Sassafras leaves, blossoms and branches reach upward each spring, promising all that is uplifting. These young leaves are edible (delicate and lemony in flavor). They are dried and used as the thickener called file, used in cajun gumbo dishes, and when eaten fresh, they are a demulcent, which soothes and heals our digestive tracts. As they mature, they develop into 3 distinct shapes: an oval, a mitten and a 3 lobed hand.
It is the reddish root & root bark however, which we use most often for that most delicious root beer and sassafras tea. Traditionally it has been used as a spring tonic in the Appalachians and Ozarks where it is native and abundant. It improves circulation, deters infections, destroys pathogens, and stimulates the release of toxins through diaphoresis (sweating).
Sassafras was one of the first exports from Colonial America to England as a marketable crop, and was included in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1926. It is used in the treatment of acne, arthritis, boils, carbuncles, catarrh, colds, digestive issues, eczema, fevers, flu, gout, herpes, hypertension, measles, menstrual cramps, nephritis, psoriasis, rheumatism, shingles, skin and stomach problems, and STD's of all types.
Topically it is applied as a poultice to relief inflamed eyes, or as a liniment to treat bruises, sciatica, sore muscles, and swellings. As a skin wash, it is used to relieve poison ivy/oak and nettles skin rashes. The essential oil is used for toothaches and to rid surface parasites, such as head lice.
Sassafras is not recommended for use during pregnancy and lactation, however. It serves to decrease lactation. However, it is quite safe for children, so no worries there!
The Super Sassafras Tea that is available from Geo's Joy is made with children in mind. It is sweetened with licorice root (which prevents cavities while being a healing agent) and is "spiked" with nourishing nettles, a flavorless green plant rich in minerals and vitamins. It makes a root beer flavored tea that can be frozen into popsicles. This is a sweet but sugarless treat that will sneak a "vegetable product" into the most finicky eaters.
This season brings the promise of an abundant sassafras crop and a blessing from the Appalachian spring. Enjoy it's great flavor and good health!