Star anise is the fruit of a tree native to China and was introduced into Europe in the 17th century. The fruit is recognizable thanks to its eight-pointed pericarp in the form of a star. It is used in many dishes because of its intense fragrance. Fresh star anise is green. It only takes on its beautiful orange-brown color when dried.
Star anise can be bought whole and dried. In this case, there is no use in removing the seeds; it is the pod, not the seeds, which imparts the most fragrance. Star anise is also commonly available ground into a powder and sold in a bag or jar.
Dried star anise is used as a spice. It forms a part of several different blended-spice powders, such as five-spice, and is commonly found in liquors (spirits), such as pastis and anisette Star anise is also used to flavor desserts, particularly pastries and cookies. Star anise is additionally used to make infusions. It is found as an ingredient in ready-to-use herbal teas, but it can also be used on its own, with three pods left in simmering water for a few minutes.
Star anise is known for its beneficial properties; in addition to its soothing qualities, it assists digestion and calms a cough. Chewing the seeds prevents bad breath.