Additional notes (click to expand)


Viral neuraminidase inhibitor The seed capsules (star anise)contain shikimic acid, from which oseltamivir (Tamiflu) was synthesised, for treating bird flu, swine flu and influenza A & B.
Oakeley, Dr. H.F. (2013). Medicines from RCP plants label list 5-2013.docx.

Star Anise. The fruits, traditionally used as an insecticidal fumigant and expectorant, are now a source of shikimic acid for Tamiflu.


Illicium from the Latin for Allurement, referring to the aromatic scent
Stearn, W.T.. (1996). Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners. Cassell.

Other use

Unripe fruit a culinary spice, especially in liqueurs
Mabberley, D.J. (1997) The Plant Book, ed.2, Cambridge University Press p. 361

Illicium verum Hook.f. Illiciaceae Chinese Star Anise Distribution: China. Illicium anisatum Japanese Star Anise. Distribution Japan. Illicium verum is used as a spice in Asian cooking and for Star Anise tea. The distilled oil is added to cough mixture used by children. Introduced to Europe in 1588 (Pharmacographia Indica, 1890). Illicium anisatum syn. religiosum, has been confused with it (Lindley, 1838, Bentley 1861) but is poisonous and was used to make incense in Japanese and Chinese temples. It was called Skimi by Kaempfer. The seed pods of both species contain shikimic acid (the name being derived from the Japanese word for the plant - shi-kimi) from which Tamiflu, the antiviral drug was synthesised.
Oakeley, Dr. Henry F. (2013). Wellcome Library notes. link

Illicium verum, Chinese star anise, a culinary spice also used to make star anise tea. Illicium seed pods (mostly from I. verum) contain shikimic acid from which ‘Tamiflu’ (oseltamivir), a treatment for bird and swine flu, is made. Neither extracts from the plants nor shikimic acid itself have any effect as antiviral agents. These plants are also the source of an anti-cancer treatment that is an angioneogenesis inhibitor (ie it stops the production of the blood supply to the tumour). This property is also used to prevent the little tubes, the ‘stents’ that are used to open up blocked coronary arteries, from clogging up. The stent is impregnated with the chemical and this leaches out slowly, acting like anti-fouling paint and so preventing the coronary artery lining from growing inside the stent
Oakeley, Dr. Henry. (2011). A Year in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, revised edition. Royal College of Physicians, London. page 35 link

Contains safrole (see also under toxicity) which is a natural pesticide in many plants; 2000 tons a year are used to make commercial pesticides. It is also used in the manufacture of Ecstasy. Used also in manufacture of fragrances, but no longer legally added to food or drink. (see Safrole in Wikipedia).


Contains Trans-anethole, an alkenylbenzene, is carcinogenic, not genotoxic. Increased hepatocellular carcinoma secondary to hepatotoxicity in female rats over two year period. Contains estragole and methyleugenol, which are in the alkylbenzene group. They are carcinogenic and genotoxic in rodents.
van den Berg, S.J.P.L., Restani, et al., P.. (2011). Levels of Genotoxic and Carcinogenic Compounds in Plant Food Supplements and Associated Risk Assessment. Food and Nutrition Science 2: 989-1010. p. 994 link

Illicium verum Hook.f.

Genus: Illicium
Species: verum Hook.f.
Common names: Star Anise; Chinese Anise
Distribution summary: China, Vietnam
Habit: Shrub
Garden status: Not currently grown
Reason for growing: Medicinal

Back to List