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Backstory:

My girlfriend reacts heavily to chocolate and drinks containing stellar anise, in a way that seems comparable to psychedelic drugs.

After consuming it, it takes approximately five minutes for the reaction to become apparent.

Observed Effects:

Due to the heavy reaction, she tends to avoid these foods, however, we could observe the following effects:

  • Heavy giggling, occasional outbursts of loud laughter;
  • Much less frequent: Crying (just kind of starts from the giggling and subsequently fades back into giggling);
  • Minor hallucinations (Sparkling hair, glowing faces);
  • Loss of motor skills, especially balance;
  • Feeling time pass much faster (to her, a 15 minute episode felt like 1-2 minutes, an hour like 5-10 minutes);
  • Some memory loss (probably related to the time perception?);
  • Unfocused mind;

Her speech remains clear and articulate.

Observations are anecdotal, as I only observed two episodes, and we realized what happened only after the first.

Googling Results:

Apparently, around 1-3% of humans react in some way. However I couldn't find any detailed explanations of the hows and whys, nor any actual research.

I am very curious about this. Is it dangerous? Are there any related effects (genetic disorders, maybe?). All explanations, and hints how to google better, are welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ This is interesting, but terrifying. Have you considered the possibility that there may be Japanese Star Anise (Illicium anisatum) adulterating what your girlfriend thinks is edible star anise (Illicium verum)? [Note, using the latin names may help your google searches as well, pointing them towards scientific literature] $\endgroup$ – Oreotrephes Oct 7 '14 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ No, the episodes we observed didn't happen with any homemade food. The first one happened with regular store brand chocolate (after that, she realized that she always behaved odd after eating this particular chocolate) and with Sambuca, of which we all drank some. But thank you for the hint! $\endgroup$ – Kjeld Schmidt Oct 8 '14 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ This is the correct SE site. PS: what is stellar anice? Don't you simply mean star anice? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Nov 6 '14 at 10:16
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Interesting question! As this post has been sitting around for a while I am going for some speculations. First you talk chocolate, which essentially contains the alkaloid theobromine. Anise contains the propenylbenzene (E)-anethole (Idle, 2005). Theobromine is a caffeine-derivative and basically produces alertness, but also restlessness and perhaps anxiety when administered in large amounts (wiki). In extremely high doses there can be LSD-like effects (anecdotal report). Perhaps (speculative) your girlfriend is especially sensitive. Then (E)-anethole: the late Alexander Shulgin, Godfather of MDMA, has made the etheric oils (in)famous as precursors for amphetamine synthesis. In themselves the propenylbenzenes like (E)-anethole are quite harmless, as they do not contain an amine group (a prerequisite for being called an alkaloid). However, heating (E)-anethole in the presence of ammonia may lead to the production of PMA, a compound structurally and neuropsychopharmacologically related to MDMA (Idle, 2005). Although a bit of chocolate and a sip of Sambuca do not meet any of these conditions, both chocolate and Sambuca do contain certain psychoactive compounds, or their immediate precursors.

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