Today: Star-Anise – Tomorrow: Aniseed, the Difference?

Star anise is a star-shaped fruit, measuring about 1 inch wide, that grows on a small tree native to China. The dried fruit is sold intact or ground into a powder. Star anise has a licorice-like flavor and is a staple spice in Chinese cuisine. Research has revealed some valuable nutritional properties of star anise.
Star anise, on the other hand, is the fruit of the Illicium verum, an evergreen tree of the Magnoliaceae family that grows to about 8 metres in height. Native to south-eastern China, it is very common in central Asia. Also known as badian, star anise has much the same flavour and properties as aniseed.

The Chinese have been using star anise for thousands of years. It was introduced to Europe in the late 16th century by an English navigator, and was widely used as bait in mousetraps (whence its Latin name, Illicium, meaning “lure” or “bait”). The lance-shaped leaves resemble bay or magnolia leaves. Its large, highly aromatic flowers are light yellow and the woody fruits are reddish brown. Each point of the star shaped fruit contains a green oval seed with longitudinal ridges. The flavour of these seeds is stronger and sharper than that of aniseed; indeed, a few star anise seeds are enough to flavour an entire dish. Star anise keeps its flavour longer than aniseed.

Nervous System
Star anise may have a role in the treatment of some disorders of the nervous system, according to an Indian study published in the November 2010 “Fitoterapia.” Anethole, the active constituent of star anise, promoted activation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter that controls the autonomic nervous system — the portion of the nervous system that regulates internal organ functions — and also controls muscle contraction. The neurotransmitter is a target for treatment of certain diseases of the nervous system such as myasthenia gravis and Alzheimer’s. In the study, star anise inhibited the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, and the authors suggest that, given its relatively low cost and low toxicity, star anise may be a useful adjunct in the treatment of these diseases.

Reposted from Livestrong.com by Tracey Roizman, D.C
And also from BlackBookCooking

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