Herbs & Plants (Spices)

Sassafras albidum

Botanical Name:Sassafras albidum
Family: Lauraceae
Order: Laurales
Genus: Sassafras
Species:S. albidum

*Laurus sassafras L.
*Sassafras albidum var. molle (Raf.) Fernald
*Sassafras officinalis T. Nees & C.H. Eberm.
*Sassafras triloba Raf.
*Sassafras triloba var. mollis Raf.
*Sassafras variifolium Kuntze

Common Names: Sassafras, Sassafras, Common Sassafras

Habitat:Sassafras is 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 up to 1,500 m (5000 feet) above sea level. It formerly also occurred in southern Wisconsin, but is extirpated there as a native tree.

Sassafras albidum is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 15–20 m (49–66 ft) tall, with a canopy up to 12 m (39 ft) wide, with a trunk up to 60 cm (24 in) in diameter, and a crown with many slender sympodial branches. The bark on trunk of mature trees is thick, dark red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The shoots are bright yellow green at first with mucilaginous bark, turning reddish brown, and in two or three years begin to show shallow fissures.It is in leaf from April to October, in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The leaves are alternate, green to yellow-green, ovate or obovate, 10–16 cm (4-6.4 inches) long and 5–10 cm (2-4 inches) broad with a short, slender, slightly grooved petiole. They come in three different shapes, all of which can be on the same branch; three-lobed leaves, unlobed elliptical leaves, and two-lobed leaves; rarely, there can be more than three lobes. In fall, they turn to shades of yellow, tinged with red. The flowers are produced in loose, drooping, few-flowered racemes up to 5 cm (2.0 in) long in early spring shortly before the leaves appear; they are yellow to greenish-yellow, with five or six tepals. It is usually dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate trees; male flowers have nine stamens, female flowers with six staminodes (aborted stamens) and a 2–3 mm style on a superior ovary. Pollination is by insects. The fruit is a dark blue-black drupe 1 cm (0.39 in) long containing a single seed, borne on a red fleshy club-shaped pedicel 2 cm (0.79 in) long; it is ripe in late summer, with the seeds dispersed by birds. The cotyledons are thick and fleshy. All parts of the plant are aromatic and spicy. The roots are thick and fleshy, and frequently produce root sprouts which can develop into new trees.


Landscape Uses:Pest tolerant, Massing, Specimen, Woodland garden. Requires a deep, fertile, well-drained, lime-free, near neutral soil in sun or light shade. Does well in a woodland garden, especially in a sheltered position along the edge. The plant is tender when young, the young shoots of older trees can also be damaged by late spring frosts. A very ornamental plant with a wide range of uses, it is occasionally cultivated and often gathered from the wild. All parts of the tree contain essential oils and give off a pleasant spicy aroma when crushed. The stem bark is highly aromatic, more so than the wood. The root stem bark is the most pleasant of all. The flowers have a spicy perfume. Trees are long-lived, moderately fast-growing and disease-free in the wild. They can begin flowering when only 10 years old and good seed crops are usually produced every 2 – 3 years. The trees spread by root suckers and can form thickets. Although some flowers appear to be hermaphrodite, they are functionally either male or female and most trees are dioecious. Both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features:North American native, Attracts butterflies, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 3. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of “heat days” experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form – tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. A sprouting standard sending up shoots from the base . The root pattern is a tap root similar to a carrot going directly down . The root pattern is suckering with new plants from underground runners away from the plant

Edible Uses:
Leaves – raw or cooked. The young leaves can be added to salads whilst both old and young leaves can be used as a flavouring and as a thickening agent in soups etc. They have a mild aromatic flavour. The leaves are often dried and ground into powder for later use. The young shoots have been used to make a kind of beer. The dried root bark can be boiled with sugar and water until it forms a thick paste. It is then used as a condiment. The root and the berries can also be used as flavourings. Winter buds and young leaves – raw. A tea is made from the root bark, it is considered to be a tonic. The tea can also be made by brewing the root in maple syrup, this can be concentrated into a jelly. A tea can also be made from the leaves and the roots. It is best in spring. A tea can be made from the flowers.

Medicinal Uses:
Sassafras has a long history of herbal use. It was widely employed by many native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide range of complaints, valuing it especially for its tonic effect upon the body. It is still commonly used in herbalism and as a domestic remedy. The root bark and root pith are alterative, anodyne, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and vasodilator. A tea made from the root bark is particularly renowned as a spring tonic and blood purifier as well as a household cure for a wide range of ailments such as gastrointestinal complaints, colds, kidney ailments, rheumatism and skin eruptions. The mucilaginous pith from the twigs has been used as a poultice or wash for eye ailments and is also taken internally as a tea for chest, liver and kidney complaints. An essential oil from the root bark is used as an antiseptic in dentistry and also as an anodyne. The oil contains safrole, which is said to have carcinogenic activity and has been banned from use in American foods – though it is less likely to cause cancer than alcohol. In large doses the oil is poisonous, causing dilated pupils, vomiting, stupor, collapse and kidney and liver damage. The oil has been applied externally to control lice and treat insect bites, though it can cause skin irritation.

Other Uses:
An essential oil is obtained from the bark of the root and also from the fruits. One hundred kilos of root chips yield one litre of essential oil under steam pressure – this oil comprises about 90% safrol. The oil is medicinal and is also used in soaps, the coarser kinds of perfumery, toothpastes, soft drinks etc. It is also used as an antiseptic in dentistry. A yellow dye is obtained from the wood and the bark. It is brown to orange. The plant repels mosquitoes and other insects. Wood – coarse-grained, soft, weak, fragrant, brittle, very durable in the soil. It weighs 31lb per cubic foot and is used for fence posts and items requiring lightness.

Known Hazards: The extracted essential oil is poisonous in large quantities. The essential il contains safrole which is known to be carcinogenic and potentially harmful to the liver. The essential oil has been banned as a food flavouring in America, even though the potential toxicity is lower than that of alcohol.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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