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star anise

Notes from the Apothecary

January, 2019

Notes
from the Apothecary: Star Anise

Star
anise is a beautiful, fragrant spice from China and Vietnam often
used in cooking and medicine. The Latin name is illicium verum.
The fruits are green and resemble star-shaped flowers when first
picked. When they are dried, the fruits harden and turn a dark,
reddish brown and the star shape becomes more prominent. The ‘arms’
of the star pop open to revel smooth, shiny brown seeds.

The
whole fruit is used as a seasoning for many different types of
cuisine, most notably in the Chinese five spice mix which is widely
used in Oriental cooking. The star shape makes this fruit immediately
intriguing as a magical ingredient. The powerful, aniseed-like scent
speaks of mystery and wonder, whether it’s rising from a specially
seasoned morning coffee or some carefully crafted incense. Read on
for more information on how star anise is used in medicine and magic.

The Apothecary

The
first point in using star anise as a medicine is to ensure it is
never confused with Japanese star anise. Japanese star anise, or
illicium anisatum, is also known as the Sacred Tree and is
highly revered by Buddhists. The leaves are used as incense, but the
fruits and seeds are highly toxic. Unfortunately, it’s almost
impossible to tell the difference between dried Japanese and Chinese
star anise fruit. Because of this, it’s important to purchase your
star anise from a reputable and experienced supplier. Alternatively,
if you’re able to grow your own, this is the safest way forward. If
in doubt, do not consume, as the toxic substance anisatin causes
severe inflammation of the urinary and digestive tracts. Chinese star
anise is the only edible variety and the only variety that should be
used for medicinal purposes.

Now
that the dire warnings are out of the way, the good news is that
Chinese star anise is incredibly medicinally important. It’s one of
the primary source of shikimic acid which is used in anti-influenza
drugs. There are many sources of shikimic acid, but star anise is so
relied upon that when there is a serious flu outbreak, global
shortages of the spice tend to occur.

Web
MD states that star anise is also used for a range of ailments
including colic and other digestive issues, coughs, bronchitis and
congestion. It may be useful as a galactagogue; a substance that
promotes the flow of breast milk. However, it should be avoided
during pregnancy as can affect the uterus.

Mrs
Grieve states in her Modern Herbal that the oil from Chinese star
anise is identical to oil of anise, from the unrelated anise plant.
This is why the two plants have such a similar taste. Many animals
are highly attracted to anise oil. Hunt saboteurs have been known to
use it to throw hounds off the trail of a pursued fox or hare, and it
has historically been used in mouse traps as bait.

The Witch’s Kitchen

In
The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja, star anise is one of the 52
herbs she focuses on as important tools of magic. The author states
that star anise is an herb of the element of air. This means it would
make a beautiful addition to the eastern point of an altar or sacred
space, and an ideal ingredient for any incense.

Star
anise is associated with the planet Jupiter, associated with
expansion and luck (Practical Planetary Magick, David Rankine and
Sorita d’Este)
. Jupiter has historically been known as
beneficent and positive, meaning plants associated with it, such as
star anise, can be used for magic with a positive leaning. Jupiter is
also associated with law and ethics, meaning it can be connected to
justice and doing the right thing. Use star anise to gain success in
business ventures or new projects.

Star anise is also linked to Apollo and Hermes, making it a tool of poetry, music, traveling and communication. Music and poetry can, of course, be tools for communication, which makes me wonder if this is one of star anise’s strongest traits. Perhaps a witch could use star anise to find different ways to deliver a difficult message, or to open up about something they’re having a hard time expressing.

Silja
links this plant to magic for consecration and purification, which
can be done via incense or scattering the seeds. The author also
states the spice can be used for breaking curses and removing
negativity, particularly when used in food.

Home and Hearth

Press
a whole star anise into a green or gold candle. Use a blob of melted
wax to stick it there, or ensure the candle is soft before you do
this. Any time you need to do something regarding prosperity or
wealth, light the candle and meditate on the flame for a moment. This
could be a visit to the bank, a job interview, a business meeting or
even a yard sale. The star anise combined with the coloured candle
magic will boost your chances at success and prosperity. (Paraphrased
from The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja.)

Kitchen
witches should add star anise into their recipes for a boost of
humour and joviality in their lives. Indian cookery is great for
this. My favourite is a biryani; a fragrant rice dish with whole star
anise.

I
Never Knew…

The
Latin name for Chinese star anise, illicium verum, originates
from illicio which means ‘alluring’. This refers to the
irresistible scent of the fruit.

Image
credits: guangxi – star anise farm in china 2005 by fuzheado via
Wikimedia
Commons
, licensed under the Creative
Commons
Attribution-Share
Alike 2.0 Generic license
.

***

About
the Author:

Mabh
Savage
 is
a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She
is the author of 
A
Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

and Pagan
Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways
.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

Lionheart’s Magickal Herbal Guide

June, 2013

Common name: Star Anise

 

Folk name: Chinese Anise

 

Parts used: leaves, oils, bark, seeds

 

Planet: Jupiter

 

Element: Air

 

Zodiac: Pisces, Sagittarius

 

Gender: Feminine

 

Goddess/ God: Buddha, Quan Yin

 

Medicinal uses: The fruits and foliage yield essential oil for medicinally promote appetite and digestion and to relieve chest complaints, rheumatism, and flatulence. Japanese Star Anise (Illicium anisatum) has cardamom-scented, poisonous fruits, used externally in Asian medicine. Its flower lacks scent and the leaves are a poison.

 

Folklore: The seed and pods are used as a spice in Asian cookery, notably as an ingredient of Chinese five-spice powder. The Japanese Star Anise is revered in Japan and planted near Buddhist temples, where the bark is burned as incense.

 

Magickal Effects: psychic awareness, calm, peace, luck

 

Magickal uses: Inhaling the scent of the dried fruits while sitting quietly can awaken your psychic abilities, allowing your subconscious to unlock its secrets. The Star Anise was made for incense with its pungent scent, especially incense used for meditation. The herb can also be used in luck spells especially in the form of a sachet; just add some of the strong smelling seeds/fruits in an orange sachet with the correct enchantments to unlock its luck attracting abilities (Your need and intent should be the enchantment let that energy flow into the star anise then carry them with you in the sachet.)

 

Sources:

  • Smithsonian Handbook: Herbs by Lesley Bremness
  • Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunnginham