Native to China and Vietnam, star anise is today grown almost exclusively in southern China, Indo-China, and Japan. Star anise, Illicium verum, is sometimes called Chinese star anise. It’s important to distinguish it from Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, which is highly toxic. Star anise is not related to the common anise, Anisum vulgare. It was first introduced into Europe in the seventeenth century. The oil, produced by a process of steam extraction, is substituted for European aniseed in commercial drinks.