Illicium. U. S. 1890. Star-Anise.—"The fruit of Illicium verum Hooker filius (Fam. Magnoliaceae)." U. S., 1890. Of the genus Illicium, seven species are recognized, of which two are found on the Atlantic coast of Southern North America, two in Hindostan, and three in China and Japan. Many of the species are possessed of aromatic properties.
The tree yielding star-anise is indigenous to Southeastern Asia and extensively cultivated in subtropical countries. The fruit is chiefly used in the manufacture of a volatile oil which resembles the official oil of anise. The fruit consists of usually 8 boat-shaped follicles or carpels arranged around a central axis. The carpels have an acute summit and taper to a nearly straight beak; externally, they are reddish-brown and somewhat wrinkled; the inner surface is smooth and shiny and encloses a single smooth seed. The odor and taste is aromatic, resembling anise, and this serves to distinguish them from the fruits of the Japanese star-anise which are also known as "Shikimmi fruits" or "Skimmi fruits." The latter being obtained from Illicium religiosum Sieb. et Zucc., a tree which is extensively cultivated in the groves of the Buddhist Temples in Japan.
I. floridanum Ell., poison bay, sweet laurel, a small evergreen tree or shrub with oblong-lanceolate, acuminate leaves, which grows westward from Florida along the coast bounding the Gulf of Mexico, has its bark, leaves, and probably also seed vessels endowed with a spicy odor and taste, analogous to those of anise. Another species, I. parviflorum Vent. (I. anisatum Bartr., not L.), a shrub found by Michaux in the hilly regions of Georgia and Carolina, has a flavor closely resembling that of sassafras root. A decoction of the seeds is said to produce violent gastro-intestinal irritation, followed by motor and sensory paralysis, with convulsions and death if the dose has been sufficient. E. Barial (Revue Gen. de Clin., Oct., 1889) states that he has obtained a poisonous glucoside from the kernel. H. C. C. Maisch (A. J. P., 1885, 280) obtained from the leaves a crystalline alkaloid to which the bitter taste is due, tannin, and a resin. In the root bark and capsules he found volatile oil and a crystalline principle, melting at 100° C. (212° F.), insoluble in alcohol and ether, but soluble in chloroform, and neutral to test paper.
Star-anise was examined by C. E. Schlegel (A. J. P., 1885, p. 426), who found a saponin in the aqueous extract; in the alcoholic extract, a crystalline principle of a strong musk-like odor, which did not show alkaloid or glucosidal reactions, and oil of star-anise.
I. religiosum Sieb., or shikimi, of India, is very poisonous, causing vomiting and epileptiform convulsions, with dilated pupil and exceedingly cyanosed countenance; in it has been found by J. F. Eykman (P. J., xi, 1046) a crystalline principle, for which the name of shikimine or sikimin has been proposed.
Eykman (P. J., 1885, p. 985) has shown that in the essential oil of the fruit of Illicium religiosum, safrol is found, accompanied by eugenol. On the other hand, the chief constituent of the oil of I. verum is anethol. The constituents of low boiling-point in star-anise oil, consisting of terpenes essentially, have been reported upon by the chemists of Schimmel & Co. (Schim. Rep., April, 1893). They find dextro-pinene, boiling at 157° to 163° C. (314.6°-325.4° F.), and laevo-phellandrene, boiling at from 170° to 175° C. (338°-347° F.). The medicinal properties of the oil of star-anise are similar to those of oil of anise. Sikimin is not used in medicine. Sikimin is violently poisonous, belonging to the group of convulsants of which picrotoxin is the type. Plugge and Schutte associate in this group—Dioscorine, the alkaloid of Dioscorea hirsuta; cicutoxin, from Cicuta virosa L.; coriamyrtin, a glucoside of Coriaria myrtifolia L.; digitaliresin and toxiresin, prepared by Schmiedeberg from digitalin and digitoxin; phytolaccatoxine, the alkaloid of Phytolacca acinosa; sikimin; oenanthotoxine, the alkaloid obtained from the Oenanthe crocata L., by Pohl; isonitroso-anilacetone, an artificial substance prepared by Holleman. (See A. I. P. T., iv, 1897.) See table by Eykman showing constituents of oil of Illicium religiosum compared with those from allied oils in U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 1526.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.