For sassafras lovers, the look on their faces when they find the root in our store is the same one as a child on Christmas morning. Whether its from a memory of a loved one making them a cup of sassafras tea or foraging for the roots with a grandparent, sassafras just makes people smile.
What is Sassafras?
Sassafras is a deciduous tree that is native to North America and Eastern Asia. The leaves of the tree are unique in that instead of having one type of leaf shape, there are three different leaf shapes on each tree: unlobed oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and tried-lobed.
The whole tree is unmistakably fragrant with a scent reminiscent of root beer. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients in root beer. If you want to try foraging for sassafras root, you’ll find the trees located along the edges of woods, along fences, or in fields. Carefully dig up some of the roots, clean them, and make your tea.
Humans aren’t the only creatures to enjoy the different parts of the tree: deer and porcupine dine on the leaves and twigs; groundhogs, marsh rabbits, and black bears enjoy the bark as a winter treat; and lots of birds eat the fruits.
The wood of the tree is useful in ship building and furniture making. It also makes a good fire starter.
Health Benefits of Sassafras
Sassafras as medicine has long been in use by both Native Americans and in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The leaves are used to treat wounds and sores, and other parts of the tree are used to treat acne, urinary disorders, high fevers, rheumatism, scurvy, the kidneys, toothaches, swelling, menstrual issues, bronchitis, and high blood pressure. The oil, roots, and bark have pain-relieving and antiseptic properties. Sassafras was also prominent in early dentistry. The oil was used on teeth, and toothbrushes were made from the twigs.
How to make Sassafras Tea
If you haven’t ever had sassafras tea, and want to experience that same child on Christmas morning joy, now is the time.
Making sassafras tea is as easy as making any other cup of loose leaf tea. Just add 1 tsp. of the dried root to 1 cup of water, scaling up as needed to make more. Bring the water and root to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain, and add sweetener if desired. You could also add other flavors like ginger or cinnamon to make a more complex cup of sassafras tea.