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Keywords: Sassafras albidum, Medicinal plants

When and how do I harvest bark from my Sassafras tree to make tea?


I would suggest proceeding with extreme caution, and talking to your physician before endeavoring to make sassafras tea. According to Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Human Health by Walter Lewis (Wiley, 2003), the active component in Sassafras albidum, safrole, is no longer generally regarded as safe. It is toxic to the liver and can cause cancer. There is information on sassafras here from the Natural Medicine Database. A now-unavailable article on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website included this description of sassafras as a tea ingredient:
"Aromatic sassafras tea, once popular as a stimulant and blood thinner and as a reputed cure for rheumatism and syphilis, causes cancer in rats when taken in large amounts. Oil of sassafras and safrole, major chemical components of the aromatic oil in sassafras root bark, were taken out of root beer more than 30 years ago. And sassafras bark was banned from use in all food. Safrole-free extract, however, is allowed in food."

Although historical sources may discuss the best time to harvest parts of the Sassasfras plant for medicinal uses, I would recommend against using it for this purpose, given the associated health risks. Tyler's Honest Herbal by Steven Foster and Varro Tyler says that the root bark was used as a febrifuge prior to 1512 by native dwellers in Florida. The fact that its reputation for usefulness persists is mainly due to its pleasant aroma and flavor, but the authors make clear that it is unsafe.

You are welcome to come in to the Miller Library and explore our resources on medicinal plants and herbs, but I would not advise you to follow any recipes you might find there.

Date 2018-03-01
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May 31 2018 13:14:08