The Controversial Sassafras
There are two sides to every story, even when it comes to the Sassafras tree and its herbal benefits. Some claim it is dangerous while others use it in their daily routines. No matter which side is correct, sassafras is still illegal in America.
The sassafras tree is native to America and it can be easily recognized by the shape of its leaves. Some compare the shapes to a mitten and a hoof print. The tree is found in abundance in the Northeast.
Believe it or not, sassafras was America’s second largest export at one point in history. Tobacco was the top export. Tobacco, by the way, is still legal for purchase despite its negative effects.
Sassafras was combined with other items such as alcohol, water, perfumes, and soaps. It has a sweet fragrance so many preferred to use it to soften the aroma of their favorite colognes.
People used the spice to flavor root beer and candy. They dried the root or bark and then boiled it in water to make a tea that allowed an extract to be produced that could be added to foods and drink for flavoring.
There are people today who can remember when root beer was flavored with sassafras. Many recall root beer tasting much better when made with this spice.
There are many claims made by sassafras fans of its medicinal uses. It has been known to ease itching symptoms and ward off colds due to its antibacterial properties. It has also been thought to cure syphilis and some skin diseases.
How can such a natural product have a bad reputation?
If sassafras contains safrole oil, avoid it. Safrole has been noted as causing vomiting and other sickness that has led to people collapsing. It has also been found to cause abortions in several women.
Safrole, a chemical found within sassafras root and bark, was identified as carcinogenic in the rats they were testing. It was found, if used in large doses, to create tumors in the livers of rats.
So, in the 1960’s, sassafras that contains the extract safrole was banned by the Federal Drug Administration. Meaning, no products being created for retail could contain safrole.
To this date, sassafras containing safrole is banned. It is interesting to note, however, that nutmeg and other spices containing safrole are still permitted for sale and use in the United States.
There are still many who support the use of sassafras.
Those who feel sassafras should be allowed back into the marketplace are the people who still use sassafras. They are the rebels who do not allow the government to determine whether something is healthy or not.
Sassafras is used to thicken sauces and soups. Creole cooking is especially known for using sassafras as a thickener or file.
Don’t forget, the government allows millions of pounds of pesticides to be sprayed on fruits and vegetables all over America, despite the direct connection between pesticides and cancer. They allow these contaminated foods to be sold in groceries all over the country.
Sassafras lovers feel using this spice is much safer than eating the chemicals used in the processed foods available.
Whether you or not you are on team sassafras, you must admit that this spice has an interesting history. Being the only tree native to America, its parts offer both medicinal and culinary benefits. While the product is still banned from being sold in America, the tree still grows wildly and plentifully.
So, if you want to experience sassafras for yourself, it may be time to take a hike in the woods.