Star anise, a medicine in phytotherapy

The taste of star anise is very similar to that of regular anise. Star anise grows on an evergreen tree in Vietnam and South-West China. Man started cultivating star anise around 2000 BC. Currently, this herb is widely cultivated in India and China. Star anise has many culinary qualities and it also has medicinal properties. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Star anise / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)


  • Naming
  • Star anise in folk medicine
  • Active substances
  • Star anise for digestion
  • Star anise is good for the respiratory tract
  • Other medicinal effects of star anise
  • Dose and safety


The Latin name of star anise is Illicium verum . Illicium comes from the Latin word illicio, which means ‘to seduce’. Verum means ‘real’.

Star anise in folk medicine

Star anise is used in various ways in Asian folk medicine. First of all, it is a remedy for rheumatism. In addition, they are chewed after eating, not only to get a fresh mouth but also to prevent indigestion. Furthermore, in Chinese medicine it is a warming herb; that is why it is used for colds. It is also used in oseltamivir, a regular flu medicine. This medicine is also known as tamiflu.

Star anise is found in Chinese five-spice powder and garam masala, among other things.

Active substances

The star-shaped fruits of star anise are used for their medicinal properties. These are packed with phytonutrients that have both nutritious and medicinal properties. These fruits contain essential oil, most of which is transanethol, and also methyl cavicol. It also contains the monoterpenes limonene, alpha and gamma terpinene, the aldehyde anisaldehyde, fatty oils such as oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid, carbohydrates, protein, resin, the organic acids caffeic acid, protocatechuic acid, shikimic acid and quinic acid, flavonoids, tannins and sesquiterpene lactones.

Star anise for digestion

Star anise has a carminative and antispasmodic effect. In addition, it stimulates appetite and strengthens the stomach. This short but powerful summary shows that star anise is especially good for various digestive problems. For these medicinal properties, star anise is used in phytotherapy for the following indications:

Illicium verum / Source: Fanghong, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Flatulence,
  • Meteorism or abdominal distension,
  • Fermentation symptoms,
  • Nausea,
  • Cramps,
  • Anorexia,
  • Dyspepsia.

The medicinal effect of star anise is similar to the medicinal properties of anise.

Star anise is good for the respiratory tract

Star anise is a secretolytic; a substance that helps to dissolve mucus. It is also an expectorant, a substance that helps to cough up mucus. In addition, it has a relaxing effect on the respiratory tract. Because of these medicinal properties, star anise is used in phytotherapy for the following respiratory indications:

  • Bronchitis,
  • Tough slime,
  • Spastic cough.

Other medicinal effects of star anise

Star anise promotes milk secretion and is therefore good for nursing mothers. Star anise is diaphoretic and can therefore be drunk as a tea for flu and fever. The essential oil in star anise has a phytoestrogenic effect, a type of bioidentical hormones, and can therefore be used for amenorrhea or absent menstruation and menopausal complaints. Due to its multitude of medicinal properties, star anise is a tonic, general tonic for the body.

Dose and safety

  • Three grams of star anise seeds per day.
  • 30 drops of mother tincture three times per day.
  • Cup of tea with one teaspoon of star anise seeds per cup.
  • Intake of 0.5 gram to 1 gram of powder per time and a maximum of 4 grams per day.
  • 5 drops of essential oil several times a day.

Star anise essential oil is one of the few oils that can be safely ingested. Many other essential oils are only used externally or in aromatherapy. However, you should never take too much essential oil; that can act like poison on the nerves. Pregnant women, women with tumors and children under 2 years of age should never use star anise seed essential oil.