3 Simple Ways To Detect Fake Star Anise You May Not Know


Well-known for its strong and natural flavor, star anise is considered a special spice – a must-have spice in our kitchen. But because of its high economic value, there are a lot of fake star anises in the market that not everyone can detect. Fake star anise has a similar appearance, however, it contains highly toxic, that’s why it’s very important to distinguish the fake and real ones. And how to know that? Let’s find out in this article!

Overview of star anise

What is star anise?

Known as the dried fruit with a star shape belonging to the illicium verum family, star anise is an evergreen tree with a 25 cm diameter and a height of 8 to 15 meters.

Its flowers are solitary and range in color from white to crimson. The leaves are whole, about 10 to 15 cm long, 2.5 to 5 cm wide, and elliptic.


With from 5 to 10 pointed ends emanating from a center seed pod, this spice has a star-like form. The dried fruit has a diameter of 0,25 to 0,5 cm, and each carpel typically measures 1 cm in length with a single seed. The seeds are smooth, glossy, and light brown, but dried carpels are typically hard, gritty, and reddish-brown or rust-colored. About 3% of the dried fruit’s essential oil is anethole, which is its main component.


Star anise

Before it ripens, star anise pods will be harvested, and they are then dried in the sun until it turns a deep rusty brown color. Its typical flavor comes from anethole – the same oil creating the licorice-like flavor of anise seed. That’s why the taste of star anise is very strong with a distinctive flavor – a sweet-spicy and warm taste.

Origin and uses

Known as a spice and a source of medicinal compounds, star anise is the dried fruit of the star anise tree (Illicium verum). Star anise is indigenous to Vietnam and southeast China, and these are also the two largest exporters of star anise in the world. The fruit’s flavor and applications are close to those of anise, despite the fact that they are unrelated. For flavoring sweets, liqueurs, and fragrances, volatile, fragrant essential oil is often used. Shikimic acid, a key component of the anti-influenza medicine oseltamivir, is derived in large part from star anise in the pharmaceutical sector (Tamiflu).

Types of star anise

Or, in more common we can classify star anise into two types as below:


Whole star anise

  • Whole star anise: This variety of Vietnamese star anise is the best and most valuable type. After harvest, they undergo thorough processing to ensure that the finished product contains just intact star anise without stems or leaves. Its broken rate is about 5%, with the moisture around 12.5%. There are typically two varieties of whole star anise from Vietnam dependent on the seasons: the spring and the autumn star anise. Because they differ in size, color, and oil content, so compared to the fall star anise, the one that is harvested in the spring is considered to be more quality and expensive.

Broken star anise

  • Broken star anise: Known as “broken star anise”, it contains what is known as a defective part of whole star anise. They are star anises that break during production or don’t meet the standards for high quality. As a result, it would cost significantly less than the entire star anise. So this type is usually bought for production, especially for medicinal uses of star anise.

What is fake star anise?

Some types of “fake star anise” have started to appear on the market as a result of the high demand for them. So if you don’t look carefully, there’s a high chance that you will buy fake star anise.


Mangcao vs Star anise

For most people, it’s very common to mistake between fake star anise – or mangcao and the real one because of their similar appearance. Some dishonest dealers took advantage of this economic opportunity by pretending to be an octagon for sale by using fake star anise that looks like one in order to get unfair advantages and deceive customers. However, the cost of mangcao is not only less than that of star anise but this fake star anise is also poisonous, which may be extremely harmful to a person’s health when consumed.

On the other hand, fake star anise typically contains red fennel, and round maple bark, along with other varieties besides mang grass. There are also subtle form variances, but these types of fake star anise are all poisonous, that’s why it’s important to detect the fake star anise. And here are all the tips that you need to keep in mind


The fake star anise, especially mangcao often has from 10 to 13 horns, its feet will bend at the top. In contrast with fake star anise, the real one is fat, and has fewer horns, ranging from 7 to 10 horns and the type with 8 horns is most popular.


Fake star anise has from 10-13 horns while the real one has fewer, from 7 to 10 horns

The corners of the fake star anise are upturned, similar to an eagle hook, as opposed to the real star anise’s comparatively flat corners. Adding to that, while the fake star anise stalks are shorter, straighter, and slightly curled, the stalks of the real one are longer and bent.


