Sassafras

sassafras

Botanical Name: Sassafras Officianale / Sassafras Albidum / Sassafrass Varifolium | Family: Lauraceae

Common name(s): Sassafras, Saxifras, Tea Tree, Mitten Tree, Cinnamonwood

GROWING

  • Tree, deciduous | zones 4-9 | full sun to light shade | 20 – 50′
  • Neutral to acidic soil

HARVESTING

Parts used: Root bark, root and leaves

Harvest the root late fall as the energy returns to it. After a frost or two is ideal, but before the ground freezes. Pull up either young plants or dig between two plants for the connecting root (new sassafras trees develop from existing ones via suckers).

For making Filé (see *footnote, below), harvest young leaves.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction/tea: Bring 1-2 tsp roots in 1 cup of water to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit an additional 30 minutes.

Oil: use externally, only

Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture 3x/day

Food: Has been used as a tea and beverage, the leaves have been used as a condiment and thickening agent* in sauces and soups.

Combinations: Use with Burdock, Nettles, and Yellow Dock for skin issues

MEDICAL

Constituents: essential oil, safrole, resin and tannin, alkaloids

Actions: alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, carminative, antirheumatic, disinfectant

Uses: skin problems (such as eczema and psoriasis), rheumatism, gout, fever, infection, mouthwash, dentifrice, head lice and other bodily infestations

Cautions: Safrole has been classified as highly toxic by the FDA. However, studies of the whole herb (which contain a complex balance of other elements) have proven safe in humans. Safrole is also found in many other herbs, including basil, black pepper, and nutmeg. But because of the alarm over safrole, you can no longer get sassafras beverages, you’ll need to make your own.

SOURCES 

*This is called “Filé” and is used in southern cooking. The leaves are gathered and dried, then ground up into a fine powder.


For some reason I’ve always loved sassafras trees, being tickled-pink when I come across them. Maybe it’s the mitten leaves. Maybe its because it brings me back to my childhood, when an adult came into our classroom and taught us about the life-cycle of a pond and other parts of the woods, including sassafras and pine forests (another favorite of mine).

And so I was really excited to find some sassafras at the end of my driveway, growing amidst a stand of young white pine trees. We cut back the pines right around the sassafras trees. And there is a second stand of sassafras on the other side of the driveway – the sentinels as you enter Dandelion Forest. Some people have cement lions, I have sassafras trees.

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