Suffrin’ Sassafras!   6 comments

While out digging Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, roots, a woman stopped, along her way.

She asked, “What are you doing?”

I answered, twig in mouth, “Making tea!”

With a cheerful, “REALLY” she came on over, to investigate; full of questions!  We had a fun, show and tell, session.  I offered her a meristem (young, still growing, stem), to sample, explaining that it was my favorite toothbrush, and delicious.   She hesitated, asking, “Um. . .doesn’t Sassafrass. . .umm. . . . cause cancer?”

Ah, the urban legends.  Yes, there was a medical study showing a link between Safrole, a component of  Sassafras extract, and cancer in laboratory animals.  The rodents were fed large amounts of this essential oil found in Sassafras.  In my thinking, this study is  irrelevant for two reasons.

First, it would be nearly impossible to consume an equivalent amount of Safrole, to make a comparison; even if I drank several cups of tea a day for my entire life!  Think of the size of me, the size of a rodent, the amount they gave the rat, and how many times more, that would amount to, for me.  Also, it’s important to consider what else (if anything) these animals were eating.  Surely, I won’t nourish myself exclusively on Sassafras!  And, I’m a mammal not a rodent!  Although, genetically we are close, one gene can and does make a huge difference!

And second, safrole is NOT water solubleTherefore, there isn’t any in my tea.  To extract the oil is an involved process.

            In  THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman explains: “Herbal oils can be used in two forms, depending on the method of extraction.  Only an expert can make these at home.”  (1)

When you look at all the research it seems that the REAL problem is (exactly) that Sassafras makes you feel good!  Seriously!  Safrole EXTRACT is used in the manufacture of MDMA, also known as, “Ecstasy”!  Although the extraction is NOT possible for most of us; our dear government doesn’t want us thinking we’re free to use what The Universe has freely given us.   Thanx, again, Uncle Sam, for saving me; from myself!

There’s a link to an article about Safrole ; below, in case you would like to read more and come to your own informed decision.  The list of references contain hours of interesting and very educational reading!  THANX WIKIPEDIA! (2)

I’m not using extraction methods to make my tea.  Therefore, not only is my Sassafras tea safe, but, it’s good; in many ways, again in  THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman writes: “Sassafras is used primarily in skin problems. . . with benefit in the treatment of rheumatism and gout. . . .in fevers and systemic infections. . . as a valuable mouthwash and dentifrice. . . and as a specific to combat head lice and other body infestations.”

In SHAKER Medicinal Herbs, Amy Bess Miller writes: “Valuable in scrofula and eruptive diseases. . . as a flavor. . . as an eyewash in opthalmia and as a drink in disorders of the chest, bowels, kidneys, and bladder.  Useful as a spring tonic when made into a tea.” (3)


Now that that’s taken care of, I’m going to dig some Sassafras and make tonic tea!

I found this tiny grove, of (at the very least, 100, or more) saplings, in an old field, at the edge of the woods, as you can see!  There are also woods behind me; and the road is about 30 yards to my right.  A fabulous foraging spot, heaven on earth!  I dug up 10 saplings; and no I don’t feel bad about uprooting them!  It’s easy to recognize that all these trees, simply cannot grow in this small of a space.  Judicial plant selection not only gives me a supply of delicious tea, it also guarantees stronger growth for the remaining trees.  As long as I do my part; with reverence and respect, Momma Gaia does more than her part.  All ways, always.  And, I’m going to save all the twigs for cold weather, crafty time.


Sassafras means “green stick”; which is a great way to recognize the plant, even before you can smell it!

 Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, is a medium-sized tree; achieving a height of 10’ – 50’, with a trunk diameter of 2” – 12”.  The young twigs are green, often branched, and sometimes hairy.  The mature bark is red-brown and furrowed.

Sassafras flowers are greenish yellow, blooming from April – June.

Sassafras’ 2” – 9” leaves are hairless to velvety beneath and form in 3 patterns (3 fingers, a thumb-and-mitten and oval), and, are usually all present.   The crushed, dried leaves make tasty, free, File’ Powder (4)

Crushed Sassafras leaves, twigs, and bark are delightfully, spicy-fragrant; reminiscent of approaching the candy counter in a old general store.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen I can harvest Sassafras leaves,  twigs and roots, which in my thinking makes it the most convenient forage-able.  I will dig enough for fresh tea and then some, to store away for Winter tea, and to make some soothing oil.

To make a pot of tea, in a medium pot, take the (thoroughly washed and scrubbed) roots from 10 – 15 plants, add 8 – 10 cups water, and bring to a boil (covered), then turn down the heat and simmer (10-20 minutes; still covered) until your tea is cinnamon colored.  Strain, sweeten and drink hot or cold.  Dry the roots on a piece of baking paper and re-use (many, many times), somehow they get better with use. Certainly you can brew Sassafras by the cup, just use 1 Tablespoon to one cup water; but, really an entire pot of tea will disappear, quickly!


“Great Spirit,  Thank you for all that has been given to me.  Thank you for all that has been taken away from me.  And, thank you for all that is left”

Thanx for stopping by.  Hope to see you, again, soon!


(1)   THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED Holistic Herbal , David Hoffman. Element Books, 1996

This is a MUST have book, full of years of research, knowledge, judicial thinking and experience; written in a comprehensive, extremely readable and understandable form.  Thank you deeply, David Hoffman.


 (3) SHAKER Medicinal Herbs, Amy Bess Miller. Storey Books, 1998.

(4) Homemade File’ Powder:

Nothing written here is intended as medical advice; or any kind of advice, at all.  I’m not a doctor; or other health professional.  What works for me, may not work for you.  I’m simply sharing my thoughts, opinions, experiences, hard learned lessons, and love.  I disclaim any and all liability resulting from the use of, collection of, preparation of, ingestion of, reaction to or contact with, any plant written about here; or anywhere else.  Use great caution when hunting, collecting, preparing and eating any wild food for the first time.  Make certain of your identification.  You, and you alone, are responsible for what you collect, prepare and consume; and for whatever consequences that may result.  Anyone can have an allergic reaction to any food, at any time.  Use common sense, go slow, do the research, check and double-check, and then check again, then proceed with extreme caution.  One mistake could cost your life; or worse, someone else’s life.  Know the laws where you intend to forage.  Whenever appropriate get permission.  Check public records for area pesticide spraying programs.  Never harvest right after spraying.  Find out if and when it will be safe.

In 1960, the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil and safrole in commercially mass-produced foods and drugs based on the animal studies and human case reports.[11] Several years later, sassafras tea was banned,[11] a ban that lasted until the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994.[12] Sassafras root extracts which do not contain safrole or in which the safrole has been removed are permissible, and are still widely used commercially in teas and root beers.


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