Sassafras Root Bark (Sassafras officinalis)

Sassafrass is a medium height, deciduous tree in the Laureacea family, typically ranging from 20 to 40 ft in height. It has slender branches and smooth, brownish orange bark, with smooth, tri-lobed, alternate leaves. It has small, inconspicuous, dioecious light yellow flowers and bluish black fruits. Sassafrass is typically seen growing in areas with high moisture and humidity in moist, well draining sandy loams, but it can tolerate a wide variety of soils. In tropical climates, sassafrass loses its leaves in dry season, where as in temperate climates, it loses its leaves during the winter. It is a major food sources for many birds, rabbits, deers, and other woodland animals.

Medicinal Uses
Sassafrass is a alterative, carminative, diaphoretic, abortifacient, and a diuretic. It’s major use is for skin conditions such as psoriasis and ezcema, and can ease rheumatic joint paint and gout. The root combines well in a decoction or tincture with yellow dock, nettles, and burdock for skin conditions. Sassafrass’ diaphoretic qualities make it a good herb for fevers, and can help with menstrual disorders, dysentery, and hypertension. It also has mild disinfectant properties which can make it useful as an external oil for head lice.

Folk Uses
The twigs can be chewed for pleasant flavor and to clean the teeth when you’re out camping – it’s often found at the edges of roads and forests, so keep an eye out for it at the beginning of your hike. It is also a primary flavor ingredient in root beer, or sarsaparilla, and is used in filĂ© gumbo and other creole recipes to add thickness and flavor. It was also traditionally used by several indigenous tribes to ward off evil spirits.

As a 10-15 minute infusion, 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb per cup of water, taken three times daily, or 1-2ml of the tincture three times daily. The oil itself can be used externally to treat lice, but cannot be taken internally, as it can cause vomiting, stupor, and even death.

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sassafras root