star-shaped spice used in biryanis and curries is rather underrated but has many benefits. On the one hand, it is widely used in Chinese medicine. Star anise has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Take it when you have a viral fever, seasonal cold, flu, stuffy nose, sore throat, or excessive mucus buildup.

It is also rich in vitamins B, C and A and antioxidants, which help the body recover better and faster. But is it the spice that makes it so potent?

All the magic is in shikimic acid, a compound also used by pharmaceutical companies to make a common antiviral drug called Tamiflu for influenza A and influenza B. There is another powerful compound called Thymol.

Star anise is excellent for premenstrual symptoms, painful periods, lactation, constipation and indigestion. It is known to exhibit estrogenic properties, which can counteract the symptoms of menopause that occur when estrogen levels drop.

This also means being careful about consuming it in case the body retains excess estrogen, for example ER+ cancers. (cancer dominated by estrogen). Star anise also exhibits mild sedative properties as it helps modulate the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones in the body. This in fact
an excellent choice for those who suffer from sleep disorders.

Although used in small amounts, star anise is rich in iron and is therefore ideal for people with anemia. The spice helps in the production of more red blood cells and stimulates blood circulation in the body.

The easiest way to use star anise? Brew a tea. A single star anise is quite potent. Boil it in two cups of water for five minutes. You can also add freshly grated ginger (or powder), a pinch of clove powder and a pinch of Sri Lankan rolled cinnamon. Filter and drink hot once or twice a day, 30 minutes after meals. This spice is also delicious in baked desserts or tea.

Children over the age of five can also drink a few sips. This spice does not replace medication. Try a small amount first to see if it works for you. If you have any doubts, talk to your doctor.

By Luke Coutinho, Holistic, Integrative Medicine and Lifestyle Coach

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