Scientific Name:Sassafras officinale L.
About this Herb:Native to Eastern North America, from southernmost Ontario, Canada through the eastern United States south to central Florida, and west to southern Iowa and eastern Texas. The Sassafras tree grows from 10 to 59 feet tall with a trunk diameter from 28–59 inch. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, hard, and sometimes brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant. The Sassafras tree is unusual with its three distinct leaf patterns, one of which is mitten-shaped. In the spring, small, yellow, five-petal flowers bloom and by late summer 1 cm. long blue-black, egg-shaped fruit are produced on long red stalked cups. The fruit contains a single seed.
Common Names:White Sassafras, Red Sassafras, Silky Sassafras, Ague tree, Cinnamon wood, Saloip, Saxifrax
Uses:From the root bark and the fruit, an essential oil is distilled called sassafras oil. This oil is used in perfumes and soaps as fragrance. Other uses are Sassafras tea and candy flavoring as well as for aromatherapy.
Sassafras oil acts as an insect repellant. Used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, gout, and as a wash for skin irritations, eczema, acne, and ulcers. To cleanse the blood, it has been taken as a tonic and sassafras oil has been used to sooth a toothache.
Has been known to be added to moonshine.
Applications:Infusion: 1 tsp. bark of root steeped in 1 cup of water. Take 1 cup per day. Not to exceed 7 days in a row.
Tincture: 15 to 30 drops in water. Taken once a day. Not to exceed 7 days in a row.
Warnings:The FDA has banned the use of safrole, which is found in Sassafras oil, considering it a carcinogen. Now root beer manufacturers have replaced sassafras extract with methyl salicylate, the ester found in wintergreen and black birch (Betula lenta) bark. Even though the safrole in a 12 oz. can of old-fashioned root beer is not as carcinogenic as the alcohol (ethanol) in one can of beer.
Safrole is used to produce hallucinogenic drugs like Ecstasy so the sale of safrole and Sassafras oil are closely monitored by the U.S.D.E.A.