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Sassafras

Sassafras

Overview
Sassafras is a genus of three extant and one extinct species of deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

 tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s in the family Lauraceae
Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

, native to eastern North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and eastern Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Sassafras trees grow from 9.1 – tall and spreading 7.6 – The trunk grows 70 – in diameter, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The branching is sympodial
Sympodial
Sympodial means "with conjoined feet", and in biology is often used to refer to the outward morphology or mode of growth of organisms.-In botany:...

. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, hard, and sometimes brittle.
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Encyclopedia
Sassafras is a genus of three extant and one extinct species of deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

 tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s in the family Lauraceae
Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

, native to eastern North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and eastern Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Overview


Sassafras trees grow from 9.1 – tall and spreading 7.6 – The trunk grows 70 – in diameter, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The branching is sympodial
Sympodial
Sympodial means "with conjoined feet", and in biology is often used to refer to the outward morphology or mode of growth of organisms.-In botany:...

. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, hard, and sometimes brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant. The species are unusual in having three distinct leaf
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 patterns on the same plant, unlobed oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and trilobed (three pronged); rarely the leaves can be five-lobed. They have smooth margins and grow 7–20 cm long by 5–10 cm broad. The young leaves and twigs are quite mucilaginous
Mucilage
Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced by most plants and some microorganisms. It is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide.It occurs in various parts of nearly all classes of plant, usually in relatively small percentages, and is frequently associated with other substances, such as...

, and produce a citrus-like scent when crushed. The tiny, yellow flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are five-petaled and bloom in the spring; they are dioecious
Plant sexuality
Plant sexuality covers the wide variety of sexual reproduction systems found across the plant kingdom. This article describes morphological aspects of sexual reproduction of plants....

, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 are blue-black, egg-shaped, 1 cm long, produced on long, red-stalked cups, and mature in late summer. The largest Sassafras tree in the United States is located in Owensboro, Kentucky
Owensboro, Kentucky
Owensboro is the fourth largest city by population in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It is the county seat of Daviess County. It is located on U.S. Route 60 about southeast of Evansville, Indiana, and is the principal city of the Owensboro, Kentucky, Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's...

, which measures over 100 feet high and 21 feet in circumference.

The name "Sassafras," applied by the botanist Nicolas Monardes
Nicolás Monardes
Nicolás Bautista Monardes was a Spanish physician and botanist.The genus Monarda was named for him.Monardes published several books of varying importance. In Diálogo llamado pharmacodilosis , he examines humanism and suggests studying several classical authors, principally Pedanius Dioscorides...

 in the sixteenth century, is said to be a corruption of the Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 word for saxifrage
Saxifrage
Saxifraga is the largest genus in the family Saxifragaceae, containing about 440 species of Holarctic perennial plants, known as saxifrages. The Latin word saxifraga means literally "stone-breaker", from Latin + ...

.

Ecology


The Lauraceae
Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

 or Laurel family, are aromatic evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

 trees or shrubs. Many botanical species are having similar foliage to the Lauraceae due to convergent evolution. Those plants are adapted to high rainfall and humidity. But Sassafras genus and one or two other genera in lauraceae are deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

. It is a phenomenon of divergent evolution
Divergent evolution
Divergent evolution is the accumulation of differences between groups which can lead to the formation of new species, usually a result of diffusion of the same species to different and isolated environments which blocks the gene flow among the distinct populations allowing differentiated fixation...

 from the large evergreen trees, in order to occupy another ecological niche. The patterns of speciation in the Lauraceae
Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

 family, indicate that since the onset of aridification on the continents 15 million years ago, rainforest species diversified. One of the products of aridification is the isolation of populations and this likely caused the increase in the rate of speciation as found in the Lauraceae.

Sassafras genus responded to favourable climatic periods and expanded across the available habitat adapting also to more extreme conditions but depending on favorable soil edaphic conditions, as presence of aquifers, groundwater periodic flows, etc. Sassafras genus occur as opportunistic species across wide distribution with close relatives and few species.

