The roots and barks of the sassafras tree contain a high concentration of the chemical named safrole. Safrole was listed as a carcinogen in rats by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is hence banned at present. The risk of developing cancer increases with the amount consumed and duration of consumption. Safrole is also used in the production of an illegal drug called Ecstasy (MDMA [3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine]).
Sassafras was once used to manufacture root beer, a common beverage. Today, the manufacturers have started removing safrole during processing to make safrole-free sassafras. Some scientists claim that even safrole-free sassafras can increase the risk of tumors. The following reasons seem to make sassafras unsafe:
What is sassafras?
Sassafras is a native plant to North America and was used by the Native Americans for various medicinal cures and cooking spice. The roots and barks of sassafras contain a high concentration of the chemical safrole, whereas the leaves do not contain safrole. The drug is usually extracted from the peeled root of the plant. Sassafras is also known as saxifras, ague tree, cinnamon wood, and saloop.
What are the uses of sassafras?
Despite the safety concerns, sassafras is used for the treatment of the following conditions as a herbal remedy:
- Urinary tract disorders
- Swelling in the nose and throat
- High blood pressure in older people
- Skin problems
- Rheumatism (achy joints)
- Swollen eyes
- Insect bites or stings
- Kill germs or head lice
Apart from medicinal uses, sassafras was also used as a food additive in the past. People used to drink sassafras tea. However, sassafras tea contains a high concentration of safrole, which was about 4.5 times the permissible dose. Thus, in 1976, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sales of sassafras tea. Moreover, the FDA prohibited the use of sassafras as food additives. The current brands of root beer use synthetic flavoring in place of sassafras.
Other applications of sassafras include:
- It is used as a scent in perfumes and soaps.
- Leaves are used as a thickener in soups.
Who should avoid using sassafras?
It is unsafe for anyone to use sassafras in medicinal amounts. However, there are certain populations who should completely devoid themselves from using sassafras, which include the following:
- Pregnant or breast-feeding mothers: There’s a risk of miscarriage.
- Children: A few drops of sassafras oil can be lethal.
- Planned surgery: It is advisable to stop using sassafras 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. Sassafras can slow down the central nervous system and cause drowsiness. When combined with anesthesia, sassafras might affect the central nervous system.
- People with urinary tract conditions: Sassafras might exacerbate the symptoms of urinary tract disorders.
- People taking sedatives: Taking sassafras along with sedatives might cause too much sleepiness.
Top Why Is Sassafras Banned? Related Articles
Food PoisoningConcerned about food poisoning outbreaks? From ground beef to lettuce, many foods can cause them. Learn about foodborne diseases like Salmonella, E. coli, norovirus, Campylobacter, Staph, and hepatitis A.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
Food PoisoningFood poisoning is common but can also be life-threatening. Food poisoning symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Read about different types of food poisoning, treatment, and tips for prevention.
Poison Control CentersThe United States National Poison Hotline is 1-800-222-1222. When you call this number you will be automatically linked to the nearest poison center in the United States. Call this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk to a poison expert.
Poison Ivy, Oak, and SumacPoison ivy, oak, and sumac contain a substance called urushiol, which causes a rash on people who come in contact with them. Symptoms and signs include a red, swollen, itchy, blistering, bumpy rash. Treatment involves rinsing the exposed area with water, taking antihistamines and over-the-counter pain medications, using topical treatments such as calamine lotion, and applying cool compresses.