hist-brewing: Star Spice

PBLoomis at aol.com PBLoomis at aol.com
Sun Jun 11 19:42:04 PDT 2000

In an earlier message, euphonic at flash.net (Adam Larsen) asked 
about "star spice" and I opined that it might be star anise.  My
apprentice-sister loaned me two books which discuss it:

    Bremness, Lesley (1988) The Complete Book of Herbs, New 
York, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-670-81894-1, hardcover.
    On page 272 it says:
    Star anise, Illicium verum (in the Magnoliaceae)  Tender evergreen
tree.  Grows from 15-30 feet high with aromatic white bark, aromatic 
glossy elliptical leaves and whitish, yellow, or purple flowers surrounded 
by many narrow petals.  These are followed by star-shaped gray-brown 
    Grows well in well drained soil in sunny sheltered sites.  Propagate 
by seed or stem cuttings.
    Seed oil provides important substitute for aniseed as a flavoring 
agent.  Seed employed as a spice.  Add to drinks.  Seed promotes 
digestion and appetite, and relieves flatulence, coughs, bronchitis, and
    On page 246 it says:
    A standard infusion of star anise (Illicium verum) has expectorant 
and antibacterial properties.  It mixes well with other cough remedies.
    On page 246 it says:
    Star anise (Illicium verum) dispels wind and is often included with 
dill and fennel seed in colic preparations for young babies.  Take a 
standard infusion three times a day.

    Westland, Pamela (1975) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices,
London, Marshall Cavendish Books Limited, ISBN 0-86307-815-X.
    On page 179 it says:
    Star Anise (Illicium verum) known as Chinese anise, is highly 
valued in the East.  The seeds are chewed after a meal to aid digestion, 
and the fruit is given to relieve colic and rheumatism.  In Japan, the 
bark is ground to a powder and burnt as incense in the temples.  In 
homeopathic medicine, a tincture is made from the seeds.

    The fruit dries naturally to a seed pod that is (usually) a six pointed 
star, and the seeds are sold still in the pod.  My wife had some in her 
spice cabinet, and my apprentice-sister sent me leaf, blossom and seed 
pods from one that grows outside her office building, sheltered on the 
side of the building but in full subtropical Mississippi sunlight.  The dried 
seeds store well and travel well, and I have no trouble believing it might 
have been shipped from China to Denmark in the Fifteenth century.

    Its use as an anti-flatulent and aid to digestion makes it a natural
as an additive to beer, though apparently it was not successful enough 
to persist in that application.

    In joy and service, 

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