Stephine Sheehan

Written by Stephine Sheehan

Modified & Updated: 03 Mar 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


Star anise, scientifically known as Illicium verum, is a unique and fascinating spice that is used in various cuisines around the world. Its distinct flavor and aroma make it a popular choice for enhancing the taste of both sweet and savory dishes. Not only does it add a delightful twist to culinary creations, but it also boasts a range of health benefits.

In this article, we will delve into 16 interesting facts about star anise that will not only pique your curiosity but also deepen your appreciation for this versatile spice. From its origin and appearance to its culinary uses and medicinal properties, we will uncover the secrets behind this star-shaped wonder. So, strap in and get ready to embark on a journey of culinary discovery!

Key Takeaways:

  • Star anise, a popular spice in Asian cuisines, is not related to true anise. It has a unique star-shaped appearance and is used in both savory and sweet dishes, as well as in traditional medicine.
  • With a history of over 3,000 years, star anise is not only a flavorful spice but also a rich source of antioxidants. Its distinct licorice-like flavor intensifies with heat, making it a versatile ingredient in various recipes.
Table of Contents

Star Anise is not a true anise.

Contrary to its name, star anise is not related to true anise, but rather comes from an evergreen tree native to Southwest China and Vietnam.

Star Anise is a popular spice in Asian cuisines.

With its distinct licorice-like flavor, star anise is a common ingredient in various Asian dishes, including Chinese braised meats, Vietnamese pho, and Indian curries.

The star-shaped spice is known for its unique appearance.

Star anise gets its name from its distinctive star-shaped pods, which contain the seeds used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

It is commonly used in spice blends.

Star anise is a key component in many spice blends, such as Chinese Five Spice and Garam Masala, adding depth of flavor and aroma to dishes.

Star Anise has a long history of medicinal use.

In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise has been used for centuries to aid digestion, relieve coughs, and improve respiratory health. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

It contains a compound called anethole.

The primary active compound in star anise is anethole, which gives it its characteristic flavor and aroma. Anethole is also found in other aromatic plants, such as fennel and anise.

Star Anise is used to make the popular liqueur, Sambuca.

Star anise is one of the main ingredients used to create the sweet and anise-flavored Italian liqueur, Sambuca.

It is used in traditional mulled wine recipes.

Star anise adds a warm and spicy note to mulled wine recipes, particularly during the holiday season.

It is a key flavor in Vietnamese pho broth.

The aromatic and slightly sweet flavor of star anise is essential in creating the savory broth base of the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, pho.

Star Anise is often used in desserts.

The unique flavor of star anise lends itself well to sweet treats like cookies, cakes, and custards.

It can be used in both whole and ground form.

Star anise can be used either whole or ground, depending on the recipe. The whole pods are often used for infusions, while the ground form is added directly to dishes.

Star Anise is sometimes used as a natural breath freshener.

Due to its strong aroma, star anise has been used in some cultures to freshen breath and promote oral health.

It is a common flavoring in Asian alcoholic beverages.

Star anise is frequently used to flavor Asian alcoholic beverages, such as Chinese rice wine and Vietnamese rice liquor.

Star Anise has been used as a spice for over 3,000 years.

Throughout history, star anise has been valued for its culinary and medicinal properties, dating back thousands of years.

It is a rich source of antioxidants.

Star anise contains various antioxidants that help protect the body against oxidative stress and promote overall health.

The flavor of star anise intensifies with heat.

When exposed to heat, the essential oils in star anise are released, enhancing its flavor and aroma.


In conclusion, star anise is a fascinating spice that not only adds a unique flavor to dishes but also offers a range of health benefits. It has a distinct licorice-like taste and is commonly used in both sweet and savory dishes across various cuisines. From aiding digestion to promoting respiratory health, star anise has been valued for its medicinal properties for centuries.Whether you’re exploring new recipes or looking to reap the health benefits, incorporating star anise into your cooking can be a delightful and beneficial choice. So, go ahead and experiment with this aromatic spice to add a touch of warmth and complexity to your meals.


Q: What is star anise?

A: Star anise is a spice derived from the fruit of an evergreen tree native to China and Vietnam. It is characterized by its star-shaped appearance and strong licorice-like flavor.

Q: How is star anise used in cooking?

A: Star anise is commonly used as a seasoning in soups, stews, curries, and marinades. It is also a key ingredient in the Chinese five-spice blend and is used to flavor beverages like mulled wine and chai tea.

Q: What are the health benefits of star anise?

A: Star anise contains compounds that have been shown to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It may aid digestion, alleviate menstrual cramps, and support respiratory health.

Q: Can star anise be used as a substitute for anise seed?

A: While both star anise and anise seed have a licorice-like flavor, they are not interchangeable in recipes. Star anise has a more intense flavor and should be used sparingly as a substitute for anise seed.

Q: Are there any precautions to consider when using star anise?

A: Star anise is generally safe when used in moderate amounts in cooking. However, excessive consumption may cause adverse effects, such as allergic reactions or hormonal imbalance. It’s always best to use star anise in moderation and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

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