- There is confusing use of anis or anise as common names. Chinese star anise, Sanque, Illicium verum is considered the true anise. Some plants that give the taste and aroma of anise have adopted anise into their common or scientific names: (1) Sanke, sanki, Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, (2) Haras, anis, fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, and (3) Kayumanis, Clausena sanki.
- Star anise (Illicium verum) is native to China where it has been in use for the past 3000 years as food flavor additive and herbal medicine.
- It is the major source of shikimic acid, a primary ingredient in the antiflu drug, oseltamivir (Tamiflu} an antiviral medication for influenza A and influenza B.
- Vietnam produces more than 5000 t of star anise seeds per annum. The estimated combined production of China and and Vietnam is more than 25,000 t per annum. (6)
- Illicium verum is an aromatic medium-sized evergreen tree, growing up to 20 meters tall, with a round and straight trunk and green and glabrous branchlets. Bark is white to bright gray. Leaves are 6 to 12 centimeters long, alternate, simple, leathery, entire, shiny, glabrous, usually crowded in bundles at the end of branches. Flowers are large, bixexual, 1 to 1.5 centimeters in diameter, white, pink to red, or greenish yellow, axillary and solitary. Fruit is a capsule, aggregate is star-shaped, radiating f5 to 10 pointed boat-shaped sections, tough-skinned and rust-colored, up to 3 centimeters long, each arm containing a seed pod. Seeds are shiny brown or reddish. (5).
- Probably originated from south eastern China and norther Indo-China (Laos, Vietnam).
Cultivated in China, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hainan, and the Philippines.
- Semi-wild occurrence from abandoned plantations.
- Fruit yields a bitter principle, tannins, and essential oil (9-10%), consisting of anethole (85-90%), α-pinene, limone, ß-phellandrene, α-terpineol, farnesol, and safrol. (5)
- Phytoconstituent studies of fruits have yielded trans-anethole, cis-anethole, α-pinene, α-phellandrene, limonene, cymene, linalool, terpinen-4-ol, α-terpineole, shikimic acid, estragole,, anisylacetone, p-anisaldehyde, ß-caryophyllene, foeniculin, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and 1-(4'-methoxyphenyl-1,2,3-trihydroxypropane(R)-sec-butyl-β-D glucopyranoside. (5)
- GC-MS study of volatile oil extracted from Illicium verum by steam distillation yielded 41 compounds which included 14 hydrocarbon components and 22 oxygenated hydrocarbon derivatives, and a small amount of nitrogenous compounds. The main components anethole, accounting for 76.23%, along with anisyl acetone, anisaldehyde, p-alylanisole, p-cumic aldehyde and p-allylpen which take up more than 10%.
- GC and GC-MS analysis of fruit essential oil identified 22 compounds, with trans-anethol (89.5%), 2-(1-cyclopentenyl)-furan (0.9%) and cis-anethole (0.7%) as main components.
(see study below)
Considered antiviral, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, anthelmintic, insecticidal, secretolytic, antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, expectorant, spasmolytic, estrogenic and sedative.
- Fruits considered aromatic, carminative, eupeptic, digestive, stomachic, stimulant, diuretic, expectorant, deodorant.
- Studies have suggested antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, insecticidal, antiulcer, neurotoxic, quorum sensing and biofilm inhibitory, CNS depressant, anxiolytic properties.
- Poisoning: Although it contains neurotoxic sesquiterpenes viz., veranisatin A, B. and C, Illicium verum is considered safe due to low veranisatin content,. However, it may cause neurotoxicity above maximum recommended dose (one star per 200 cc of water) or when boiled for long periods which result in higher concentrations. (See study below) (11)
Adulteration: Illicium verum is sometimes contaminated with highly toxic Japanese star anise (L. anisatum L.) and poisonous star anise (I. lanceolatum A.C.Smith), which contain several neurotoxic sesquiterpenes. (3)
- Japanese star anise looks very similar to Chinese star anise in the dried form. Its fruits contain the neurotoxic anisatin, a strong competitive antagonist of the GABAa-receptor.
The fruit is most toxic, followed by the seed, root, leaf, and bark.
- Avoid use of tea in children and during pregnancy.
Fruits, seeds, oil.
Edibility / Culinary
- A popular culinary spice: Dried ripe, star anise fruit and seed are used as important spice in Asian cooking, especially Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian cuisine. (6)
- Oil from steam distillation is used as substitute for European aniseed in commercial drinks. (5)
- Chinese star anise is one of the flavors in "China five spices." Is is stronger than aniseed and is frequently used in meat and Chinese cooking, in baked goods, confections, and liquors. (5)
- A common flavoring for medicinal tea, cough mixtures, lozenges, and pastilles.
