AHPA adds star anise to Botanical Authentication Program

AHPA adds star anise to Botanical Authentication Program

AHPA has added analytical methods for the identification of star anise fruit (Illicium verum) to its Botanical Authentication Program in an effort to differentiate it from the fruit of other Illicium species that are toxic, such as Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum).

Japanese star anise has long been known to contain toxic principles, and cases of poisoning have been reported from treatment of infant colic by administration of tea made from its toxic fruit instead of from the fruit of true star anise, which is also sometimes referred to as Chinese star anise.


In September 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory to the public to not consume teas brewed from "star anise" based on illnesses associated with its consumption. FDA did not identify the species of star anise implicated but did report that Japanese star anise has long been recognized as toxic in many countries and should be used for decorative purposes only.


In this latest addition to the Botanical Authentication Program, AHPA has added background information, a review of general methods for authentication, a review of specific methods, and analytical method considerations for the authentication of star anise.


"Industry is quite capable of obtaining the genuine article, and adulteration of this ingredient appears to be exclusively at the retail level when the wrong species is chosen and used as a traditional remedy," says AHPA Chief Science Officer Steven Dentali, Ph.D. "Providing means to clearly identify ingredients where an issue of safety or economic adulteration may occur is something we believe will greatly assist our members and the industry."


Under AHPA's Botanical Authentication Program, which currently consists of two components: identification of known adulterants and information on analytical methods that can be used to ensure botanical identity, AHPA now provides methods of ingredient identification and analysis for five herbal ingredients, one toxic botanical constituent, and one non-botanical supplement ingredient, including:

  • Aristolochic acid
  • Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) fruit extract
  • Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) root /rhizome
  • Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) root
  • Hoodia gordonii stem
  • Glycerin
  • Star anise (Illicium verum)  

Created in 1997, AHPA's Guidance on Known Adulterants identifies herbs and potential adulterants that are known to be in trade. The list identifies safety-related substitutions, such as Digitalis lanata leaf for plantain (Plantago lanceolata) leaf, and safety- and economic-based substitutions, such as red dye #2 (amaranth dye) for bilberry fruit extract. The current list of articles of trade and their known adulterants is available on the AHPA website.


"With the presentation of authentication tools for star anise fruit, AHPA adds another important herb to its growing Botanical Authentication Program," said Michael McGuffin, AHPA president. "We will continue to expand the knowledge base around this herbal trade issue."

About the American Herbal Products Association

The American Herbal Products Association is the national trade association for and the voice of the herbal products industry. AHPA is comprised of domestic and foreign companies doing business as growers, processors, manufacturers, and marketers of herbs and botanical and herbal products, including foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and non-prescription drugs. Founded in 1982, AHPA's mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products.


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