original true flavor of root beer comes from sassafras root. Because
sassafras root contains safrole, it cannot be sold in the US for human
consumption. Sassafras root bark may be sold, although it too contains
safrole, but is not very good at providing flavor to the beverage. Sassafras
grows wild in much of the Eastern US.
Safrole is an MDMA precursor and is itself psychoactive. Sassafras generates
an extremely sweet-spicy smoke, useful in smoking meats. American Indians
used an infusion of sassafras root to bring down a fever. They also smoked,
in a pipe, the root bark, which is highly aromatic and inebriating.
One of the more popular herbal remedies of the past; a stimulant,
antispasmodic, antirheumatic and spring tonic. Because of the presence of
safrole, a phenylpropane, the FDA has prohibited Sassafras as flavors or
food additives. Safrole occurs in over 70 essential oils derived from
botanical sources (e.g. black pepper, nutmeg). It is also a major
constituent of aromatic oil present in sassafras root bark (Sassafras
albidium). Despite the reported carcinogenicity of safrole and related
compounds, it is known to display antibacterial and antiviral activity.
Right before World War l, scientific research discovered that people who
drank sassafras root tea were more resistant to severe sore throat
infections and colds than those individuals who did not. Continued medical
research was interrupted by the war, and later studies were curtailed by the
development of modern antibiotics. But finally, research was resumed and it
was found that sassafras has a general antiseptic power, and that it also
induces the liver to cleanse toxins from the system.
Grieveís classic ĎA Modern Herbalí: 'The fragrant oil distilled from the
rootbark is extensively used in the manufacture of the coarser kinds of
perfume, and for scenting the cheapest grades of soap. The oil used in
perfumes is also extracted from the fruits. The wood and bark of the tree
furnish a yellow dye.'
'In Louisiana, the leaves are used as File condiment in sauces, and also for
thickening soups; while the young shoots are used in Virginia for making a
kind of beer. Mixed with milk and sugar, Sassafras Tea, under the name of 'Saloop,'
could, until a few years ago, be bought at London street corners in the early
mornings. Aromatic, stimulant, diaphoretic, alterative. It is rarely given
alone, but is often combined with guaiacum or sarsaparilla in chronic
rheumatism, syphilis, and skin diseases.'
'The oil [safrole] is said to relieve the pain caused by menstrual
obstructions, and pain following parturition, in doses of 5 to 10 drops on
sugar, the same dose having been found useful in gleet and gonorrhoea. The
oil can produce marked narcotic poisoning.
Mazatec Garden describes the common
uses of many herbs. This is for informational purposes only, as we are not
advising or prescribing herbs for any specific medical condition or for any
specific use. Distribute this information freely.