View Full Version : A note about sassafras

05-23-2008, 09:42 AM
I've heard of people making tea and root beer from sassafras, and I've heard it causes cancer. Here are some sites that say various things:

http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Sassafras.html - says HUGE doses cause cancer in rats, not humans.

http://www.familymedicinenews.org/archives/1999/2247(FM).html - "Animals given high doses of safrole developed difficulty walking, signs of nervousness and confusion, and difficulty with body temperature regulation. Long-term exposure produced liver tumors, including liver cancer. Because of these health risks, the Food and Drug Administration has banned safrole-containing food additives. Sassafras tea, because of its so-called "natural" status, is still available." (Notice they talk about effects in animals, not humans.)

http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/PPI/UnconventionalTherapies/SassafrasTea.htm - good link because it has quotes from medical studies, not hearsay.

http://www.drugs.com/npp/sassafras.html - more info of a medical nature.

The google search I used.

05-23-2008, 09:44 AM
I've also heard that too. However, I think the doses it would take to inflict harm would be much higher than you would ingest in a tea.

Ole WV Coot
05-23-2008, 10:17 AM
I don't think it would hurt you. If it did KY & WV wouldn't exist. People I know use it as a spring tonic. Dad is 85 and always drinks it. Hasn't got me yet.....

05-23-2008, 10:31 AM
Yep. The first link (not a medical link but...) says rats process the sassafras differently than humans. While rats are used as study animals because they process things in a similar way to humans, it makes sense that there would be occasional differences.

05-23-2008, 11:04 AM
using saffrole to manufacture MDMA in some teenagers' sheds probably causes cancer, but i doubt a little tea or soda is going to be worse than the FDA approved preservatives in most industrially manufactured foods. if in doubs, slice some shiitake or herecium into the brew.

05-23-2008, 02:18 PM
Why shiitake or herecium? I know shiitake is a mushroom, but what is herecium?

05-23-2008, 02:22 PM
Here's my philosophy. If there's a question, I don't touch it. I'd much rather give up sassafras, which I like, and find out later that it actually did not cause cancer than to keep drinking it and find out later is does. The worse that happens now is I give up sassafras. The worse that happens if I don't is I could die. Not much of a trade off in my book.

I was on a medication a couple of years ago and the FDA mandated a black box warning for it. I immediately went to my doc and said change it. He wasn't all that worried about it. "Are you taking it?" I asked. He said he wasn't. "Then you don't have to worry about dying from it. Change the med."

05-23-2008, 02:28 PM
Do you mean sa**afras?:D

05-23-2008, 06:53 PM
My father has thrown it into the grill a few times for smokiness. It's not bad - not great, but not bad.

05-23-2008, 07:00 PM
The only thing I do with sassafras anymore is grind the leaves into file powder for my gumbos. Other than that it's pretty nasty tasting to me when it comes to tea.

05-25-2008, 10:00 PM
Yeah, I think I'll stick to Lipton lol.

Dogpatch Dave
05-25-2008, 10:34 PM
The last time I drank sassafras tea was, let me think,...Yesterday! At 69 I'm too old to die young, so I think I will keep on keeping on. Of course I am ugly. Did the reports say anything about sassafras making you ugly?
On a more serious note; two products that would never be allowed on store shelves, if they weren't grandfathered in, are aspirin and cane sugar. I don't think I will give them up either.

05-26-2008, 06:32 AM
Hey Dogpatch. Welcome to the forum. When you get a chance how about heading over to the introduction section and tell us a bit about yourself.

05-26-2008, 07:05 AM
Bulrush - None of us have bothered to thank you for a good post. You put together a lot of references on the subject. Thanks!

05-27-2008, 01:12 PM
On a more serious note; two products that would never be allowed on store shelves, if they weren't grandfathered in, are aspirin and cane sugar. I don't think I will give them up either.

I never heard of this. Though, in rare cases, aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome in kids under age 5, the general concensus is, don't give aspirin to hose under age 5, or is it age 10 now? I remember taking aspirin as a 5 year old, they had baby aspirin.

As for cane sugar, perfectly safe in low amounts. High amounts can cause obesity, and complications of obesity (diabetes, etc).

What did you hear about aspirin and cane sugar?

08-12-2008, 11:08 PM
Here is a link that will give you the citation and abstract for an article in science magazine that includes a table listing how carcinogenic various things are. *disclaimer* I'm neither a medical doctor nor a biologist so my understanding of the article may be way off. If I read it correctly, 2 grams of dried basil leaves and 12 oz of natural root beer have roughly the same level of carcinogenic affect. 12 oz of beer has quite a bit more.


This article is mentioned at the bottom of p. 10 of Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs (peterson field guide) by Foster and Duke. Although it is not mentioned in Foster and Duke, there is a * in the table in the science magazine article next to the entry for the ethanol in the can of beer that says it is a nongenotoxic carcinogen. After doing some reading to figure out what the heck that means I still don't know how to assess relative risk or if that is still taken into account by this HERP number given. That seems to be the metric used to rank things in the table but I don't have the background to quite get that either.

I guess my take on this is that while I'm not going to drink two quarts a day of sassafrass tea, I probably will still make a pitcher about once a year or so as a treat.


08-12-2008, 11:35 PM
2 grams of dried basil leaves and 12 oz of natural root beer have roughly the same level of carcinogenic affect. 12 oz of beer has quite a bit more.

First Beowulf is trying to nuke us all, now Dan is trying to take away beer. Enough is enough! Fine, I'll sit next to the guy with the briefcase nuke while drinking a 12 pack. That'll larn 'em! :)

08-13-2008, 12:34 AM
no way, not trying to take away beer. Just trying to put the tea in perspective.

08-13-2008, 12:49 AM
yeah, i'm with bulrush:

i don't know what the deal with cane sugar is, but as long as it's not excessive consumption, i try to get my sweets from sucrose sources, fructose, honey and stevia in balanced perportions. i'd like to see high fructose corn syrup removed from about 85% of the products it's used in, many of which do not even benefit much from sweetening.

as for asprin, i'd much rather take it or ibuprophen, when apopriate than acetamenophen, which i do feel should not be allowed over the counter. that stuff is horrible.