The Herb Stop Blog
Star Anise vs. Anise Seeds: Top Health Benefits & Flavor Differences
While both have anise in their names, star anise and anise seeds have different flavor profiles, health benefits, and uses. But are star anise or anise seeds better for your goals?
We’re sharing these differences in this guide on star anise vs. anise seeds, along with the research behind their health benefits and how you can incorporate these powerhouse herbs into your lifestyle.
Health Benefits of Star Anise
May Have Antiviral Properties
Star anise has long been touted as an antiviral, meaning it may help fight viruses.
One way this theory is being studied is by researching shikimic acid, a primary active ingredient in Tamiflu, a popular medication for treating influenza. Star anise is the primary source of shikimic acid in pharmaceutical product development,
While studying shikimic acid, researchers found that star anise reduced viral infectivity. Specifically, it inhibited herpes simplex type one infectivity between 60% and 80%, demonstrating its antiviral properties.
May Be Effective Against Inflammation
These results may be due to the potent bioactive compounds in star anise, which are critical contributors to good health. Early research has shown promising results on star anise’s anti-inflammatory properties and even potential anti-cancer properties, with one study indicating that it played a part in reducing cancerous activity in the body.
May Have Antibacterial Benefits
Incredible research on star anise has demonstrated that it may be as effective as antibiotics against certain drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria, which is a fantastic find for researchers developing new treatments.
A test-tube study also indicated that bioactive compounds in star anise could be effective against urinary tract infections caused by various bacteria.
While more research needs to be done in this area, star anise certainly has promising research findings!
How to Use Star Anise
If you want to add star anise to your diet, consider our delicious Star Anise & Pine Needle Tea. The pine needles are harvested right here in Rim Country, Arizona, and alongside fennel and star anise, they support the body when you’re feeling under the weather.
Star Anise Essential Oil is another excellent option. We commonly recommend this oil for supporting the body when it’s undergoing digestive disturbances or coughing. Some also enjoy diffusing this essential oil for its warm, sweet scent or applying it to the abdomen in a carrier oil or lotion when experiencing menstrual cramps or menopause symptoms.
Another great choice for fortifying the immune system is our Magic Tulsi Tea, which contains ginger root, Tulsi (Holy Basil), cinnamon, star anise, and other supportive herbs. This tea has a slightly sweet, peppery taste with notes of licorice from the star anise.
Health Benefits of Anise Seeds
May Reduce Symptoms of Depression
Research shows that anise seeds may have potent antidepressant properties, with some studies indicating that anise seeds may even be as effective as the common prescription medication Fluoxetine.
A 2016 study on patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and mild to moderate depression indicated that anise oil “could be a promising treatment for depressed patients with irritable bowel syndrome” after studying 120 participants in a placebo-controlled clinical trial.
We also found a promising study that evaluated how helpful anise seed powder was in reducing symptoms of postpartum depression. The study of 107 participants compared a placebo group and a control group taking anise powder after each meal for twelve weeks. When assessed at the end of weeks two, four, and 12, participants taking anise had reduced postpartum depression symptoms.
May Encourage Decreased Inflammation & PMS
While inflammation is a normal part of the immune system, clinical evidence suggests chronic inflammation is linked to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. As a result, reducing chronic inflammation in the body may help support our overall health and protect against disease.
One standard recommendation for decreasing inflammation is consuming more antioxidants.
Anise seeds are high in antioxidants known for decreasing inflammation in the body, so incorporating them into your lifestyle may encourage reduced inflammation. To do this, you can learn to cook delicious meals with anise seeds. Alternatively, add anise oil to a carrier like jojoba oil and massage it into tender parts of your body, such as a sore knee or your lower abdomen during menstrual cramps.
Anise seeds may also support the body during cramps and inflammation during PMS and that time of the month. Interestingly, a randomized double-blind controlled clinical trial demonstrated that star anise was effective at decreasing PMS symptoms compared to the placebo group.
May Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Animal study research on anethole, the active ingredient found in anise seed, found that it may balance blood sugar levels when combined with a healthy diet.
For example, one study on rats with diabetes found that anethole lowered high blood sugar levels by changing levels of multiple vital enzymes. It even supported the function of pancreas cells, which are critical in insulin production.
While these results are promising, more research on humans still needs to be completed. However, we found this an exciting development in anise seed research!
How to Use Anise Seeds
Interested in adding anise seeds to your lifestyle? Try our Anise Seed Whole Spice. It’s incredible in cookies, fruit pies, alcoholic beverages, and cakes and added to savory dishes like meat and charcuterie boards.
A word of caution - start with a pinch! Anise seeds have a strong taste. Learn about our favorite foods to season with anise seeds in our Cooking with Herbs & Spices article.
Another idea is diffusing Anise Essential Oil, which has even been reported as an aphrodisiac, so consider diffusing this before your next date night! Many also enjoy anise's robust and calming scent to promote greater relaxation.
We hope this article clarifies the differences between anise seeds and star anise! While these herbs have some overlap in name and taste, they both serve unique purposes.
If you’re still having trouble deciding between the two, we recommend our incredible Swiss Chuchichaestli Bitters, which contain both powerhouse herbs. We love this bitter for supporting our bodies after heavy meals because star anise, anise, and other traditional digestive remedies encourage healthier digestion.
Herbalist Natalie & Herbalist Leilah