Sassafras trees are deciduous, with small blue fruit and yellow flowers. It is a member of the laurel family. Tea is usually made from the root and bark of sassafras trees and has a flavor reminiscent of root beer. In fact, traditional root beer recipes commonly call for sassafras.
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Herbalists use sassafras tea to cleanse the body and purify the blood. It is also given for colds or influenza to increase sweating. Sassafras tea may also have diuretic properties that might be beneficial for the urinary system. Topically, sassafras preparations are purported to be beneficial for poison oak or eczema.
According to John C. Wolf, D.O., a professor at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, all parts of the sassafras tree contain safrole, the component that gives sassafras its flavor. In laboratory experiments, animals receiving high doses of safrole had difficulty walking and confusion; long-term use led to liver cancer. Dr. Wolf believes occasional use of sassafras tea is acceptable.
Safe Amounts and Duration
Herbalist Christopher Hobbs, a member of the American Herbalists Guild, says there might be no danger when using the entire plant and not isolating just one compound. For safety, he also advises taking 2 to 3 cups of sassafras tea daily for no longer than one month at a time. Pregnant women shouldn't consume sassafras tea.