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Sassafras
Lauraceae
Sassafras albidum


Thunder
Thunder
Type Categories Useful Parts

Tree



Lauraceae Family

Sassafras Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Ague tree, Saxifrax, Cinnamonwood, Saloop, Smelling-stick, Black Ash, Cinnamon Wood, Common Sassafras, File-Gumbo, Gumbo-File, Red Sassafras, Sasafras, Sassafac, Sassafrac, Sassafras, Sassafrasso, Saxifrax, Saxifrax Tree, Wah-en-nah-kas, White Sassafras


Location

Native to eastern North America From Maine to Ontario, south to Florida and Texas.

Physical Description
Root sprouts grow vigorously and colonize the area around the main tree. The leaves are alternate, simple, with smooth margins and different in shape, some with three lobes and others with one lobe on the side looking like a mitten and some with none, turning yellow to bright red in autumn. The yellow-green fragrant flowers bloom in clusters in early spring. The fruit is a dark blue berry, about the size of a pea, in a red cup, on a red stalk, in a cluster, ripening in Aug.-Oct.. All parts of the tree are aromatic.


Compare Species
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Lauraceae
Laurales
Laurales
Magnoliidae
Class of Magnolias
Mesangiospermae
Mesangiospermae
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnoliophyta
Magnoliophyta
Magnolia Division
Spermatophytes
Spermatophytes
Seed Plants
Euphyllophytina
Real Land Plants
Polysporangiates
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Stomatophytes
Stomatophytes
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Embryophytes
Embryophytes
Multicellular Land Plants
Streptobionta
Streptobionta
Multicellular Plants
Plantae
Plantae
Plants
Eukaryota
Eukaryota
Cells with a Nucleus


General Information

The name sassafras is a Native American name used by the Spanish and French in Florida in the middle of the 16th century. In 1577, the use of sassafras by Native Americans was reported and in 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh brought it back to England from the Virginia Colony. In the early 17th century (1602ó1603), several ships were dispatched from England to the colonies to collect sassafras roots; the colonists used the wood to build forts. These forays were known as the Great Sassafras Hunts.

Sassafras was used by Native Americans for many purposes, primarily for infections and gastrointestinal problems. According to Moerman (1998), the bark of the root was used in medicine by the Seminoles for cow sickness (chest and digestive pain), and the plant was made into a drink for wolf ghost sickness (digestive troubles), and as a cold and cough mouthwash.

Sassafras was one of the first and largest exports from the New World back to Europe as a beverage and medicine. Commercially, the pleasant tasting volatile oil was valued as a flavoring agent in root beer and similar beverages. Eclectic physicians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries considered sassafras a useful diaphoretic (a substance that causes sweating) and diuretic plant, primarily for relieving rheumatism and fevers, and as part of the treatment of urinary tract infections.

Medicinal Uses: The root bark and root pith are used in alternative medicine as an alterative, anodyne, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and vasodilator. An Infusion is used to treat gastrointestinal complaints, colds, liver and kidney ailments, rheumatism skin eruptions and as a blood purifier. The essential oil (Safrole) from the root bark is used as an antiseptic and anodyne in dentistry. The production of sassafras oil by distillation of the root and root bark is a small industry in the southeastern section of the country. Now prohibited for use as a flavoring or food additive because it is said to have carcinogenic properties, though it is less likely to cause cancer than alcohol.

An early Ozark ballad went, "In the spring of the year when the blood is too thick, there is nothing so fine as a sassafras stick." An old doctor of the Ozark hills put so much stock in the tonic, he told his patients if they drank sassafras tea three times a day in February and March, he'd doctor them the rest of the year for $5.

Food Uses: Famous since pioneer days for making sassafras tea, made by boiling the bark of the roots. Sassafras tea is refreshing and tonic. Extracts of sassafras bark are used as flavoring agents in various beverages.

In the southern U.S., the roots were boiled, then combined with molasses, and allowed to ferment into the first ROOT BEER. The young leaves can be added to salads and have a mild aromatic flavor. The young leaves can be crumbled and added to soups and stews and will thicken them like cornstarch does.

Lucky for us, the leaves do not contain safrole so we can use them safely. Filé powder, sometimes called gumbo filé, (say fee-lay) will thicken a gumbo and add a distinctive kick of flavor. It is a simple ingredient made from ground sassafras leaves. That's all, nothing more

Other Notes: A yellow dye is obtained from the wood and the bark. It is brown to orange.

Explorers and settlers associated the pleasant aroma of the tree with healing and protection from evil influences, and extracts of the bark and roots soon became a panacea e Long, long ago, the first people began life as a double tree. God separated the two trees, gave them souls, turned the branches into arms and legs, and made the crowns into heads filled with the gift of knowledge. Other trees also wanted to become people. They tried, but didnít make it. However, some of their leaves, like sassafras', are shaped like human hands, showing our link to trees.

In Arkansas, superstitious people never burned sassafras wood. They thought that someone would die when the wood cracked and sputtered.





Sassafras




Sassafras


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