It’s not just the leaves of Sassafras that I enjoy – I’ve always loved this plant.
I remember attending a Scouting function with my family when I was a young teenager. It must have been in the Autumn as I can clearly remember that it was a chilly day.
Reviewing the different booths that the scouts had set up to show their newly learned skills, like a model showing how water erodes hillsides and what that means for trail-blazing, or the knot-tying skills they used to build the cool rope bridge outdoors, I came upon a table where Sassafras tea was offered.
Of course I said I would try a cup of hot tea. After all, it was chilly out there. One sip and I fell in love with the taste of Sassafras tea. It was just like the way the leaves smelled when you crushed them. How delightful! I must have gone back to that booth two more times for more tea.
For a long time after that day I hadn’t seen or tasted sassafras tea. I wondered why I never saw it offered for sale in the stores. I do remember finding some long stick candy that was sassafras flavored, but that was years ago.
It turns out a compound in Sassafras, called safrole, was found to be carcinogenic, and that’s exactly why we don’t see sassafras on store shelves. However, it’s debatable whether Sassafras is more carcinogenic than alcohol. Knowing that most things are ok in moderation, we don’t worry about getting cancer from a cup of Sassafras tea every now and then.
To make Sassafras tea you’ll need to get the roots. Loosen the soil around a small tree to make it easier to pull it up to get the roots. Shake off any excess dirt from the roots and give them a rinse before putting into a pot of water.
Boiling sassafras roots for tea.
A cup of sassafras tea.
If you can get enough roots to save some for later, you’ll need to let the roots dry, then store them in a glass container. The root bark is especially strong with Sassafras essential oil. Just don’t store the roots too long, as the essential oils will dissipate over time leaving your colorful tea pretty much tasting like a dried out tree root.
Boil the roots until the water has turned an amber red color. Drain off the tea and sweeten as you like. Sassafras tea with honey is just delicious!