Lawang ( Star anise - Illicium verum )

Illicium verum is a medium-sized evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China. 

The leaves are whole, lanceolate and at the armpit, there are intimate flowers with a yellowish-white perianth formed by 15-20 petals arranged in a spiral. 

Furthermore, the flower has numerous stamens and 8-12 carpels which give as many undermined follicles, arranged like the rays of a star.

 The fruit is a woody follicle formed by 8-12 lobes arranged in a star (hence the name), on a peduncle called the columella. Each lobe carries a shiny seed. 

The drug consists of the follicles, it is an essential oil whose active ingredient mainly contains anethole. 

It is used industrially in Europe for the production of various liqueurs including sambuca, pastis.


The use of this spice has never particularly spread far beyond the land of origin, despite the fact that the Chinese have taken it with them wherever they have been threatened. 

A very similar species, the I.religiosum, or Japanese star anise, is sometimes used as an adulterant of Chinese star anise.

Aroma and flavor

For when it is not botanically similar to green anise and fennel, star anise has a similar flavor and aroma. 

However, it tends more to licorice and has a marked sweet note. Finally, the seeds are less aromatic than the remaining parts of the fruit.

Part of the plant used

The fruits are harvested when they are still green, before complete ripening, they are then dried in the sun until they become woody and with a particular reddish-brown color.

 Distilled oil, obtained by steam distillation from the fruit of Illicium verum, is an important substitute for European anise oil and is widely used in aniseed flavor products. 

Although very different from green anise, which belongs to a different botanical family, their aromatic and therapeutic properties are very similar.

It is used to extract the shikimic acid used to produce important drugs such as the antiviral Oseltamivir.

Use and effect

Star anise has particular carminative and antispasmodic properties useful in the treatment of digestive disorders: indigestion, flatulence, aerophagia, meteorism, gastric and intestinal spasms, nausea with dizziness.

 It has an expectorant, emollient, beneficial action on the bronchial mucous membranes and slightly stimulating the nervous system, it is also an effective antiseptic and antibacterial. 


 The Latin name Illicium derives from the pleasant fragrance emanating from the shrub and in particular from the fruits, it is also classified as Illicium anisatum to distinguish it from the Japanese species. L. religiosum.

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