- Used in the French recipe for mulled wine, vin chaud (not wine).
- Long used in Chinese traditional medicine for dispelling cold, regulating the flow of Qi, and relieving pain. (3)
- Fruits used to relieve bloating and indigestion.
- Used to facilitate birth, increase libido, and relieve menopausal discomforts. Oil use in rheumatism. Used to increase production of milk in mothers. (5)
- Dried fruit used as remedy for infant colic. (see toxicity studies below)
- Insecticidal: Effective against Japanese termites and adult German cockroaches.
- Oil: Star anise oil is a highly fragrant oil used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams.
• Star Anise as Antiflu / Shikimic Acid / Tamiflu: Swine influenza is an infection caused by any of several types of swine influenza viruses. Shikimic acid is required for the synthesis of the potent antiflu drug tamiflu. The acid is extracted from the peels of star anise, involving a 10-step process of a complex chemical reaction. For 0.5g of Chinese star anise raw material that contains 8% shikimic acid, 100% recoveries of shikimic acid could be obtained with 60 g water at 150ºC at 15 MPa in 4 min. (5) About 90% of world's star anise crop is used for extraction of shikimic acid for use in the synthesis of oseltamivir (Tamiflu). (10)
• Insecticidal / Essential Oil: The essential oil of Illicium verum showed potent insecticidal activity against wheat flour beetle larvae and adult Tribolium castaneum. Median lethal concentration (LC50) was 18.4 µl against larvae and 19.8 µl against adult. LC50that reduced transformation of larvae pupa to half was1.1.97 µl. (5)
• Inhibitory Effects Against Avian Viruses: Study evaluated the inhibitory effects of Illicium verum extracts (absolute methanol, 50% methanol, and aqueous extract [WA]) against reovirus, infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV) and infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV). The three extracts showed antiviral inhibitory activity against all tested viruses during simultaneous inoculation and preinoculation except 100MOH and 50MOH that showed no effect against IBDV. On postinoculation, the extracts showed inhibitory effects against NDV and avian reovirus. Only the 100MOH showed inhibitory effect against ILTV. Results suggest Illicium verum has potential as a natural alternative source for antiviral agents. (7)
• Antibacterial / Antifungal: Study evaluated the in vitro antibacterial and fungicidal activities of three crude extracts of Illicium verum against two gram positive bacteria (S. aureus and Listeria monocytogenes), two gram-negative bacterial (E. coli and Salmonella arizona), and two fungi (Aspergillus fumigatus and A. niger). Results showed antibacterial activity against all tested bacteria and antifungal activity against A. fumigatus. Results suggest a promising natural antimicrobial. (8)
• Anti-Gastric Ulcer / Antioxidant: Study evaluated plant essential oil and extracts as anti-ulcerogeic agent in a rat model. LD50 was 2500 mg/kbw for aqueous alcoholic extract and 1250 mg/kbw for petroleum ether extract. In an in-vitro study, the aqueous alcoholic extract exhibited the highest antioxidant activity; the PE extract, the lowest. It enhanced production of reduced glutathione and induced glutathione reductase activity, SOD activity and catalase activity in gastric mucosa, with marked reduction in lipid peroxides production in two ulcerogenic models i.e., necrotizing agents and indomethacin. (9)
• Report on Star Anise Poisoning: Illicium verum has been used as a carminative, especially for treating baby colic. This letter concerns continued cases of poisoning with neurological and gastrointestinal manifestations, especially in infants younger than 3 months. This on a 2-month old patient presenting with lower limb jitteriness and startle movements during sleep, with disturbed sleep. Physical and neurologic exam were normal, along with baseline laboratories. On further questioning, the mother reported giving the patient star anise tea for a week, prepared as decoction of 1-2 stars in 400-500 cc of water. Although it contains neurotoxic sesquiterpenes viz., veranisatin A, B. and C, Illicium verum is considered safe due to low veranisatin content,. However, it may cause neurotoxicity above maximum recommended dose (one star per 200 cc of water) or when boiled for long periods which result in higher concentrations. The report briefly reviews the various types of anise plants and their toxicities. It advises pediatricians in the need for recognition and education concerning the adverse effects of anise and other natural products. (11)
• Extraction of Flavonoids from Illicium verum Residues: The fruit has been the industrial source of shikimic acid. The residues after extraction of shikimic acid are treated as waste. Study reports on the optimized extraction of flavonoids from residues by cellulase-ultrasonic assisted extraction technology. Data suggest potential for the industrial production of flavonoids from I. verum fruit residues. (12)
