Months ago, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning concerning tea brewed from star anise. Now, doctors want to reinforce the warning, saying they are still seeing patients for emergency treatment after drinking this tea.
It seems some are giving it to infants for colic. Doctors at the Miami Children's Hospital say that in the past 2 years, they've seen 7 cases of adverse neurologic reactions among infants who were exposed to star anise tea. "The infants presented to the emergency department with several symptoms some of which included jitteriness, vomiting, seizures, abnormal eye movements, and excessive irritability," said Barbara Pena, MD with the Miami Children's Hospital.
According to Dr. Pena, the symptoms started between 30 minutes to 6 hours after drinking tea brewed from star anise. Her reports to the Food and Drug Administration have prompted the FDA to issue an advisory telling consumers not to drink teas brewed from star anise. That even a woman who drinks the tea while breastfeeding could pass the toxic compounds on to her baby.
There are two types of star anise: Chinese, the kind sold for tea in this country, and Japanese not sold for consumption because it contains toxic compounds. Samples of star anise from patients were analyzed by FIU scientist Dr. Isaac Bruck. "In several of these case we did find the signature of these compounds present, which suggests there is some level of adulteration or mixture of the Japanese star anise with the Chinese star anise product," said Dr. Bruck.
The FDA is still investigating, but in the meantime, that agency and doctors are again advising that adults, and especially children, not drink star anise tea.