Deciduous Sassafras lose all of their leaves
Leaves
-History:Vocalist Arnar Gudjonsson was formerly the guitarist with Mower, and he was joined by Hallur Hallsson , Arnar Ólafsson , Bjarni Grímsson , and Andri Ásgrímsson . Late in 2001 they played with Emiliana Torrini and drew early praise from the New York Times...

 for part of the year depending on variations in rain
Rain
Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface...

fall. In deciduous tropical lauraceae, leaf loss coincides with the dry season
Dry season
The dry season is a term commonly used when describing the weather in the tropics. The weather in the tropics is dominated by the tropical rain belt, which oscillates from the northern to the southern tropics over the course of the year...

 in tropical, subtropical and arid regions. In temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 or polar climate
Polar climate
Regions with a polar climate are characterized by a lack of warm summers . Regions with polar climate cover over 20% of the Earth. The sun shines 24 hours in the summer, and barely ever shines at all in the winter...

s the dry season is due to the inability of the plant to absorb water available to it only in the form of ice.

In convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

 ecological or physical coincidences, drive toward a similar solution, including analogous structures. Sassafras is commonly found in open woods, along fences, or in fields. It grows well in moist, well drained, or sandy loam soils and tolerate a variety of soil types, attained a maximun in southern and wetter area of distribution. It is a phenomena of divergent evolution
Divergent evolution
Divergent evolution is the accumulation of differences between groups which can lead to the formation of new species, usually a result of diffusion of the same species to different and isolated environments which blocks the gene flow among the distinct populations allowing differentiated fixation...

 from the large evergreen trees, for occupy another ecological niche. Its pattern of speciation is the product of aridification of its habitat. Sassafras genus expanded in favourable climatic periods across the available habitat and adapted to more extreme conditions, cooler and drier, but depending yet on favorable soil edaphic conditions, as presence of aquifers, groundwater periodic flows, etc.

In The Sassafras genus the dispersal of seeds is due to birds that swallow them, so the berries shape attract to birds. The fruits are an important food source for birds.

Species


  • Sassafras albidum
    Sassafras albidum
    Sassafras albidum is a species of Sassafras native to eastern North America, from southern Maine and southern Ontario west to Iowa, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. It occurs throughout the eastern deciduous forest habitat type, at altitudes of sea level up to 1,500 m...

    (Nuttall) Nees - Sassafras, White Sassafras, Red Sassafras or Silky Sassafras. Eastern North America, from southernmost Ontario
    Ontario
    Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

    , Canada
    Canada
    Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

     through the eastern United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     south to central Florida
    Florida
    Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

    , and west to southern Iowa
    Iowa
    Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

     and eastern Texas
    Texas
    Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

    .
  • Sassafras hesperia
    Sassafras hesperia
    Sassafras hesperia is an extinct species of flowering plant in the family Lauraceae. The species is known from fossil leaves found in the early Eocene, Ypresian stage, Klondike Mountain Formation deposits of northern Washington State, United States and related formations in British Columbia,...

    (Berry) Wolfe
    Jack A. Wolfe
    Jack Albert Wolfe was an American paleontologist best known for his studies of Tertiary climate in western North America through analysis of fossil angiosperm leaves.-External links:...

     & Wehr
    Wesley C. Wehr
    Wesley Conrad Wehr was an American paleontologist and artist best known for his studies of Tertiary fossil floras in western North America, the Stonerose Interpretive Center, and as a part of the Northwest School of art.-Early life:...

     1987
    - From the Eocene
    Eocene
    The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...

     Klondike Mountain Formation
    Klondike Mountain Formation
    The Klondike Mountain Formation is an early Eocene geologic formation that records the sedimentation in the southern most of a string of highland subtropical/Temperate lakes in Washington state and British Columbia. The formation is best known for exceptionally well preserved plant and insect fossils...

     of Washington and British Columbia
    British Columbia
    British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

  • Sassafras tzumu (Hemsl.) Hemsl. - Chinese Sassafras or Tzumu. Central and southwestern China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    . It differs from S. albidum in the leaves being more frequently three-lobed, the lobes having a tapered acuminate apex (not rounded to weakly acute).
  • Sassafras randaiense
    Sassafras randaiense
    Sassafras randaiense is a species of plant in the Lauraceae family. It is endemic to Taiwan. It is threatened by habitat loss.-Source:* Lu, S.Y. & Pan, F.J. 1998. . Downloaded on 23 August 2007....

