If you’re from the United States, you’ve probably heard of sassafras tea. If you’re from the Southern US, there’s a good chance you’ve had, or even brewed your own, sassafras tea. But lately we’ve gotten a few questions about the tea, its safety and its benefits.
Interested in learning more about sassafras tea? Read on for everything you need to know.
Health Benefits of Sassafras Tea
The sassafras root has quite a history. The plant grows all along the Eastern coast of the United States, but can be found as far west as New Mexico. The plant was used by the Native Americans as a sort of “cure all” and European settlers began to use it as a candy and beverage flavoring, too.
So what’s so great about sassafras and sassafras tea? Well, the root is said to have quite a few health benefits. It’s thought to help treat colds and the flu, in that the sharpness of the root will help clear the nose and sinuses.
Sassafras is also thought to aid in gastrointestinal health. Some advocates say that it’s a detox root which will cleanse toxins from your system. More commonly, though, it’s used to treat constipation, bloating, upset stomach and even diarrhea.
Finally, sassafras is a diuretic. The root will help to ease the pain of a urinary tract infection. And it’s also used to aid in weight loss, to flush fluids from the system.
As you can see, there are a quite a few benefits to sassafras and sassafras tea. But there are concerns as well. Almost dating back to when those early European settlers used sassafras to sweeten and flavor candy and drinks, the root has been used in root beer and other drinks.
Recently, that practice has stopped. And the reason for this is because sassafras may cause some long term damage to the body. Let’s take a look.
Side Effects of Sassafras Tea
The first thing you need to know about sassafras tea is that it can elevate your blood pressure. If you have heart trouble, blood pressure concerns or other ailments, you should not drink sassafras tea.
Secondly, sassafras tea has caused dizziness, confusion and even an inability to walk in rats. There have been numerous studies conducted using the root, and all have shown the same result. It follows that sassafras may be harmful to humans, as well.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, sassafras is a known carcinogenic. There are oils in sassafras tea called safroles that, when consumed by humans will cause cancer in the kidneys. This happens even after consuming a small amount; 200 milligrams, the amount of safroles found in one cup of sassafras, is four times the amount that’s generally considered hazardous.
There are a few other side effects of sassafras that are thought to occur with normal to heavy consumption.
- Stomach and abdominal pain
- Skin irritation
- Irregular respiration
- Hallucinations are possible
- Coma when consumed in high doses
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should never consume sassafras tea. And anyone else who wishes to try the tea should consult with a doctor beforehand.
Is Sassafras Tea Legal?
If you’ve been doing a bit of research on sassafras tea, you may be wondering if it’s legal or illegal. The results you’ll find on the web are confusing at best. That’s because the answer is confusing, too.
In the United States, the root has been banned by the government in some capacity. Manufacturers are no longer allowed to use sassafras to flavor drinks, candy or food because of the known hazards of the root.
Sassafras, because of the possibility of hallucinogenic effects, has been abused by people who aren’t exactly looking for health benefits from sassafras. For that reason, sassafras oil (which contains safroles) has been banned in most countries.
However, despite attempts to control the root, sassafras grows wild in many areas of the US. You can literally find the root in your backyard if you live along the east coast, and there’s no restriction to harvest.
You can also purchase sassafras. There’s no restriction to purchasing the dried root of the sassafras tree. It’s from that dried root that you make sassafras tea.
Should You Drink Sassafras Tea?
There are so many effective, safe and natural herbal teas which have the same benefits of sassafras tea. And with the known risks of sassafras tea, it’s likely most wise to opt for another selection.
If you do want to try sassafras tea, talk with your doctor first. He can tell you if there are interactions with your current medications, hazards to your health, or other non-prescription options for you. Again, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have high blood pressure, you should not drink sassafras tea.
How to Make Sassafras Tea
The safest way to make sassafras tea is to purchase the dried roots online. It’s illegal to sell products containing safroles, so you can be assured that, if you buy from a reputable merchant, your sassafras is safe.
There is a small concentration of people who harvest and dry their own sassafras. We don’t recommend it. It’s too simple to harvest the wrong root, and it’s too simple to dry it incorrectly, causing safroles to remain. Should you choose to harvest your own sassafras, you do so at your own risk.
Sassafras tea is easy to make. All you’ll need is sassafras root and water. Just boil two to four ounces of the root in water for around 20 minutes. Let it steep until it cools. Then, strain the water and serve your tea.
Most people choose to sweeten sassafras tea. Otherwise, the tea tastes a bit bitter. Choose from sugar, molasses, or honey to sweeten your tea. Then, enjoy! Remember, if you begin to feel any ill side effects, discontinue drinking the tea immediately.