Star Anise: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Star Anise Benefits

Star anise, scientifically known as Illicium verum [1], is a unique spice that is widely used in various cuisines for its distinct flavour and aromatic properties. Apart from its culinary uses, star anise also offers a range of potential health benefits. This article explores the benefits, uses, and potential side effects of star anise, drawing references from reliable sources.

Benefits of Star Anise 

  • Digestive Aid

Primary Benefit: Star anise contains compounds that can aid in digestion, alleviate indigestion, and reduce bloating. 

Secondary Benefit: The essential oils in star anise may help relieve stomach cramps and support overall digestive health [1].

  • Respiratory Health Support

Primary Benefit: Star anise exhibits expectorant properties, making it beneficial for respiratory conditions such as coughs and bronchitis. 

Secondary Benefit: The active compounds in star anise can help loosen mucus and facilitate its expulsion, providing relief from respiratory congestion [1].

  • Antimicrobial Effects

Primary Benefit: Star anise possesses antimicrobial properties that can inhibit the growth of various pathogens. 

Secondary Benefit: The natural compounds in star anise may help combat bacterial and fungal infections, promoting overall immune health [1].

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Primary Benefit: Star anise contains compounds with anti-inflammatory effects, helping to reduce inflammation in the body. 

Secondary Benefit: Regular consumption of star anise may contribute to the management of inflammatory conditions [1].

  • Rich in Antioxidants

Primary Benefit: Star anise is a potent source of antioxidants that can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. 

Secondary Benefit: The antioxidants present in star anise may offer protection against oxidative stress and support cellular health [2].

Uses of Star Anise

  • Improved Sleep Quality

Primary Benefit: Star anise contains compounds that possess sedative properties, aiding in the relaxation and promoting better sleep. 

Secondary Benefit: Consuming star anise or its essential oil may help individuals with insomnia or sleep disturbances achieve a more restful sleep [1].

  • Oral Health Promotion

Primary Benefit: Star anise has natural antiseptic properties, making it beneficial for oral health. 

Secondary Benefit: Chewing star anise or using its essential oil as a mouthwash may help combat bad breath and prevent oral infections [1].

Uses of Star Anise 

Aside from its medicinal benefits, star anise is widely used as a spice in various cuisines worldwide. Its distinct flavour adds a liquorice-like sweetness to both sweet and savoury dishes. In culinary applications, star anise is commonly used in [3]:

  • Asian Cuisine

Star anise is a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder, imparting its unique flavour to stir-fries, soups, and braised dishes.

  • Baking and Desserts

Star anise can enhance the flavour of baked goods, such as cookies and cakes. It is also used in making mulled wine and spiced tea.

  • Broths and Stews

Adding star anise to broths and stews gives them a warm and aromatic profile. It is commonly used in pho, a popular Vietnamese noodle soup.

  • Beverages

Star anise is used to flavour various beverages, including herbal teas, mulled wine, and spiced cider. It adds a delightful aroma and a hint of sweetness to these drinks.

  • Pickling and Preserving

Star anise is a popular ingredient in pickling recipes, as its flavours infuse well with preserved vegetables and fruits, providing a unique tangy taste.

  • Infused Oils and Vinegar 

Star anise can be used to infuse oils and vinegar, creating flavorful bases for dressings, marinades, and dipping sauces.

  • Confectionery

Star anise is utilized in the production of candies, flavoured syrups, and liqueurs, such as absinthe and anise-flavoured spirits.

Side Effects and Precautions 

While star anise offers numerous health benefits, it is important to exercise caution and be aware of potential side effects and precautions associated with its use [3,4].

  • Allergies 

Some individuals may be allergic to star anise, leading to allergic reactions such as skin rashes, itching, or respiratory distress. It is advisable to perform a patch test before using star anise or its essential oil topically.

  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their healthcare providers before consuming star anise due to its potential effects on hormone levels.

  • Neurotoxicity

Star anise contains a compound called anethole, which in large quantities, can have neurotoxic effects. It is important to use star anise in moderation and avoid excessive consumption.

  • Drug Interactions

Star anise may interact with certain medications, including anticoagulants and blood pressure-lowering drugs. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using star anise if you are taking any medications.


In conclusion, star anise is not only a versatile spice used in culinary preparations but also offers potential health benefits. Its primary benefits include aiding digestion, supporting respiratory health, possessing antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and being rich in antioxidants. Additionally, star anise may provide relief from menstrual symptoms, promote better sleep quality, and contribute to oral health.

When using star anise, it is important to be cautious of potential side effects, allergies, and drug interactions. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified herbalist before incorporating star anise into your diet or using it for medicinal purposes.

With its unique flavour and potential health-promoting properties, star anise can add a delightful touch to your culinary creations while potentially benefiting your well-being.