Last update Dec. 2, 2020

Illicium verum

High Risk

Poorly safe. Evaluate carefully. Use safer alternative or interrupt breastfeeding 3 to 7 T ½ (elimination half-lives). Read the Comment.

The fruit of the tree is used. It contains essential oil (rich in trans-anethole - 85% -, anisatin and estragole), flavonoids and tannins (de Groot 2016, Mathon 2013, Alós 2006). Ascribed properties: antispasmodic, carminative, expectorant, estrogen agonist.

Indications from the German Ministry of Health’s Commission E: anorexia, cough, bronchitis (Blumenthal 1998 p215).

Anethole is neurotoxic (Mathon 2013, Alós 2006, Ize 2004) and is eliminated in breastmilk (Hausner 2008).
Two infants under one month of age became seriously intoxicated (lethargy) after their mothers drank an average of two litres per day of a mixed infusion of licorice, fennel, anise and galega. The effect was attributed to anethole from anise and fennel (Rosti 1994).

There is a high risk of accidental poisoning with Illicium religiosum (Illicium anisatum, Japanese star anise) which is inedible and very toxic (Techen 2009, Alós 2006, Ize 2004, Minodier 2003, Vandenberghe 2003) and has been withdrawn from sale in Spain (MSC 2004) and carries warnings in other countries (FDA 2003, n.a.l. 2003).

Many infants have had severe poisoning with seizures after direct administration (not through breastmilk) of infusions of star anise, contaminated or not with Japanese star anise (Casanova 2019, Obando 2016, Madden 2013, Perret 2011, de la Rubia 2009, Alós 2006, Ize 2004, Minodier 2003, Johanns 2002, Gil 2002), which is why in Spain the sale of star anise was temporarily withdrawn in 2001 (Europa Press 2001, Gil 2002).

Occasional or moderate consumption of star anise by the mother may be compatible during breastfeeding, but not administered directly to the infant.

Precautions when taking plant preparations:
1. Ensure that they are from reliable source: poisoning has occurred due to confusion of one plant with another with toxic properties, poisonings from heavy metals that are extracted from the soil and food poisoning due to contamination with bacteria or fungi (Anderson 2017).
2. Do not take too much; follow recommendations from experienced phytotherapy professionals. "Natural" products are not good in any quantity: plants contain active substances from which a large part of our traditional pharmacopoeia has been obtained and can cause intoxication or act as endocrine disruptors (they contain phytoestrogens: Powers 2015, Zava 1998) if they are taken in exaggerated quantities or over extended time periods.

See below the information of this related product:

  • Anise (Possibly safe. Probably compatible. Mild risk possible. Follow up recommended. Read the Comment.)

Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM team of health professionals, and are based on updated scientific publications. It is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your doctor but to compound it. The pharmaceutical industry contraindicates breastfeeding, mistakenly and without scientific reasons, in most of the drug data sheets.

Jose Maria Paricio, Founder & President of APILAM/e-Lactancia

Your contribution is essential for this service to continue to exist. We need the generosity of people like you who believe in the benefits of breastfeeding.

Thank you for helping to protect and promote breastfeeding.

José María Paricio, founder of e-lactancia.

Other names

Illicium verum is Star Anise in Latin, botanical name.

Is written in other languages:

Illicium verum is also known as


Illicium verum belongs to this group or family:


Main tradenames from several countries containing Illicium verum in its composition:

  • Atrobel™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Bittner™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Cefabronchin™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Ductoveran™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Ervossil™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Pervivo™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Relaxcol™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Tisane laxative™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Tisane pectorale et antitussive™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition
  • Wunderbalsam™. Contains other elements than Illicium verum in its composition