• Antioxidant: Study evaluated the antioxidant properties of ethanol extracts and various fractions of Illicium verum using DPPH radical scavenging assay, total antioxidant capacity, and reducing power assay. The ethyl acetate fraction showed substantially higher total phenolics (4.5 g gallic acid/100 g dw) and total flavonoids (6.9 g quercetin/100 g dw) compared to other extracts, and possessed significant antioxidant activities. Results suggest a potential natural source of antioxidants. (13)
• Antibacterial Against Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens: Study identified four new antimicrobial compounds from I. verum and assessed their antibacterial efficacies. Supercritical CO2 and ethanol extracts showed substantial antibacterial activity against 67 clinical drug resistant isolates, including 27 Acinetobacter baumannii, 20 Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and 20-methicillin-resistant S. aureus. A diethyl ether (EE) fraction and supercritical CO2 extracts showed antibacterial activity with MIC of 0.15-0.70 mg/mL and and 0.1 mg/mL, respectively. The EE fraction showed synergistic effects with some commercial antibiotics. (15)
• Fruit Oil Shampoo for Pediculosis capitis / Compared to Permethrin / Clinical Trial: A randomized controlled trial evaluated the safety and efficacy Of I. verum fruit oil extract shampoo compared to permethrin 1% in the treatment f pediculosis capitis among Filipino children and adults. Results showed the I. verum fruit oil extract was as effective and safe as permethrin 1% in treating pediculosis capitis in the sample population. (16)
• Antifungal / trans-Anethole / Essential Oil of Fruit: Study investigated the essential oil of star anise (Illicium verum) fruit for antifungal activity on plant pathogenic fungi. Both essential oil and the main component trans-anethole showed strong inhibitory effect against all test fungi. Results were attributed to the presence of trans-anethole in the oil, which could be developed as natural fungicide for plant disease control in fruit and vegetable preservation. (see constituents above) (17)
• Neurotoxicity in Infants / Star Anise Tea: Many populations use Chinese star anise as treatment for infant colic. Study reports 7 cases f adverse neurologic reactions in infants seen with home administration of star anise tea. It also reports on contamination of Chinese star anise with Japanese star anise. Study suggests the use of star anise should be avoided in the pediatric population, and suggests stricter federal regulations given the neurotoxic effects of adulterated products. (see study above 11) (18)
• Quorum Sensing and Biofilm Formation Inhibitor on Foodborne Bacteria: Bacteria use quorum sensing (QS) systems to communicate with each other and regular microbial group behavior, such as secretion of virulence factors and biofilm formation. Study evaluated the potential of SA as an anti-QS and antibiofilm agent and its possible application in milk safety. In the endeavor to avoid drug resistance, pathogenesis, and resistance to biocides while improving food safety and avoiding healthy hazard from synthetic chemicals, the star anise extract has potential for use as QS and biofilm inhibitor. (19)
• CNS Depressant / Anxiolytic: Study evaluated the acute toxicity of fruit extracts and its effect on the central nervous system in male albino mice and rats. Acute toxicity study by OECD guidelines showed 2000 mg/kg as toxicological dose and 1/10 of the same dose as therapeutic dose. Intraperitoneal injection of all extracts at dose of 200 mg prolonged phenobarbitone induced sleeping time, produced alteration in general behavior pattern, reduced locomotor activity and caused anxiolytic effects. A methanol extract produced more prominent effects than hexane and EA extracts. Results suggested potent CNS depressant action and anxiolytic effect without interfering with coordination. (20)
• Effect on Coagulation Parameters: Study evaluated the effect of Illicium verum methanol extraction various coagulation parameters such as prothrombin time (PT), aPTT, and thrombin time (TT) in a rabbit model. Comparison was done with standard anticoagulant drug, Warfarin. Results showed elevation of PT, PTT, and TT. Highly significant increases were seen in PT and PTT at dose of 350 mg/kg. The significant anticoagulant effects is important in hypercoagulable conditions and cardiovascular diseases. Identification of active ingredients are needed to further validate the results. (21)
• Protocatecheuic Acid / Antioxidant / Fruit: Study evaluated the antioxidant potential of I. verum extracts, fractions, and pure compounds. In DPPH assay, a methanolic extract showed antioxidant activity with IC50 of 61 mg/ml. An EA fraction showed potent activity with IC50 of 18 mg/ml. A purified fraction 13 showed to be most potent with IC50 7mg/ml, which led to isolation of 3,4-dihydroxy benzoic acid (protocatechuic acid), an active principle. The protocatechuic acid most probably underlies the plants antioxidant activity. (22)
- Essential oil, tea, extracts, dried star pods in the cybermarket.