Is Star Anise Safe During Pregnancy? Benefits and Risks

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Star anise is a popular Chinese spice with a licorice flavor used in savory dishes, sweet desserts, teas, and supplements. However, is it safe to consume during pregnancy?

Star anise is safe to consume during pregnancy in small amounts in food as a seasoning. However, there is insufficient evidence to suggest the safety of star anise in supplemental or medicinal doses for pregnant women.

From food amounts all the way to medicinal quantities, let’s discuss the safety of consuming Chinese star anise during pregnancy.

Is Star Anise Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

From masala Chai tea, to curries, to desserts, star anise is a popular and flavorful spice that is touted for its potential health benefits. 

According to the International Journal of Chemical and Biochemical Sciences, the active compounds in anise have antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties (source: IJCBS).

A systematic review published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that anise is safe to use in pregnancy in average food amounts. However, if you are taking the anticoagulant or blood thinner, Warfarin (or Coumadin), consuming anise may impact the action of the medication while you are pregnant (source: BMC)

Therefore, avoid consuming star anise in any form if you are on Warfarin, or speak with your physician. 

pile of star anise

No sufficient evidence suggests that anise in supplemental or medicinal amounts is safe or effective for pregnant women. Therefore, only use it in food and seasoning amounts during pregnancy.

Is Five-Spice Safe When Pregnant? 

Also, anise is one of the main spices in the Chinese five-spice blend. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database, five-spice also typically contains cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and licorice root. Many of these spices are safe to consume during pregnancy in food amounts (source: USDA). 

While cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and star anise are safe to consume in food amounts, the licorice root ingredient of the five-spice raises some red flags.

Licorice consumption of any kind is not recommended for pregnant women as it may alter hormone levels and has been correlated with preterm labor (source: BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies).

Therefore, while anise by itself can be consumed in food amounts, five-spice should be entirely avoided during pregnancy. 

Furthermore, the type of star anise we typically think of is Chinese star anise, which is generally safe for human consumption. Yet, there is a form called Japanese star anise, which is dangerous to consume for all humans in any amount (source: International Journal of Chemical and Biochemical Sciences).

Therefore, ensure you are getting your Chinese anise from reputable sources and suppliers to be confident that it is not contaminated with Japanese anise.

star anise tea with cinnamon sticks in a glass

Is Anise Tea Safe to Drink When Pregnant?

Since anise has been deemed safe to consume during pregnancy in small food amounts, it is safe to consume star anise tea. However, drink anise tea in moderation to avoid consuming too much of the spice. 

Keep in mind that the longer you brew the tea, the more anise the beverage will contain. Drink less if you like a very strongly brewed tea. 

Additionally, many anise teas may be blended with chamomile. In general, chamomile is not necessarily unsafe during pregnancy. However, there is insufficient evidence-based research on chamomile consumption during pregnancy (source: American Pregnancy Association).

Therefore, avoid consuming star anise tea that includes chamomile during your pregnancy.

Check out this article to learn more information on drinking chamomile tea during pregnancy.

I hope you found this article helpful in investigating the safety of consuming Chinese anise as a seasoning, tea, or supplement during your pregnancy.