The Star of Spices: Have You Added This to Your Meals?Luke Coutinho
Shaped like a flower or a star, this spice is one of the most potent antivirals in the world. Pharmaceutical companies use its extract to manufacture the common drug Tamiflu, used to treat cold, cough, viral fever, and swine flu. This spice also finds its special place in Chinese and Indian cuisine and traditional medicine. Did you guess what it is?
The extract we are referring to is shikimic acid, and the spice it is found in is star anise. Also known as chakra phool in Hindi, it is native to China. Arunachal Pradesh is among the few states in India that grow this spice to a small extent. But the good news is that you can now buy it at a local spice shop in any part of the world. Sourcing the right type and quality and using it the right way makes all the difference.
Star anise also grows in Japan. But you must always choose the pure Chinese variety or the one that grows in India. There is an FDA warning on the star anise produced in Japan because it can be highly toxic. Research says that Japanese star anise has potent neurotoxins that can lead to serious reactions like seizures, hallucinations, and nausea. There are reports of severe and potentially fatal reactions to Japanese star anise in infants. Always check your source before buying it to avoid accidental intoxication.
How to consume star anise?
If you are allergic to star anise, don’t have it. But if you can have it, the next time you feel the onset of a cold, cough, viral fever, or flu – Try this herbal concoction.
Boil one star anise with a 1-inch piece of ginger or ginger powder, a dash of clove powder, and cinnamon powder in 500 ml of water. Reduce this to half and sip it warm. You can drink this in the afternoon or at night. Children above the age of six can have this in small quantities (1 to 2 tablespoons).
Does this mean – you should ignore all your symptoms and rely solely on this spice? NEVER. Pay attention to the biofeedback of your body. Do not ignore your symptoms. Seek medical help when required.
Another way to consume this is to make your jeera (cumin) and ajwain (bishop’s weed) water as usual. Once you strain and add it to a mug, add your star anise and let it steep for 15 minutes. Sip warm. Always use the Chinese variety or the star anise that grows in India, never the Japanese variety.
Want to improve the bioavailability of star anise and its shikimic acid? Here’s what to do.
Pair it with foods rich in quercetin. Quercetin is found in onions, grapes, citrus fruits, berries, cherries, green tea, broccoli, and capers. But apples are one of the richest sources of it. Have an apple, followed by your mug of star anise tea or jeera-ajwain-star anise tea.
What are the other benefits of consuming star anise?
- One of the richest sources of vitamins A, C, and B vitamins, among spices, star anise can contribute to boosting immunity, prevention, and healing.
- It is rich in antioxidants that aid repair and recovery and neutralize free radicals that create inflammation in your body.
- It is antifungal. Most of us have candida in our bodies. But the moment our immunity drops drastically, we have a candida overgrowth. We have this bacteria in our throats, mouth, and mainly the gut. Most women will find this in their genital region when they experience thrush, vaginal infection, or discharge. Candida overgrowth is one of the main reasons that contribute to the inability of many women to lose weight, constant bloating, flatulence, and acidity. Because star anise is antifungal, it helps break down excessive candida growth in our body. So add it to your diet.
- Star anise also has the active ingredient thymol, which is highly anti-inflammatory. It makes it powerful for those dealing with rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory lifestyle condition) characterized by severe joint aches and flare-ups. It is spasmolytic and can provide relief from pain.
- Star anise also has a calming effect on your digestive system. It is gastroprotective and can reduce the severity of acidity, indigestion, flatulence, and bloating. Don’t forget to address the root cause of these.
- Star anise is also great for women hitting or going through menopause, thanks to its high estrogenic properties. In menopause, your estrogen levels dip, and progesterone levels rise. Eating foods rich in healthy estrogen can help take away many of the side effects and symptoms of menopause.
- We have found star anise to be effective for our patients going through chemotherapy or radiation for certain cancers where the immunity is already low.
- It also works well for those with Type 2 diabetes. There’s a warning that comes with this. If you are already on diabetic medication and using star anise, you need to monitor your levels to avoid hypoglycemia (where your blood sugar levels dip dangerously low). So, use it with caution by keeping your doctor in the loop.
Who should avoid star anise?
If you have ER-positive cancer (ovarian, breast) or any disease caused by excessive estrogen, star anise may not be the best spice for you. But everyone else can do it in moderation.
Disclaimer: Make an informed choice. If you are allergic to certain ingredients avoid the same. If you are on certain medications or have a medical condition, keep your healthcare provider in the loop before adding anything new to your lifestyle.
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