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Sassafras albidum, Wanaque, New Jersey
Sassafras albidum,
Wanaque, New Jersey
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Sassafras
Sassafras albidum
Sassafras tzumu

Sassafras is a genus of two species of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia.

Sassafras trees grow from 15-35 m tall and 70-150 cm diameter, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The branching is sympodial. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, soft, weak, and brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant.

The species are unusual in having three distinct leaf patterns on the same plant; unlobed oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and trilobed (three pronged). They have smooth margins and grow 7-20 cm long by 5-10 cm broad. The young leaves and twigs are quite mucilaginous. The tiny, yellow flowers are five-petaled and bloom in the spring; they are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The fruit are blue-black, egg-shaped, 1 cm long, produced on long, red-stalked cups, and mature in late summer.

The name "Sassafras", applied by the Spanish botanist Nicolas Monardes in the sixteenth century, is said to be a corruption of the Spanish word for saxifrage. It was also called "pauame" by Native Americans.


  • Sassafras albidum (Nuttall) Nees - Sassafras, White Sassafras, Red Sassafras or Silky Sassafras. Eastern North America, from southernmost Ontario, Canada through the eastern United States south to central Florida, and west to southern Iowa and eastern Texas.
  • Sassafras tzumu (Hemsl.) Hemsl. - Chinese Sassafras or Tzumu. Central and southwestern China. 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 (Hayata) Rehd. - Taiwan Sassafras. Taiwan, regarded synonym of Yushunia randaiensis (Hayata) Kamikoti.


Essential oil distilled from the root-bark or the fruit was used as a fragrance in perfumes and soaps, food (sassafras tea and candy flavoring) and for aromatherapy. It is also used as a pain killer as well as an antiseptic in dentistry.The smell of sassafras oil is said to make an excellent repellent for mosquitoes and other insects, which makes it a nice yard plant. The root or root bark is also used to make tea. A yellow dye is obtained from the wood. The shoots are used to make root beer (formerly an alcoholic beverage, but now a soft drink), which owes its characteristic odor to the sassafras extract. The leaves are used for thickening sauces and soups, and when dried and ground are known as filé powder, a spice used in Cajun, Creole, and other Louisiana cooking, such as the dish filé gumbo. The pith is used in the U.S. to soothe eye inflammation and ease catarrh.Acids can be extracted from bark for manufacturing perfumes.

Safrole, which is the main component (75-80%) of sassafras essential oil, is now recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture as a potential carcinogen. Sassafras oil is also the preferred source of safrole for MDMA production by clandestine laboratories, thus its sale is monitored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

External links

Home | Up | Essential oils | Garlic | Herbal and fungal hallucinogens | Herbal and fungal stimulants | Medicinal plants | Castor oil plant | Dandelion | Echinacea | Eucalyptus | Flax | Ginger | Ginkgo | Hop | Mistletoe | Oat | Peppermint | Rosemary | Saffron | Sassafras | Willow | Yeast

Drugs & Medication, made by MultiMedia | Free content and software

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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