Sassafras, scientifically known as Sassafras albidum, is a deciduous tree found in the deciduous woodlands and thickets on rich, sandy well-drained soils. The tree grows to a height of 35 meters and spreads to about 20 meters. It comprises of several smooth and orange brown barks, with long and slender branches. The twigs and leaves of the tree when crushed produce a citrus like scent. Native to all the states east of the Mississippi River and Eastern Asia, sassafras belongs to the Laurel family, which also includes bay, camphor and cinnamon. The sassafras leaves have been used for preparing tea, while the bark has been serving as a cooking spice since ages. Apart from the bark and leaves, the branches and roots are used for curing numerous ailments. Sassafras essential oil forms a major component in soaps, candles, perfumes, toothpastes, soft drinks, aromatherapy, and so on. Read on further to know the various health and nutrition benefits of eating sassafras.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Eating Sassafras
- The root bark is used in preparing a tea that is known as a spring tonic, blood purifier and blood thinner.
- The tea is also used as a household cure for a number of ailments, such as gastrointestinal complaints, colds, flu, kidney ailments, arthritis, gout, menstrual obstructions, rheumatism and skin eruptions.
- The tea contains diuretic properties and hence, is used for treating high blood pressure and eliminating toxins from the body.
- The essential oil extracted from the root bark is used as a pain killer and an antiseptic in dentistry.
- The oil, when applied externally, controls lice and treats insect bites.
- The boiled roots of the sassafras tree are believed to alleviate bronchitis, a problem affecting the lungs.
- Sassafras is used for the treatment of dropsy, syphilis, typhus and as a stimulant.
- The herb treats internally caused skin diseases, such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.
- Due to their distinct aroma, sassafras leaves are used for seasoning various dishes and thickening soups.
- The tree root is dried, boiled in water and combined with sugar to form a thick paste. This sugary paste is often used as a condiment.
- To prepare sassafras tea, brew the roots or leaves in hot water for 20 minutes. You can add lemon and sugar to taste, if desired.
- The roots are brewed in maple syrup for making jellies and candies.
- The essential oil and tea, when consumed in large doses, can cause dilated pupils, vomiting, confusion, stupor, dip in body temperature, and kidney and liver damage.
- Other side effects of sassafras tea include chest pain, itchiness, skin inflammation, difficult breathing, swollen throat, muscle spasms and partial or full paralysis.
- If the consumption of tea causes discomfort in the body, discontinue its use and contact a physician immediately.
- Pregnant women, nursing mothers and people with heart and kidney problems should stay away from sassafras tea.
- Sassafras essential oil contains safrole, which is said to cause liver cancer. Hence, it should not be consumed extensively or for prolonged periods.