Wildcrafting Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras albidum is a species of Sassafras native to eastern North America.

It has a growing range from southern Maine and southern Ontario, west to Iowa, and south to central Florida/eastern Texas.

Sassafras Names

Sassafras has several interchangeable names.

Names include: Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Ague Tree, Cinnamon Wood, Common Sassafras, Gui Zhi, Kuntze Saloop, Laurus albida, Sasafras, Sassafrax, Sassafras albidum, Sassafras officinale, Sassafras variifolium, Saxifrax.

Sassafras Appearance

The sassafras is a medium sized tree ranging from 10-125 feet tall.

This tree has 3 different kinds of leaves.

One is oval, one has two lobes and resembles a mitten, and the other has three lobes. The leaves are very fragrant.

The tree blooms with tiny yellow flowers in the spring, and in the summer produces egg-shaped blue-black colored fruit about ½ inch long.

There are usually many saplings around a tree.

Harvesting Sassafras

The leaves are good from spring to fall and the bark, twigs, and root are good year round.

Eating Sassafrass

Any part of the tree will make a delicious reddish-brown tea.

The leaves can be dried and ground into a powder. This is called gumbo file’ which is an expensive gourmet item which flavors and slightly thickens soup. Southerners use this to make gumbo.

The root can be ground and used in place of cinnamon.

Sassafras Medicinal Uses

Native Americans used a decoction of the root as a blood purifier and detoxifier, and as a spring tonic.

Rural residents in the Ozarks and Appalacia commonly use Sassafras to treat arthritis, rheumatism, pains, ulcers, colds and flus.

The bark of the root is used as a blood thinner and to break up impurities in the blood system. The bark also gently cleanses the kidneys.

Sassafras tea is used for colds, fever, arthritis, gout, high blood pressure, kidney problems, stomach aches, and eczema.

Externally sassafras compresses treat external infections, poison ivy, and burns.

Sources:

  • Brill, S. (1994). Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Rx List Internet Drug Index. (n.d.). Sassafras. Extracted October 4, 2010 from http://www.rxlist.com/sassafras/supplements.htm
  • Tierra, M. (1998). The Way of Herbs. New York: Pocket Books.
  • Williams, J. (1995). Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications
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