Benefits Of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) For Health

Benefits Of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) For Health

Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum)

Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) is known as other names: Ague Tree, Bois de Cannelle, Cinnamon Wood, Common Sassafras, Kuntze Saloop, Laurier des Iroquois, Laurus albida, Saloip, Saloop, Smelling-stick, Sasafras, Sassafrax, Sassafras albidum, Sassafras officinale, Sassafras variifolium, Saxifrax...

The name 'Sassafras,' applied by the Spanish botanist Monardes in the sixteenth century, is said to be a corruption of the Spanish word for saxifrage. The tree stands from 20 to 40 feet high, with many slender branches, and smooth, orangebrown bark. The leaves are broadly oval, alternate, and 3 to 7 inches long. The flowers are small, and of an inconspicuous, greenishyellow colour. The roots are large and woody, their bark being soft and spongy, rough, and reddish or greyish-brown in colour. The living bark is nearly white, but exposure causes its immediate discoloration. The roots are imported in large, branched pieces, which may or may not be covered with bark, and often have attached to them a portion of the lower part of the trunk. The bark without its corky layer is brittle, and the presence of small crystals cause its inner surface to glisten. Both bark and wood have a fragrant odour, and an aromatic, somewhat astringent taste.

Benefits Of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) For Health
Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) Tree Picture

The fragrant oil distilled from the rootbark is extensively used in the manufacture of the coarser kinds of perfume, and for scenting the cheapest grades of soap. The oil used in perfumes is also extracted from the fruits. The wood and bark of the tree furnish a yellow dye. In Louisiana, the leaves are used as a condiment in sauces, and also for thickening soups; while the young shoots are used in Virginia for making a kind of beer. Mixed with milk and sugar, Sassafras Tea, under the name of 'Saloop,' could, until a few years ago, be bought at London streetcorners in the early mornings.

In the forests of North America, the tall sassafras tree has proved their medicinal worth centuries ago. Modern herbalists are trying to revive its utility value once again despite various controversies surrounding its good and bad properties. The use of sassafras barks, oil and leaves without proper knowledge can be dangerous.

Legends, Myths and Stories of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum)

Columbus is said to have sensed the nearness of land from the strong scent of sassafras. There is an old story that tells of the scent of sassafras carried out to sea by the wind; it helped Columbus to convince his mutinous crew that land was near. The crew found the Native Americans using the bark of the root for beverage, medicine and flavoring. This new flavor had an appeal and for more than 200 years it was exploited in disease-ridden Europe as a panacea for many ills. At one time Sir Walter Raleigh controlled a monopoly of all imports on this new botanical. Later, the Creoles adopted this flavoring for soups and sauces.

The tree and tales of its values, learned from the Indians by Spanish explorers in Florida, were carried to Europe. Sassafras became one of the first commercial exports from the new land. When the Europeans first settled North America, sassafras was a major export. The Plymouth colony was in part founded on speculation of the sassafras exports.

The Encyclopaedia of Arts and Sciences wrote in 1798, "Some people boil sassafras with beer which they are brewing, because they believe it wholesome. For the same reason, the bark is put into brandy either whilst it is distilling or after it is made."

Benefits Of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) For Health
Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) Leaves Picture

"Swedes wash and scour the containers in which they intend to keep cider, beer or brandy with water in which sassafras root or its peel has been boiled; which they think renders all those liquors more wholesome." This from Travels Into North America, by P. Kalm, 1772.

In making green tea, drop in a piece of sassafras root and see the good taste it makes. Good iced, too.

The Pennsylvania Dutch place a piece of sassafras root with their applesauce or applebutter when they cook it, to enhance the flavor and aroma. Many housewives try to keep dried fruit for winter use, but the worms often got into it. Then they learned to put a piece of sassafras root in among the dried fruit and the worms never bothered again. In this way, the dried fruit may be kept for years. A handful or two of the bark mixed with a bushel of dried fruits to keep out insects, also will add flavor to the fruit.

American Indians, it is said, used an infusion of sassafras root to bring down a fever. Also, they smoked, in a pipe, the bark of the root, which is highly aromatic.

The oil of sassafras is used in the cosmetic and perfume industry.

One old herbalist physician advised, "those who wish to break themselves of chewing tobacco, will find the pith of sassafras an agreeable substitute." Wonder if this would work for smoking tobacco as well.

Buyer beware: sometimes sassafras is sold that is the inner wood, which is worthless. Resembling lumber shavings and is very light in color. Good sassafras has a deep red color, agreeable odor and a rich flavor found only in the peeled outer bark of the root. To get this outer bark of the root entails considerable labor and expense. Be sure you know what to buy. Quality goes much further.

Benefits Of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) For Health

Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) is still being used externally for skin aliments, wounds and rubbing of oil on affected areas. In Europe, sassafras was used to cure syphilis. Although it can safely be used for eczema and psoriasis it is found to relieve arthritic pain, gout and rheumatism.

The sassafras oil is said to relieve the pain caused by menstrual obstructions, and pain following parturition, in doses of 5 to 10 drops on sugar, the same dose having been found useful in gleet and gonorrhoea.

Benefits Of Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) For Health
Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) Root Bark 

Sassafras's strong smell makes its useful for dental care too. It can be used as a mouthwash to remove infection.

Sassafras can also be applied on the head to kill lice. It is useful to relive intestinal gas.

A lotion of rose-water or distilled water, with Sassafras Pith, filtered after standing for four hours, is recommended for the eyes.

Sassafras has proved well as a diuretic too. Sassafras can be used in fevers.

Sassafras use has caused abortion in several cases.

Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) Special Precautions & Warnings

It is unsafe for anyone to use sassafras in medicinal amounts, but some people have extra reasons not to use it:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don’t use sassafras if you are pregnant. There is evidence that sassafras oil might cause a miscarriage.

Children: Sassafras is unsafe for children. A few drops of sassafras oil may be deadly.

Surgery: In medicinal amounts, sassafras can slow down the central nervous system. This means it can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. When combined with anesthesia and other medications used during and after surgery, it might slow down the central nervous system too much. Stop using sassafras at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Urinary tract conditions: Sassafras might make these conditions worse.