Planta Med 2011; 77 - PG57
DOI: 10.1055/s-0031-1282541

Pharmacognostic study and safety evaluation on Illicium plants

Y Sheng 1, TC Ping 1, KC Qiang 1, Z Qin 1, Y Yang 1
  • 1Department of Natural Products Chemistry, & State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 555 Zu-Chong-Zhi Road, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, Shanghai 201203, P. R. China

The fruits and seeds (star anise) of Illicium plants are used traditionally as spices and folk medicines in Southern China. Those are one of the most important natural resources of shikimic acid (SA, Fig.1), which is the raw material of the antiviral drug Tamiflu. China is the largest star anise supplier in the world and 80% of raw resources are from Guangxi province. A simple and rapid HPLC method was established to analyze the content of SA in the fruits and leaves of 22 samples from different species and habitats, and SA with high content was found in the fruits of three species (>8%) and leaves of eight species (>5%). Thus these materials can be used as the raw resources of SA.

Researches found that even the trace amount of anisatin and its analogs could arouse toxic effects. The mechanism studies revealed they are non-competitive antagonists of GABA receptor1. Chemical investigations on three Illicium plants resulted in 14 sesquiterpenoids including anisatin and it's analogues to be obtained2. Based on the summarized MS behaviors of anisatin and its analogues, a qualitative analytical method was developed to detect anisatin in the fruits of the above species, the results turned out that most species contained anisatin and its analogues including the edible species (I. verum Hook.f.) from Rongshui County, while three edible species (I. verum and I. majus Hook.f. & Thomson in Jinxiu County, I. jadifengpi B.N. Chang in Lingyun County) did not contain anisatin or its analogues and they are safe to use as spices and folk medicines.

Figure 1: Star anise and the structures of shikimic acid (SA) and anisatin.

Acknowledgement: Prof. Shen JG of Department of Natural Products Chemistry, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Prof. Song GQ. of Department of Analytical Chemistry, Shanghai Institute of Material Medica

References: 1. Matsui T et al. (2007) Planta Med 73: 662–665.

2. Zhu Q et al. (2009)J Nat Prod 72: 238–242.