5 Star Anise and Tamiflu

The five-star anise is the heart of the flu drug Tamiflu … try Cantonese soy-sauce chicken with anise and ginger … yummy …

The Chinese spice, star anise, provides the starting material for the manufacture of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu, which is expected to be the first line of defense in a pandemic.

Even if companies can make the drug, they might not have enough shikimic acid. That ingredient is extracted from the fruit of star anise trees, which grow in Southern China. Most of the star anise is now used for Roche’s production, but it is also an Asian cooking spice and is used in herbal medicines and in the production of the liqueur pastis.

Since demand for Tamiflu started growing recently, the price of shikimic acid from China has soared to more than $400 a kilogram, from $40.

Is Bird Flu Drug Really So Vexing? Debating the Difficulty of Tamiflu,” by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, November 5, 2005
Other points from the article:

  • the critical element in Tamiflu is shikimic acid, which can be made without the 5 star anise
  • Oseltamivir is the generic name for shikimic acid
  • small quantites of Tamiflu can be produced very quickly, but large quanties take between 6 and 18 months

the Chinese have been cooking chicken with five-star anise for centuries … also, Dr. Andrew Weil has strongly recommended ginger for anti-inflammatory problems … Chinese food is preventive medicine! …

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