Nomenclature

Illicium seeds were first imported into Europe by Cavendish in 1587 (Robinson, 1908) as a spice for flavoring food and liqueurs. Although the seeds originated in China, they were imported via the Philippines; this resulted in the mistaken belief that the plants were of Philippine origin, which led Clusius (1601) to describe it under the name Anisum philippinarum insularum. This spice is referable to I. verum Hook. f.

Linnaeus used the generic name Badianifera in his Materia Medica (1749) in reference to a plant of presumed medical value (again referable to I. verum). Badianifera was not mentioned in any of Linnaeus's subsequent publications, however, and the earliest nomenclaturally valid publication of a name for the genus was Illicium, published in Linnaeus's Systema Naturae (1759). The only species cited under this new generic name was I. anisatum L. The name Illicium is derived from the Latin word illicere, meaning an attractant, presumably in reference to the presence of aromatic oils.

The commercially important species I. verum has often been confused with I. anisatum, which is toxic and potentially fatal if consumed. This confusion is particularly problematic because I. anisatum has been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and both species are therefore retailed commercially in Asia. The confusion is largely the result of similarities between the fruits, as the flowers are highly distinctive: I. verum possesses flowers with rounded pink, red or purple tepals (Figure 2.4), whereas I. anisatum possesses elongated white or yellow tepals (Figure 2.3). Small (1996) outlined the confused use of vernacular names for the two species: I. verum is variously called "star anise," "Chinese anise," and "China star anise" in the literature, whereas I. anisatum is called "star anise," "Chinese anise," "Japanese anise," and "Japanese star anise." Although the scientific nomenclature is clearly preferable because it is unambiguous, the use of the vernacular name "star anise" for fruits of I. verum appears to be well established. Small (1996) therefore recommended that fruits of I. anisatum (as the only species of Illicium native to Japan) be called "Japanese star anise" to distinguish it from true "star anise," although he noted that caution is still necessary because I. verum is cultivated in Japan.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

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