Fresh Clips: Star Anise's Hidden Talents

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Most people associate anise with Christmas cookies and licorice candy, but now add fungicide, insecticide and anti-inflammatory to the list of this plant’s attributes.

The essential oil of anise (Pimpinella spp.) was found to contain 22 compounds. Many of them were phenylpropanoides—compounds believed to benefit human health. Four of them have never before been found in other plants.

Scientists tested the Pimpinella compounds for their effectiveness against the fungus that causes anthracnose, a serious plant disease. One compound worked especially well on strawberry anthracnose, strawberry soft rot and leaf blight. Other compounds were tested against the parasite that causes malaria, with some effectiveness. Researchers found the essential oil of another anise species effective against aphids.

For more information, see USDA Agricultural Research Service February 20, 2008. “New Prospects for an All-Around Spice,”  www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2008/080220.htm .

Robin Siktberg is horticulturist and editor for the Herb Society of America. Steven Foster is an author, photographer and consultant specializing in medicinal plants.