  1. Vanaclocha B, Cañigueral S. 1992 - - Disponible en: Consulted on Dec. 21, 2023 Abstract
  2. Casanova Cuenca M, Calzado Agrasot MÁ, Mir Pegueroles C, Esteban Cantó V. Persistenlasintoxicacionesporanísestrellado,¿estamosdandolasuficienteinformación? [New cases of star anise poisoning: Are we providing enough information?] Neurologia. 2019 Apr;34(3):211-213. Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  3. Obando Pacheco P, Martínez-Martínez PL, Pérez de Eulate Bazán Y, de la Mota Ybancos JL, Milano Manso G, Sierra Salinas C. Liver failure secondary to poisoning by a homemade product made of star and green anise in a 4-month-old infant. Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2016 Dec;108(12):819-821. Abstract
  4. de Groot AC, Schmidt E. Essential Oils, Part III: Chemical Composition. Dermatitis. 2016 Jul-Aug;27(4):161-9. Abstract
  5. Mathon C, Bongard B, Duret M, Ortelli D, Christen P, Bieri S. Analysis of the neurotoxin anisatin in star anise by LC-MS/MS. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2013;30(9):1598-605. Abstract
  6. Madden GR, Schmitz KH, Fullerton K. A case of infantile star anise toxicity. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2012 Mar;28(3):284-5. Abstract
  7. Perret C, Tabin R, Marcoz JP, Llor J, Cheseaux JJ. Malaise du nourrisson pensez à une intoxication à l’anis étoilé. [Apparent life-threatening event in infants: think about star anise intoxication!]. Arch Pediatr. 2011 Jul;18(7):750-3. Abstract
  8. Techen N, Pan Z, Scheffler BE, Khan IA. Detection of Illicium anisatum as adulterant of Illicium verum. Planta Med. 2009 Mar;75(4):392-5. Abstract
  9. de la Rubia Fernández L, Orizaola Ingelmo A, Hurtado Barace L, Lozano de la Torre MJ. Intoxicación por anís estrellado [Star anise poisoning]. An Pediatr (Barc). 2009 Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  10. Hausner H, Bredie WL, Mølgaard C, Petersen MA, Møller P. Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk. Physiol Behav. 2008 Sep 3;95(1-2):118-24. Abstract
  11. Alós Almiñana M, Marco Peiró S, Beltrán Martinavarro B. Intoxicación por anís estrellado. Información Farmacoterapéutica de la Comunitat Valenciana, nº 6. 2006 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  12. Ize-Ludlow D, Ragone S, Bruck IS, Bernstein JN, Duchowny M, Peña BM. Neurotoxicities in infants seen with the consumption of star anise tea. Pediatrics. 2004 Nov;114(5):e653-6. Epub 2004 Oct 18. Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  13. MSC - Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo de España. ORDEN SCO/190/2004, de 28 de enero, por la que se establece la lista de plantas cuya venta al público queda prohibida o restringida por razón de su toxicidad. BOE 2004; 32:5061-6065 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  14. [No authors listed] FDA warns consumers about star anise teas. FDA Consum. 2003 Nov-Dec;37(6):4. No abstract available. Abstract
  15. Vandenberghe N, Pittion-Vouyouvitch S, Flesch F, Wagner M, Godet E. [An inaugural generalized tonic-clonic convulsive crisis following ingestion of Japanese star anise]. Presse Med. 2003 Jan 11;32(1):27-8. French. No abstract available. Abstract
  16. [No authors listed] Caution about star anise tea for colic. Child Health Alert. 2003 Oct;21:5. No abstract available. Abstract
  17. Minodier P, Pommier P, Moulène E, Retornaz K, Prost N, Deharo L. Intoxication aiguë par la badiane chez le nourrisson. [Star anise poisoning in infants]. Arch Pediatr. 2003 Jul;10(7):619-21. French. Abstract
  18. Johanns ES, van der Kolk LE, van Gemert HM, Sijben AE, Peters PW, de Vries I. [An epidemic of epileptic seizures after consumption of herbal tea]. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2002 Apr 27;146(17):813-6. Dutch. Abstract
  19. Gil Campos M, Pérez Navero JL, Ibarra De La Rosa I. Crisis convulsiva secundaria a intoxicaciónpor anís estrellado en un lactante. [Convulsive status secondary to star anise poisoning in a neonate]. An Esp Pediatr. 2002 Oct;57(4):366-8. Spanish. Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  20. Garzo Fernández C, Gómez Pintado P, Barrasa Blanco A, Martínez Arrieta R, Ramírez Fernández R, Ramón Rosa F; Grupo de Trabajo del Anis Estrellado. Casos de enfermedad de sintomatología neurológica asociados al consumo de anís estrellado empleado como carminativo. [Cases of neurological symptoms associated with star anise consumption used as a carminative]. An Esp Pediatr. 2002 Oct;57(4):290-4. Abstract Full text (in our servers)
  21. Europa Press. Sanidad retira cautelarmente los anises para bebés tras detectar efectos adversos en 20 niños. El, 27.10.2001 2001 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  22. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. The American Botanical Council. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. 1st ed. Integrative Medicine Com; Boston, MA, USA: 1998
  23. Rosti L, Nardini A, Bettinelli ME, Rosti D. Toxic effects of a herbal tea mixture in two newborns. Acta Paediatr. 1994 Jun;83(6):683. No abstract available. Abstract
  24. Montoya-Cabrera MA. [Poisoning by star anise (Illicium verum) tea]. Gac Med Mex. 1990 Jul-Aug;126(4):341-2. Spanish. No abstract available. Abstract

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