    (Hayata) Rehd. - Taiwanese Sassafras. Taiwan
    Taiwan
    Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

    . Treated by some botanists in a distinct genus as Yushunia randaiensis (Hayata) Kamikoti, though this is not supported by recent genetic evidence which shows Sassafras to be monophyletic
    Monophyly
    In common cladistic usage, a monophyletic group is a taxon which forms a clade, meaning that it contains all the descendants of the possibly hypothetical closest common ancestor of the members of the group. The term is synonymous with the uncommon term holophyly...

    .

Importance to livestock and wildlife


Sassafras leaves and twigs are consumed by white-tailed deer
White-tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer , also known as the Virginia deer or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States , Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru...

 in both summer and winter. In some areas it is an important deer food. Sassafras leaf browsers include groundhog
Groundhog
The groundhog , also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Other marmots, such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but...

s, Marsh Rabbit
Marsh Rabbit
The marsh rabbit is a small cottontail rabbit found in marshes and swamps of coastal regions of the Eastern and Southern United States. It is a strong swimmer and found only near regions of water...

s, and American Black Bear
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

s. Rabbits eat sassafras bark in winter. American Beaver
American Beaver
The North American Beaver is the only species of beaver in the Americas, native to North America and introduced to South America. In the United States and Canada, where no other species of beaver occurs, it is usually simply referred to as "beaver"...

s will cut sassafras stems. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species of birds including Bobwhite Quail
Bobwhite Quail
The Northern Bobwhite, Virginia Quail or Bobwhite Quail is a ground-dwelling bird native to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean...

, Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
The Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus, is a large Tyrant flycatcher.Adults are grey-black on the upperparts with light underparts; they have a long black tail with a white end and long pointed wings. They have a red patch on their crown, seldom seen...

s, Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
The Great Crested Flycatcher is a large insect-eating bird of the tyrant flycatcher family. It is the most widespread member of the genus, Myiarchus, in North America and is found over most of the eastern and mid-western portions of the continent...

s, Phoebes
Phoebe (bird)
The genus Sayornis is a small group of medium-sized insect-eating birds in the Tyrant flycatcher family Tyrranidae native to North and South America....

, Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey
The Wild Turkey is native to North America and is the heaviest member of the Galliformes. It is the same species as the domestic turkey, which derives from the South Mexican subspecies of wild turkey .Adult wild turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green...

s, Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird
The Gray Catbird , also spelled Grey Catbird, is a medium-sized northern American perching bird of the mimid family. It is the only member of the "catbird" genus Dumetella...

s, Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker
The Northern Flicker is a medium-sized member of the woodpecker family. It is native to most of North America, parts of Central America, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and is one of the few woodpecker species that migrate. There are over 100 common names for the Northern Flicker...

s, Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
The Pileated Woodpecker is a very large North American woodpecker, almost crow-sized, inhabiting deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada, and parts of the Pacific coast. It is also the largest woodpecker in America.Adults are long, and weigh...

s, Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker is a species of woodpecker, the smallest in North America.- Description :Adult Downy Woodpeckers are mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white back, throat and belly and white spotting on the wings. There is a white bar above the eye and one below. They have a...

s, thrush
Thrush (bird)
The thrushes, family Turdidae, are a group of passerine birds that occur worldwide.-Characteristics:Thrushes are plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized birds, inhabiting wooded areas, and often feed on the ground or eat small fruit. The smallest thrush may be the Forest Rock-thrush, at and...

es, vireo
Vireo
The vireos are a group of small to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World. They are typically dull-plumaged and greenish in color, the smaller species resembling wood warblers apart from their heavier bills...

s, and Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird
The Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Turdus polyglottos....

s. Some small mammals also consume sassafras fruits.

For most of the above mentioned animals, sassafras is not consumed in large enough quantities to be important. Carey and Gill rate its value to wildlife as fair, their lowest rating.

Usage



Steam distillation
Steam distillation
Steam distillation is a special type of distillation for temperature sensitive materials like natural aromatic compounds....

 of dried root bark produces an essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

 consisting mostly of safrole
Safrole
Safrole, also known as shikimol, is a phenylpropene. It is a colorless or slightly yellow oily liquid. It is typically extracted from the root-bark or the fruit of sassafras plants in the form of sassafras oil , or synthesized from other related methylenedioxy...

 that once was extensively used as a fragrance in perfume
Perfume
Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils and/or aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, animals, objects, and living spaces "a pleasant scent"...

s and soap
Soap
In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

s, food and for aromatherapy
Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person's mind, mood, cognitive function or health....

