Star Anise Illicium verum and Shikimic acid
Derived from the Chinese evergreen tree, we use the seed pod which is a hard woody and flavoursome addition to many meals and medicines. Used in TCM for thousands of years traditionally it is an antimicrobial herb with a distinct anise/ liquorice aromatic flavour. When we cook with this seed we usually either grind it to a powder first or add the whole pod and then take it out just before eating.
Star anise is delicious and making it an ingredient in soups, casseroles, wet dishes and drinks is a perfect way to incorporate this ancient and effective medicine into your diet at home.
It’s easy to cook with Star anise and I’ll give you a recipe after I explain why I love it so much and why it has so much interest in the natural medicine world at the moment!
Thanks Hugo Aitken for this image use. Appreciated!
Medicinal uses and research
Known as an antiviral because of its high Shikimic acid content. 5% to 7% is one of the highest known for strong antiviral capabilities. Its one of the main ingredients in the pharmaceutical medicine Tamifu. The essential oils have been shown in research to help with other viruses too such as herpes simplex.
The active constituent that’s responsible for the delicious flavour in Star anise is antethole. This offers antifungal benefits. Research has shown that trans antethole may inhibit the growth of pathogenic fungi
Star anise is a rich source of the flavonoid anethole. This compound is responsible for the spice’s distinct flavour and offers potent antifungal benefits.
The essential oil contains terpene linalool, which in research has shown suppress biofilm and cell wall formation of infectious fungi in humans.
Star Anise is also a revered antibiotic and has been shown to be effective in some antibiotic drug resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria. It has been shown to be effective in reducing growth of E coli.
More research is needed on Star anise in its antimicrobial benefits in specific strains of fungi, virus and bacteria before there is massive public confidence in its effectiveness. However it has been used culturally all over the Eastern world for thousands of years to fight pathogens, infections and all manner of communal diseases. This is a good cultural platform for effectiveness. It’s taken the natural medicine world by storm in the last year with its viral uses and here’s why!
The active constituent that is causing all the interest now with our current viral loads is Shikimic acid or Shikimate . This is found in plants including schisandra berry, Maritime pine needles and most importantly its highest in star anise. Here is the low down on Shikimic acid and how you can use Star anise for medicine at home. This explanation below is technical and I have tried to translate it so that you can understand the concepts and understand that the Shikimic acid is used to effectively assist in prevention and cure for platelet aggregation which is a concern with some viruses at the moment.
What is Shikimic acid?
Shikimic acid is an active constituent that works in the metabolism of plants. It is a pathway not found in animals. It is a 7 step route used by bacteria, fungi, algae, parasites and plants to synthesise specific amino acids. Including Phenylalanine, tyrosine and Tryptophan. We can not synthesise phenylalanine and tryptophan as they are essential amino acids and we need to get them from our diet.
This pathway is responsible for the production of these amino acids plus vitamins E and K, folate cofactors and ubiquinone.
It is a plant phytochemical that assists in platelet aggregation. Shikimic acid is utilised and the starting material for the synthesis of the antiviral class Oseltamivir which is the drug used against the H5N1 influenza virus and is used to treat and prevent all known strains of the influenza virus.
Platelet aggregation is our body response when an agonist (interfering external source ie virus) provides a diagnostic patterning that results in different disorders of platelets which changes their function. Platelet aggregation and thrombosis are the key phenomena in atherosclerosis and Cardio Vascular Disease.
Platelets stick to the damaged vessel wall to form a plaque, and then stick to each other (aggregate) and release adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and thromboxane A2 (TXA2), which promote further aggregation. Shikimic acid is researched to prevent the platelet aggregation and I have attached an link here to an article which gives an excellent scientific explanation of how this active constituent works and should give you confidence in its effectiveness as an anti thrombotic agent.
Shikimic acid is named after the Japanese flower Shikimi which it was first isolated in 1885 by the Dutch Chemist Johan Eykmam. The Japanese star anise is highly toxic taken internally as it also contains anisatin and shikimitoxin which causes severe inflammation of the kidneys, urinary tract and digestive organs. Japanese star anise is revered by the Buddhist monks as incense and smudge branches and can not be taken internally. This type of star anise can not be eaten and is poisonous. We use the Chinese star anise as the food and medicine.
Chinese star anise can be made into medicine at home
Research has shown that you can get close to 95% of the shikimic acid out of Chinese star anise with a hot water extraction of 70 degrees Celsius or higher. This is done in the classic Chinese decoction style. Chines star anise contains 5% to 7% of shikimic acid while pine needles only contain 1.5%.
Let’s make a traditional decoction.
1.Take 100 grams of star anise pods/seeds and run them through the coffee grinder so that they are a powder. ( should be 5 to 7 grams of shikimic acid in this)
- Add that powder to 300ml boiling water in a saucepan and allow to simmer for ten to fifteen minutes until you have 50% of liquid left. This will be about 150ml.
3.Strain the liquid from the powder so that the powder is separated and you have a nice clear liquid. ( use a muslin cloth or coffee filter paper to do this)
- Now add an extra 50ml of apple cider vinegar (to preserve) and you will have 200ml liquid. Let’s assume your end product is about 5000 to 7000 mgs of Shikimic acid. Taking 5ml of the liquid in drinks a couple of times a day would be a traditional dose.
- Place in a glass bottle with a lid. Label with Star anise vinegar decoction and write on todays date.
The liquid would last in the fridge for a week.
The actual doses are not clear in any research I did and I see that the recipe I gave you is using traditional star anise doses and method for decoction. I’m sure many other benefits of the star anise are in this recipe and I have only given you the break down of the shikimic acid because that’s what many people are asking me about.
To end this blog I want to tell you that glyphosate the active ingredient in some herbicides kills plants by interfering with the shikimate pathway in plants. More specifically, glyphosate inhibits the enzyme and “Roundup ready” crops work by inhibiting that pathway in the genetically modified plants. I don’t know, but I would think that by having star anise and having other plants that contain Shikimic acid it could be a protection for our body against a myriad of unknown ingredients that enter our body through the foods we eat and the environment we live in!
Have a great day and this was quite a technical article. I hope it gives you some clarity and recipe. Love Dom xox
Herbal Dispensary open in Maleny this week again after our COVID lockdown. We welcome you to make a booking and some see us personally for your free clinic and herbal prescriptions.
And see you Saturday @ Eumundi Markets.
Blessings and have an awesome day xoxo