Star anise is used mainly as a spice but it is also known to have numerous important health benefits. It is a star shaped fruit belonging to a plant native to China called illicium verum.
Star anise is not related to the European anise plants but it has a similar anise or licorice like flavor. It can be used in cooking as a spice or drunk as a tea. It is important to note that you should only use the Chinese variety as there are concerns regarding the toxicity of Japanese star anise.
Star anise contains plenty of important minerals and vitamins including Vitamins A and C as well as small amounts of B vitamins. It also contains calcium and phosphorus but in terms of its medicinal value, perhaps its most important compound is shikimic acid.
Shikimic acid is used as an ingredient in Tamiflu-the influenza medication which has also been used in the battle against swine flu.