At the beginning of the third millennium, phytotherapy is experiencing one of its most exciting moments, not only due to the increase in the consumption of medicinal plants, but also to the important phytochemical, pharmacological, and clinical investigations that are being conducted to develop products with sufficient guarantees of quality, efficacy, and security. Species with essences rich in anethole, such as star anise (Illicium verum), aniseed (Pimpinella anisum), and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), are commercially important as a result of their uses in medicine and diet. These species are studied in depth in the book. The simultaneous study of anise fruits, commercially known as "seeds," is habitual in the pharmacopoeias and phytotherapy texts because their therapeutic applications (bronchial expectorant, gastrointestinal spasmolytic, carminative, etc.) are fundamentally caused by anethole, although other phytochemical components are different. Other species of economic interest belonging to the genera cited are also discussed in the text.

Chinese star anise is widely used as a spice for flavoring food and beverages. Its adulteration with the fruits of a species of similar morphology, Japanese star anise (I. anisatum), of which the sesquiterpenlactone anisatin is the main cause of toxicity, is relatively frequent. In recent years, a sanitary warning has been issued in Spain as a result of this adulteration, causing a fall in the market for I. verum until all imported versions were analyzed. The phytochemistry of I. verum, as well as that of other species of Illicium, is also studied in the text, which provides the book with an additional discussion of current affairs.

The text includes a revision of the botanical characterization of the species, including the methods of cultivation, harvesting, and drying/storage; chemical constituents; therapeutic and pharmacological properties; and the monographs, formulations, economic importance, and market trends, which will be useful for university professors and students, sanitation professionals, investigators, and persons working with aromatic and medicinal plants.

I wish to finish this brief prologue with words of gratitude. First, I would like to thank Dr. Roland Hardman, who proposed the coordination of this book to me, for his constant aid in the updating of the content. In addition, I want to express my gratitude to all the contributors, whose dedication and infinite patience have allowed the book to finally see the light after multiple vicissitudes. Finally, of course, I would like to thank the editorial staff of CRC Press, which continues to publish the texts of the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles series.

Manuel Miró Jodral

Granada, Spain

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