The health qualities of the Sassafras herb have been in the consciousness of many traditional medicine practitioners for a long time.
Sassafras is a tree belonging to the genus of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia. Sassafras trees typically grow to a length of anywhere from 50 to 120 feet. The trees have many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. Young sassafras leaves and twigs are quite mucilaginous, and produce a citrus-like scent when crushed. Sassafras flowers have five petals and bloom in the spring.
Sassafras has a distinct flavor and the leaf is typically used to thicken soup and to season various dishes. The popular drink rootbeer gets its name from the oil extracted from the root of the sassafras tree.
Among the active constituents of sassafras include safrole, tannins, mucilage, asarone and alpha-pinene. The safrole component is a source of controversy as it was pinpointed as the main trigger for the liver cancer developed by test mice when scientists studied the possible health effects of taking sassafras.
With the true effect of sassafras on humans still up in the air and the FDA deciding to restrict the trade of the herb, it is recommended that sassafras not be taken for extended periods of time. Pregnant women are also not advised to take sassafras.
Still, the occasional intake of sassafras in moderate amounts as a tea is said to be one of the more pleasant and relaxing experiences. Sassafras tea may be made by infusing a handful of the dried roots or leaves in boiling water. Let the sassafras tea sit in a covered container for 20 minutes.
The following are the benefits said to be imparted by sassafras tea:
- Claimed be a blood thinner and a blood purifier
- Thought to help alleviate bronchitis
- Said to extract toxins from the body
- Commonly used as a diaphoretic during periods of colds and flu
- May serve as a diuretic, and may be useful in fighting arthritic and rheumatic conditions