Does the cold season also got you firmly in its grip? Hardly anyone is not suffering from a miserable runny nose or the unloved feeling of flu that comes with the cold winter months. But what home remedies are suitable if you don't want to constantly reach for ibuprofen and the like? Everyone knows the well-intentioned advice "Drink some ginger tea against your cold, it helps! However, a new herbal remedy is currently making waves and is considered an absolute insider tip: star anise! The Christmas spice is extracted from the fruit of the evergreen Chinese tree Illicium verum.
It got its name thanks to its star-shaped pods from which the spice seeds are harvested. The special thing about it: The spice has an intense aroma reminiscent of liquorice. Because of the similarities in taste and name, star anise is often confused with anise, but the two are actually not related. Ultimately, star anise is not only known for its distinct taste and culinary use, but also for its medicinal healing properties. To better understand the healing properties of the spice, we spoke to an expert in herbal medicine for you. Christina Wolff-Staudigl has been running the popular drugstore Staudigl in Vienna, which her parents once started, since 2013. For more than 40 years now, the name Staudigl has stood for expertise and competent customer care in the field of natural medicine. Mrs. Wolff-Staudigl told us all about the healing properties of the still quite unknown spice, about how to deal with doubters of holistic medicine and with which spices we can still get through the winter in good health.
L'Officiel: In your experience, do you see interest in herbal medicine increasing?
Christina Wolff-Staudigl: Environmental awareness or sustainability has already grown deep into society. With that, the interest and understanding of the interaction between humans and nature is also increasing. However, this is not only about health. The plant world also enriches the cosmetics cupboard, the art of cooking, the household and ultimately also the DIY movement. Star anise is a good current example of this. It gives Christmas baked goods and mulled wine their special aroma, is a decorative craft material and, above all, valuable for our health.
L'Officiel: Are there any characteristics to look out for when buying? As well as differences in the quality of the spice?
Christina Wolff-Staudigl: It is best not to buy star anise already ground, but the whole stars - it loses its aroma quickly. Since the husk is more aromatic than the seeds, use the star anise together with the husk. Simply grind it in a mortar or grinder if necessary. It is important to buy real star anise from a trustworthy specialist shop so that there is no confusion with the poisonous Japanese star anise, which looks confusingly similar and is not suitable for consumption. When buying food supplements, it is best to seek advice, check the origin and the INCI list. Or simply get good advice.
L'Officiel: In what form should we best take star anise?
Christina Wolff-Staudigl: It can be used in many ways as a household remedy. Star anise strengthens our immune system, and thanks to the shikimic acid it contains, it has an extraordinary antiviral and antibacterial effect, as well as expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antioxidant and relaxing properties. It is therefore also the basis of many well-known flu remedies and of ointments for the nose and chest area that make breathing easier. It is also fine for inhalation. In tea or drinks it soothes coughs, helps the bronchial tubes and is effective against heartburn and digestive problems. In the kitchen it is becoming increasingly popular as a spice. And it is available in capsule form as a supportive food supplement.
L'Officiel: How do you counter those people who doubt the effectiveness of herbal remedies over chemical alternatives?
Christina Wolff-Staudigl: Of course, home remedies have limits, they are primarily for prevention and strengthening and are a supplement to conventional medicine. In the case of serious illnesses, we too always recommend medical advice.
L'Officiel: When friends ask you for advice, what is your personal favourite recipe against colds in flu season?
Christina Wolff-Staudigl: In our family, star anise has always been our remedy of choice in times of flu, but also Cistus lozenges. The latter especially when we are around people a lot. The lozenges form a protective film that covers the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, making it more difficult for viruses and bacteria to penetrate. It is also important to have a balanced vitamin D level, probiotics, zinc and a vitamin-rich diet. A good tip for improving the air quality in closed rooms is also a room spray with the essential oil of the silver fir. And- as we all know by now: Wash your hands often. Soap has been proven to be a really good weapon against viruses.
L'Officiel: What other herbal flu remedies should we definitely have in our range?
Christina Wolff-Staudigl: The classics are, of course, chamomile, thyme, elderberry, lime blossom and sage, but also honey and propolis. A honey bread with a little thyme, for example, is also called "cough bread". The same goes for sauerkraut, cabbage, cress, garlic, apples and vitamin C-rich fruits. A lesser-known tip is linseed oil - a teaspoon a day in muesli or a smoothie not only strengthens the immune system. The special composition of omega-3 fatty acids in linseed oil has a positive effect on cell membranes. This can also be very helpful in the defence against viruses.