ANISE ~ STAR
The highly aromatic star anise is not related to common aniseed, although the two species have a similar smell. Star Anise, a member of the magnolia family, has a sweeter and richer aroma than the common Aniseed. Its Chinese name, Ba Jiao Hui Xian, translates as 8 horned Fennel. The essential oil of Star Anise frequently dons its flavour to soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, soaps and toothpaste. The woody shell surrounding the seeds yields more essential oil than the fruit itself. Chinese Star Anise has sometimes been confused with its close relative, the Japanese Star Anise, whose fruits look similar, but are highly toxic. Unlike Japanese Star Anise, true Star Anise never tastes bitter. In Japan, the local variety of Star Anise, Illicium anisatum (syn. Illicium religiosa) is highly revered as a Shikimi or Buddha tree and is often planted in temple gardens and on burial grounds. The bark and fruit are often ground into powder and used as incense. In western herbalism star anise is not used medicinally, but plays a role in cooking, usually as a spice for Chinese or Asian dishes.
In China it is not only an important spice and used in the composition of the Chinese 5 spice mixture, but is also used medicinally for rheumatism, lower back pain and hernia. It is warming, stimulating and diuretic and is also used as a digestive aid for flatulence and indigestion.
The oil can be used in cleansing waters for ritual purification and cleansing ceremonies. As a magical perfume or anointing oil it is used to protect against negative energies and to attract good spirits. Star Anise can be burnt as incense or used as an offering to lend wings to prayers, open the doors to the heavens and to please the Gods. Used in rites of passage it gives direction to the soul and helps it connect with its highest purpose.