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Star Anise: a crunchy, nutritional treat!*

StarAniseby Pauline James

Parrots love different textures, tastes and shapes and in this respect dried Star Anise has everything!  Star Anise is the spicy fruit of the evergreen Illicium verum tree native to South-western China, but also grown in southern NSW, Australia, and has a similar flavour and taste to the anise seed.  The tree bears star-shaped fruits which turn a rusty-red when ripened and inside they contain amber-coloured seeds.

Both the seed and husk are used as a spice.  The seeds which feature a delicately sweet and aromatic bouquet are made up of 75-90 per cent anethole an essential volatile oil, which has a distinctive liquorice flavour.  The seeds also contain other important compounds such as estragol, p-anisaldehyde, anise alcohol, acetophenone, pinene and limonene and this exotic seed spice also contains many plant derived chemical compounds, which are known to have antioxidants to help prevent disease.

Health benefits
Star Anise seed oil is found in many traditional medicines and is used to settle the stomach, aid digestion and it is also an antiseptic, antispasmodic and carminative, helping to prevent the formation of gases in the gastrointestinal tract.   It is also used in tea as a remedy for rheumatism and as a general tonic to boost health.

This oil is also an expectorant – helping to thin the mucus that blocks the air tubes leading to the lungs and is used to relieve symptoms of asthma, colds, flu and other respiratory conditions.  Star Anise’s greatest claim to fame is that it is the major source of shikimic acid, a primary precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu.  The shikimic acid is extracted from the seeds in a ten-stage manufacturing process which takes a year.

The spicy seeds are also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and many essential B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine.  Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) helps increase GABA neuro-chemical levels in the brain.  They are also a great source of minerals like calcium, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Parrots love these 1in diameter star-shaped pods, which have a long shelf-life if stored in airtight jars in the dark.   As an added bonus, the house and birds smell wonderful when they have been snacking on this crunchy, tasty, nutrient-rich treat!

*Important note, Japanese Star Anise (Illicium anisatum) is not edible and contains sikimitoxin, which is highly toxic and is burned as incense.

 

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