Chinese star anise (scientific name Illicium verum) is a safe and flavorful component of some popular herbal tea blends, and it is also a flavor component of spice mixes used in food products.
Because the two plants' star-shaped seedpods look so much alike, the herbal tea industry many years ago developed laboratory techniques to be able to distinguish the safe Chinese star anise from the unsafe Japanese star anise.
People in the herb industry have known about the problem with the two kinds of star anise for many years and have developed quality assurance programs to ensure that commercial herb teas use the safe Chinese star anise.
The cases of poisoning with Japanese star anise that the FDA cited were not related to herbal teas produced by reputable tea companies, Blumenthal added.
ABC also pointed out that the public should not confuse star anise with anise, sometimes called aniseseed (Pimpinella anisum), a member of the carrot family.