Friday, April 30, 2010

Folklife Fridays: Sassafras

Anything posted here is for education and entertainment. I am not a doctor, just someone who loves folklore and learning about how people coped before modern medicine. You are entirely on your own if you want to experiment.

Almost everyone in the south has heard of sassafras tea. It is known as a "spring tonic" and is thought to purify the blood. It is also used for stomach distress and nerves. I have read that it was used to treat venereal disease before modern medicine. Externally, the tea will help rash caused by poison ivy.

Sassafras officinale grows abundantly in North Alabama on roadsides and around pastures. Its leaves feed deer and other wildlife. Every part of the tree is fragrant, and distilled oil from its roots is used in the perfume industry.

All parts of the plant can be used to make tea, but purists prefer the roots. Clean 1/4 cup of roots, cover with 2 cups water, and boil gently about twenty minutes. Strain and sweeten. It tastes like root beer, which I have never liked, so I'm not crazy about the tea.

The stems have a pleasant taste when broken off and chewed. When I was a child, some of the older women used a sassafras stick to put snuff in their mouths.

Large doses of sassafras given to lab rats have indicated cancer causing ingredients. If there are rats reading this, please do not try this tea!

You get a great thrill out of being in nature. The reason that I love to be in herbs is on account of it's such a natural getting down close to the good Lord and what He made.
Tommie Bass, the Herb Doctor of Shinbone Ridge, as told to Darryl Patton