Star Anise (Illicium verum), also called Badian, is an evergreen tropical tree with lace-shaped leaves, native of south China and North Vietnam. It grows in warm subtropical climate.
A yellowish-white perianth made up of 15–20 spirally arranged petals makes up the flower’s axil. The fruit, which grows on a peduncle known as the columella, is a woody follicle made up of 8–12 lobes grouped in a star shape, hence the name. Each lobe hides a sparkling seed.
Star Anise is normally collected in two crops: one from June to October and the second from January to April. The best crop is considered to be the autumnal, with better yields and better flavored essential oil.
China is the largest producer worldwide, followed by Vietnam.
Star anise oil should not be confused neither with Anis oil derived from Anise (Pimpinella Anisum), native of the eastern Mediterranea region, characterized by oblong fruits, nor with Sweet fennel oil derived from Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Since trans-anethol and estragole are present in all three oils, their aromatic licorice flavors are very similar.
Star anise was once the major source of the molecule shikimic acid, a primary precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of the ROCHE ant-influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir). A bacterial source is now being used by Roche.
Due to its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, Star anise oil prices skyrocketed during the recent pandemic Covid period.
Prices are now slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels.
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