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 Star anise



Illicium verum Syn. I. anisatum

Family : Magnoliaceae


Star anise is the dried fruit of the Illicium verum, an evergreen tree indigenous to the southeastern part of China and to Vietnam. Its flavour and uses are similar to those of anise. It is now grown in Indo-China and Japan. Traditionally the Japanese used to burn the aromatic bark of the tree as incense.


It has evergreen, aromatic leaves and bisexual flowers, the inner petals of which grade gradually into stamens. The flowers are radially symmetrical that lack differentiation between the outer and inner floral whorls (sepals and petals). The female portion of the flower consists of 7 to 15 carpels (ovule-bearing structures), usually in a single whorl. At maturity (after 6 years) the flower produces a characteristic woody fruit composed of a ring of several joined pod like follicles, each of which splits open along one seam to release a single seed. The fruit takes its name from the star like arrangement of its carpels around a central axis. The fruits are harvested before they ripen. The dried fruit is about 0.25 to 0.5 cm (0.1 to 0.2 inch) in diameter; individual carpels are usually about 1 cm in length and contain a single seed. Dried carpels are hard, rough, and reddish brown; the seeds are smooth, lustrous, and light brown in colour.

Both the seed and the husk are used for the ground spice. The dried fruit's essential-oil content is about 3 percent, and its principal component is anethole.

Culinary, medicinal and other use

Star anise is one of the most important spices in Chinese cuisine. It is also used as a flavouring in alcoholic drinks. The dried fruits of star anise are the source of oil of star anise, a volatile, aromatic oil used for flavouring candies, liqueurs, and perfumes. It is used in cough medicines.


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