Monday, December 28, 2009

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Star anise comes by its name honestly, with its star shape and a licorice taste similar to regular anise, only stronger. Star anise is the seed pod of an evergreen tree (Illicium Verum) grown in southwestern China and Japan. It is about one inch high with eight segments and a dark brown rust color. Like regular anise, star anise gets its distinctive licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol. However the two are not related botanically - star anise is a member of the Magnolia family.

In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is prescribed as a digestive aid and to help cure colic in babies. More recently, Shikimic Acid, extracted from star anise, is one of the chief ingredients in the antiviral Tamiflu drug used to fight avian influenza.

In brief:

ORIGIN: Central America, China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, South America, Spain

PARTS USED: seed pod

FRAGRANCE: pungent, licorice-like

BLENDS: amyris, bay, caraway, cardamom, cedarwood, coriander, galbanum, mandarin.

MAGICAL USES: psychic powers, luck.

PHYSICAL USES: digestive, cramps, deodorant, digestive, halitosis, indigestion, upper abdominal pain, vomiting.

Here are some key benefits of Star Anise:

Anti Rheumatic: This oil can give relief from rheumatic and arthritic pains by stimulating blood circulation and also by reducing sensation of pain in the affected areas.

Cordial: The warming effect of this oil on the respiratory and the circulatory system makes it a cordial. This property helps counter cold and deposition of phlegm and problems like rheumatism and arthritis.

Digestive: This property of Star Anise and the Star Anise Essential Oil are very commonly used to promote digestion. It has been an old practice to chew Star Anise seeds or to serve desserts containing Star Anise or to have a glass of warm water with few drops of Star Anise Essential Oil in it to aid digestion, especially after a heavy meal or feast.

Stimulant: The stimulating property of Anise Essential Oil can benefit us in the following ways. It can stimulate circulation and give relief from rheumatism and arthritis, stimulate secretion of enzymes and hormones and thus the whole metabolism and finally, it can stimulate the nervous system and the brain and can make us more active and alert.

Freshens bad breath.

The FDA has issued this advisory as an interim measure. One problem is that there is more than one type of star anise. The Chinese star anise is considered safe. A closely related species, the Japanese star anise, contains sikimitoxin and is toxic. Once star anise has been dried and processed, it is not possible to visually distinguish between the Chinese and Japanese forms. Some teas may actually be Japanese or a mixture of the two types. Please be mindful and well. In heavy dosages, it has narcotic effects and slows down respiration and circulation. It is poisonous to certain small animals and birds and therefore children should not be given heavy dosages. Further, it may cause irritation to certain skin types. Better to avoid in pregnancy. This may also aggravate certain types of cancers caused due to estrogen hormone. Never ingest essential oils without a prescription. Use carrier oil when applying to skin.

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