Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wikiherbia: Anise is not the same as star anise

The website wikiherbia promotes itself as the 'complete herb database' and provides information on medicinal plants.  It is in no way complete and lists only a little over 100 plants, and doesn't appear to be a very active website.  However, the information is still there, and people will search for information and find this resource, so it is important that the information is as correct as possible.  Unfortunately, there are some grave errors.

Screenshot of Wikiherbia web page on "anise / Pimpinella Anisum", by

The herb anise (Pimpinella anisum) is featured in wikiherbia, but not only is the Latin name wrongly formatted, but the associated image is of another species, star anise (Illicium verum).  The photo on the web page shows the fruit of star anise. The text is fully focused on anise, not star anise.

Anise and star anise are unrelated plants with different chemical profiles, with the only similarity being that they both have a compound that gives a taste that is somewhat similar to licorice   Anise is a temperate plant in the parsley family (Apiaceae), and star anise is a subtropical/tropical shrub in the family Schisandraceae.

This is how anise (Pimpinella anisum) looks like 
(it is very similar to cilantro, same group of plants):
anise, Pimpinella anisum
Public domain image, from Köhler (1887), Wikimedia

And here is star anise:
star anise, Illicium verum
Public domain image, from Köhler (1897), Wikimedia

Star anise is used for the commercial production of the anti-viral medicine Tamiflu and in Asian cooking, whereas anise is mostly used in European cooking and herbal medicine.