The fruit of Illicium verum Hook. f. (Chinese star anise) has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and food industry with the actions of dispelling cold, regulating the flow of Qi and relieving pain.
A bibliographic investigation was carried out by analyzing recognized books including Chinese herbal classic, and worldwide accepted scientific databases (Pubmed, SciFinder, Scopus and Web of Science) were searched for the available information on I. verum.
I. verum is an aromatic evergreen tree of the family Illiciaceae. It is sometimes contaminated with highly toxic Japanese star anise (I. anisatum L.) and poisonous star anise (I. lanceolatum A. C. Smith), which contain several neurotoxic sesquiterpenes. Traditional uses of I. verum are recorded throughout Asia and Northern America, where it has been used for more than 10 types of disorders. Numerous compounds including volatiles, seco-prezizaane-type sesquiterpenes, phenylpropanoids, lignans, flavonoids and other constituents have been identified from I. verum. Modern pharmacology studies demonstrated that its crude extracts and active compounds possess wide pharmacological actions, especially in antimicrobial, antioxidant, insecticidal, analgesic, sedative and convulsive activities. In addition, it is the major source of shikimic acid, a primary ingredient in the antiflu drug (Tamiflu).
This review summarizes the up-to-date and comprehensive information concerning the botany, traditional use, phytochemistry and pharmacology of I. verum together with the toxicology, and discusses the possible trend and scope for future research of I. verum.