The fruit of Illicium verum, Hooker.
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYMS: Star-anise, Star-anise fruit, Chinese anise; Semen badiana, Anisi stellata fructus.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 10.
Botanical Source and History.—The plant bearing star-anise is a small tree or shrub, indigenous to southwestern China, growing in the mountainous elevations of Yunnan. The shrub attains a height of from 8 to 12 feet, and has entire, lanceolate, evergreen leaves, which are pellucid-punctate. The flowers are polypetalous and of a greenish-yellow color. The fruit is described below. This plant was introduced into Japan by the followers of Buddha, and planted near their temples.
Description.—The U. S. P. describes star-anise of commerce as follows, giving also the distinctive differences between it and the poisonous fruit of Illicium anisatum, Linné: "The fruit is pedunculate and consists of 8 stellately-arranged carpels, which are boat-shaped, about 10 Mm. (2/5 inch) long, rather woody, wrinkled, straight-beaked, brown, dehiscent on the upper suture, internally reddish-brown, glossy, and containing a single, flattish, oval, glossy, brownish-yellow seed; odor anise-like; taste of the carpels sweet and aromatic, and of the seeds oily. Star-anise should not be confounded with the very similar but poisonous fruit of Illicium anisatum, Linné (Illicium religiosum, Siebold), the carpels of which are more woody, shrivelled, an have a thin, mostly curved beak, a faint, clove-like odor, and an unpleasant taste"—(U. S. P.). This last poisonous fruit is sometimes found as a dangerous admixture to true star-anise.
Chemical Composition.—The seeds contain, according to Meissner (1818), some volatile oil, resin, and a large amount of fixed oil. The fruit (without the seeds) contains volatile oil, resin, fat, tannin, pectin and mucilage. The volatile oil (oil of star-anise), amounts to about 4 to 5 per cent, and is almost identical with oil of anise (from Pimpinella Anisum, Linné). Star-anise oil (from Chinese fruit) according to Schimmel & Co.'s Semi-annual Report (October, 1893), has the specific gravity at 15° C. (59° F.), of 0.980 to 0.990, and its known constituents are anethol, phellandrene, safrol, and hydro-quinone-ethyl-ether, while only anethol (C6H4[OCH3][CH:CHCH3]) and pinene ([C10H16]) (Flückiger, Pharmacognosie, 1891) are given as the constituents of anise oil, which has the same density as star-anise oil. J. F. Eykmann (1888) detected the poisonous sikimin in the fruit, while Schlegel found a crystalline principle of a pronounced odor of musk. He also found saponin in the watery extract (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1885, p. 426).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Both the seeds and oil of star-anise possess the stimulant, diuretic, carminative, and slightly anodyne properties of anise. Locally applied and internally administered, they have been used for abdominal pains, particularly when associated with flatus, and in bronchitis, and locally alone in earache and rheumatic complaints. The dose of the powder is from 10 to 20 grains; of the oil, from 1 to 10 drops. Oil of star-anise is largely employed to impart a flavor to spirits, especially in France, Germany and Italy.
Related Species.—Illicium anisatum, Linné (Illicium religiosum, Siebold). This fruit was until quite recently (1880) considered identical with the preceding, the shrub bearing which was also known as Illicium anisatum, Loureiro, until it was determined by Hooker (1888) to be a distinct species, to which the name Illicium verum, Hooker, was applied. Illicium religiosum is indigenous to the eastern portion of Asia, and is cultivated in Japan, where the plant is known as sikimi (shikimi). Eykmann found in the seeds a crystalline, poisonous, non-glucosidal, non-alkaloidal body, sikimin, soluble in hot water, alcohol, and chloroform. For an account of the analysis, see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1881, p. 407. The volatile oil (oil of star-anise, from Japanese fruit), according to Schimmel & Co., contains safrol, and has a density of 0.984 to 0.994 at 15° C. (59° F.). The fruit is described above. It is highly poisonous, and attention was drawn to this fruit through cases of poisoning which occurred in the Netherlands, in 1880, as also in Japan, their native country. Fatalities in children have resulted from the ingestion of the seeds, the toxic symptoms being vomiting, convulsions resembling those of epilepsy, with frothing at the mouth, loss of consciousness, dilated pupils, and the face excessively cyanotic.
Illicium parviflorum, Michaux.—Georgia, Florida, and Carolina, in the hill districts. This species has yellow blossoms, the fruit is 8-carpelled, and has the taste of sassafras. They are poisonous. Barral (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 330), isolated a toxic glucosid from the seeds. The properties are thought to resemble those of shikimi (Illicium religiosum, Siebold).
Illicium floridanum, Ellis; Stink-bush, Poison-bay.—An evergreen shrub, growing from Florida along the Gulf of Mexico coast to Louisiana, and bearing purple flowers. The fruit is 13-carpelled, and has a disagreeable, anise odor resembling somewhat that of turpentine. Both fruit and leaves are poisonous. The fruit, leaves, and bark of this species are aromatic, the first being occasionally substituted for anise, the last for cascarilla. (See Henry C. C. Maisch, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1885, pp. 228 and 278, for a histological and chemical study of this plant.)