Spices like star anise have a robust, genuine smell and an apparent sweetness, while counterfeit star anise lacks this kind of natural aroma. It creates the feeling of being strongly numb when tasting this fake star anise. The fake star anise also has a sour and an unpleasant flavor.

Honestly, fake star anise is said that fake star anise tastes tingly and smells like toilet water, or like camphor.


Another feature that you can base on to tell the difference between the real and fake star anise is their color. Fake star anise is primarily khaki, often lighter with an earthy-yellow color, while the true star anise has a brown-red color or a bright crimson. You can tell exactly which of them is real or fake star anise when you put them side by side.


How to avoid buying fake star anise?

Fake star anises appear a lot on the market, so maybe you are wondering how to avoid buying these fake star anises?


How to avoid buying fake star anise?

Here are the answers!

Understand the main difference between real and fake star anise

To know whether the type on your hand is fake star anise or not, pay attention to their main features as above: shape, color, and taste.


If we feel uneasy after examining the star anise with our eyes and smelling it with our noses, you may try another trick to detect if it’s the fake star anise: tasting it! Even if we have fooled our eyes and nose, it’s much harder to trick our mouths. After chewing, real star anise has a sweet flavor; in contrast, fake star anise leaves a pungent, acidic, bitter, and camphorous taste on the tongue.

To avoid being deceived and purchasing fake star anise, you can remember this mantra: “Anise is octagonal, the appearance is reddish-brown, the fruit stem is hook-shaped, and the fruit petals are like small boats.”

Cheap price? It may be fake star anise!

As you know, star anise is a special spice with a very strong sweet taste and is used as a flavor enhancer, it can be found mainly in Vietnam and China. Because of its value and limited production, its price is often expensive and unstable. So if a seller offers you a very low price, take care because that can be fake star anise.

Buying from a reliable supplier

To avoid buying the fake star anise, it’s best to find a reliable supplier and the one who is specializing in this spice. Compared to China, Vietnam still has larger production and is the main star anise exporter in the world. So you can find these Vietnamese star anise suppliers through the internet, with some very well-known names such as K-Agriculture company, Sunrise Ins or Visimex… Fake star anise is found popular in China also.

Tips you must keep in mind when working with star anise company from Vietnam

That’s better if you know someones who have the knowledge to tell you if you’re being scammed or buying the fake star anise or not. But it is ok if you follow these tips to avoid buying fake star anise


Tips you must keep in mind when working with star anise company from Vietnam

  • Searching and narrowing down the list of star anise manufacturers: You can find the information of Vietnamese suppliers through the Internet, some list pages are good but not always be trusted. Therefore, to avoid buying fake star anise, try to search carefully about the company on that list, take a close look at their website, other media platforms, certificates, and customer feedback…
  • In the buying process, you can ask to test the seller’s knowledge to make sure they know the differences between the real and fake star anise. A professional seller must know their products very well, and when they can tell you exactly what’s fake star anise like, how come (or very hardly) that one can sell you fake star anise, right?
  • Sample: To know if they are selling fake star anise to you, it’s important to request a sample. Look at that sample closely, examining features to make sure it’s not fake star anise.
  • Visit the manufacturer: In fact, there are many cases where the manufacturers will send you the quality star anise, but the final goods when you receive are fake star anise. So it’s best to take a plane and visit the factory to make sure that what you are going to buy is not fake star anise!


K-Agriculture is proud of being one of the best Vietnamese agricultural product suppliers. With over 25 years of manufacturing and having exported to nearly 40 countries all around the world, we commit to bringing to our customers high-quality products at a very competitive price.

Contact us right away to receive the best price as well as free consults if you are considering importing star anise from Vietnam





Being a giant in trading star anise products internationally in Vietnam – the biggest Vietnamese star anise exporter since 1996, K-agriculture is proud to bring buyers broken cinnamon with uniform quality standards and affordable prices.

Contact K-Agriculture to get the latest and cheapest Vietnam star anise price!

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    About author Camila Nguyen

    She has 13 years experience in connecting B2B customers around the world and provide best-quality agricultural products from Vietnam to them. She would love to share her knowledge about agricultural products through the blogs. You can contact her on Whatsapp via number: +84 84 4444 867 to get the free consultancy

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