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Illicium anisatum


Illicium anisatum, with common names Japanese star anise,[1] aniseed tree,[1] and sacred anise tree,[1] is a tree similar to Chinese star anise. Since it is highly toxic, it is not edible; instead, it has been burned as incense in Japan, where it is known as shikimi (?). Cases of illness, including serious neurological effects such as seizures, reported after using star anise tea may be a result of using this species.[2][3][4]

I. anisatum is native to Japan. It is similar to I. verum, but its fruit is smaller and with weaker odor, which is said to be more similar to cardamom than to anise. While it is poisonous and therefore unsuitable for using internally, it is used for treatment of some skin problems in traditional Chinese medicine.[citation needed]

Japanese star anise contains anisatin, shikimin, and sikimitoxin, which cause severe inflammation of the kidneys, urinary tract, and digestive organs. Other compounds present in toxic species of Illicium are safrole and eugenol, which are not present in I. verum and are used to identify its adulteration. Shikimi gave its name to shikimic acid, a substance also present in the plant.

The essential oil of air-dried I. anisatum obtained by hydrodistillation was analyzed by GC–MS. Fifty-two components were identified in the essential oil, and the main component was eucalyptol (21.8%).[5]

Anisatin and its derivates are suspected of acting as strong GABA antagonists.

It is impossible to recognize Chinese and Japanese star anise in its dried or processed form by its appearance only, due to morphological similarities between the species.[citation needed]

Cases of product recalls have been reported when products containing star anise were found to be contaminated by Japanese anise.[2] Cases of consumers admitted to hospital with neurological symptoms after ingesting excessive doses of star anise or smaller doses of products adulterated with Japanese anise were described, as well.[2]

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