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Sassafras Tea

Sayali Bedekar Patil
Sassafras tea is made out of the sassafras tree root and is said to have numerous health benefits. The contentious part of the case for and against sassafras tea are its well-known as well as lesser known side effects. Learn more on this from the article presented below.
Man has been on the lookout for various herbal and ayurvedic remedies for the numerous ailments that plague the world. Hence, herbal teas, essential oils and other herbal medicines have become a common household name today. Some claim to provide stress relief, some used as aromatherapy treatments and some can lower blood pressure or help control blood sugar.
Sassafras tea is one such natural remedy for various ailments. But while there are numerous health benefits, there are also quite a few toxicity risks associated with it. Let us take a more in-depth look at the sassafras tea effects, but first, let us learn how to make this tea.

How to Make Sassafras Tea

Here is a simple recipe for those who wish to make it at home. You will need:
  • 2 whole sassafras tree roots
  • About 2 gallons of water
Though you can also use some dried sassafras tree leaves and bark in this recipe, the most simple way to make it is to boil the roots in the two gallons of water for about 10 minutes. Allow it to stay for a few hours with a lid on top. Your tea is ready to drink after that.
One cup of strong sassafras tea is known to contain about 200 mg of safrole and unfortunately, this amount is about 4 times more than the amount that is believed to be harmful to humans on regular consumption. So on this note, let us move on to the health benefits and the harmful toxicity fears associated with it.

Health Benefits

Though the FDA has banned usage of sassafras oil in food items, sassafras tree root has been used for ages as a herbal remedial measure against kidney and liver problems, rheumatism and arthritis. Sassafras tea was most popular for being a blood purifier that aided in flushing out harmful toxins from the blood.
It is also a good diuretic as well as a stimulant. It was used for a long time to fight against common cold and flu as well. As an external treatment, sassafras tree oil was used to treat usual insect bites and to get rid of lice.
It was also used to soothe skin eruptions and irritations that were caused due to skin rashes. Sassafras tea has also been a popular home remedy for gastrointestinal problems such as upset stomach, diarrhea and other digestion related issues.
Sassafras tea was believed to be a miracle herbal tea until its side effects became well-known. In fact, many associations have come out formally today, banning internal consumption of sassafras in any form, the main reason being that it contains carcinogenic agents. Let us now look at a few side effects of this tea.

Toxicity Risks

Firstly, I will list out some excerpts from researches undertaken by people on the subjects of sassafras tea side effects, after which I will state the generally observed side effects found in the known regular consumers of this beverage.
  • A famous study done on rats, by Tyler in the early 1960s, confirmed that the agent safrole (contained in large quantities in sassafras tea) is carcinogenic and increases the risks of cancer.
  • Newell's study on laboratory animals confirmed Tyler's claim, as both benign as well as malignant tumors were observed in the animals that were administered with safrole.
  • Homburger's study revealed that 1% concentrations of safrole produced effects like weight loss, testicular atrophy, bone marrow depletion and liver cancer.
  • It is not just sassafras tea but sassafras oil in quantities as small as just a few drops, is fatal to toddlers. In adults it can cause spasms, paralysis, vomiting and hallucinations, according to Newell.
Sassafras is a blood thinner and so consuming large quantities of it can prove fatal to even adults. Other visible side effects include lethargy, in-coordination, body temperature rise and breathing difficulty.
This tea can also cause skin inflammation, chest pain and itching. Most of the side effects of this beverage come from the active ingredients, like safrole, tannin, asarone and mucilage, that it contains in high quantities.
This controversial tea has both benefits as well as hazards, and it is unfortunate that the hazards outweigh the benefits. While sassafras tea consumption has been banned in many places, illegal usage of the same continues even today.
Yet, it is absolutely essential that at least pregnant or breastfeeding women do not indulge in sassafras tea consumption, for they are at even higher risks.