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FDA Says Not To Drink Star Anise Teas
October 12, 2003

Date of advisory: Sept. 10, 2003

What is being advised: The FDA recommends that people should not drink "teas" brewed from a spice known as star anise due to the risk of serious side effects.

The evidence: The FDA has learned of about 40 individuals, including 15 infants, who became ill after drinking brewed teas containing star anise.

The illnesses, reported over the last two years, range from serious neurological effects, such as seizures, to vomiting, jitteriness, and rapid eye movement.

Some European countries have also reported similar outbreaks of seizures in persons who have consumed tea brewed from star anise.

The FDA has not yet identified the specific type of star anise associated with the illnesses.

According to the FDA, the commonly available Chinese star anise (Illicium verum), which the agency believes is safe when used as a spice or flavoring in cooking, may contain Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum).

Officials say Japanese star anise has long been recognized as toxic in many countries and should be used for decorative purposes only. At this time, the FDA says it cannot determine if the star anise associated with the illnesses was associated with Japanese star anise or a mixture of Chinese and Japanese star anise.

It's impossible to tell the difference between dried or processed Japanese star anise and Chinese star anise just by looking at it, and the FDA is conducting laboratory tests to determine the nature of the products responsible for the illnesses.

Caution: Although teas that contain star anise do not make health claims about the product, the FDA says these teas are popularly believed to help reduce colic in infants.

The FDA is unaware of any scientific evidence to support this or any other health benefits of teas containing star anise. Therefore, the agency advices that people should not use them or give them to infants or children.

When this advisory is effective: Immediately.



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