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
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
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
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
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.