. The yield of this oil from American sassafras is quite low and great effort is needed to produce useful amounts of the root bark. Sassafras extract was a primary ingredient in root beer
Root beer
Root beer is a carbonated, sweetened beverage, originally made using the root of a sassafras plant as the primary flavor. Root beer, popularized in North America, comes in two forms: alcoholic and soft drink. The historical root beer was analogous to small beer in that the process provided a drink...

. Commercial "sassafras oil" generally is a by-product of camphor
Camphor
Camphor is a waxy, white or transparent solid with a strong, aromatic odor. It is a terpenoid with the chemical formula C10H16O. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel , a large evergreen tree found in Asia and also of Dryobalanops aromatica, a giant of the Bornean forests...

 production in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 or comes from related trees in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

. Safrole is a precursor for the clandestine manufacture
Clandestine chemistry
Clandestine chemistry is chemistry carried out in secret, and particularly in illegal drug laboratories. Larger labs are usually run by gangs or organized crime intending to produce for distribution on the black market...

 of the drug MDMA
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine
MDMA is an entactogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of drugs. In popular culture, MDMA has become widely known as "ecstasy" , usually referring to its street pill form, although this term may also include the presence of possible adulterants...

 (ecstasy), as well as the drug MDA (3-4 Methylenedioxyamphetamine) and as such, its transport is monitored internationally.

Culinary uses


The dried and ground leaves are used to make filé powder
Filé powder
Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spicy herb made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree , native to eastern North America. It is used in the making of some types of gumbo, a Creole and Cajun soup/stew often served over rice; other versions of gumbo use okra or roux as a...

, an ingredient used in some types of gumbo
Gumbo
Gumbo is a stew or soup that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions...

.

The roots of Sassafras can be steeped to make tea and were used in the flavoring of traditional root beer
Root beer
Root beer is a carbonated, sweetened beverage, originally made using the root of a sassafras plant as the primary flavor. Root beer, popularized in North America, comes in two forms: alcoholic and soft drink. The historical root beer was analogous to small beer in that the process provided a drink...

 until being banned for mass production by the FDA. Laboratory animals that were given oral doses of sassafras tea or sassafras oil that contained large doses of safrole developed permanent liver
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

 damage or various types of cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

. In humans liver damage can take years to develop and it may not have obvious signs. Along with commercially available sarsaparilla
Sarsaparilla
is a perennial trailing vine with prickly stems that is native to Central America. Common names include Sarsaparilla , Honduran Sarsaparilla, and Jamaican Sarsaparilla...

, sassafras remains an ingredient in use among hobby or microbrew enthusiasts.

In 1960, the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil and safrole
Safrole
Safrole, also known as shikimol, is a phenylpropene. It is a colorless or slightly yellow oily liquid. It is typically extracted from the root-bark or the fruit of sassafras plants in the form of sassafras oil , or synthesized from other related methylenedioxy...

 in commercially mass produced foods and drugs based on the animal studies and human case reports. Several years later sassafras tea was banned, a ban that lasted until the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994. Sassafras root extracts which do not contain safrole or in which the safrole has been removed are permissible, and are still widely used commercially in teas and root beers.

Sassafras tea can also be used as an anticoagulant
Anticoagulant
An anticoagulant is a substance that prevents coagulation of blood. A group of pharmaceuticals called anticoagulants can be used in vivo as a medication for thrombotic disorders. Some anticoagulants are used in medical equipment, such as test tubes, blood transfusion bags, and renal dialysis...

.

Ethnobotanical history


During the establishment of the Virginia Colony, including Jamestown
Jamestown, Virginia
Jamestown was a settlement in the Colony of Virginia. Established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 14, 1607 , it was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States, following several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke...

 in the seventeenth century, sassafras was a major export commodity to England. A medicinal root and a wood prized for its beauty and durability, sassafras was popular from its first import by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1602 until the eighteenth century. During a brief period in the early seventeenth century sassafras was the second largest export from America behind tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

. Additionally, throughout history Sassafras wood has been found to be an excellent fire-starter because of the flammability of its natural oils found within the wood and the leaves.

Sassafras was prized in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 as a cure for gonorrhea
Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The usual symptoms in men are burning with urination and penile discharge. Women, on the other hand, are asymptomatic half the time or have vaginal discharge and pelvic pain...

 and syphilis
Syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

.

External links