name = "Sassafras"

image_caption = "Sassafras albidum", Wanaque, New Jersey
regnum = Plantae
unranked_divisio = Angiosperms
unranked_classis = Magnoliids
ordo = Laurales
familia = Lauraceae
genus = "Sassafras"
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "S. albidum"
"S. randaiense"
"S. tzumu"|

"Sassafras" is a genus of three species of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia.cite journal | author = Nie, Z.-L., Wen, J. & Sun, H. | year = 2007 | title = Phylogeny and biogeography of Sassafras (Lauraceae) disjunct between eastern Asia and eastern North America | journal = Plant Systematics and Evolution | volume = 267 | pages = 191–203 | doi = 10.1007/s00606-007-0550-1 ]

Sassafras trees grow from 15–35 m (50–120 feet) tall and 70–150 cm (2.5–6 feet) in diameter, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The branching is sympodial. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, soft, weak, and brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant. The species are unusual in having three distinct leaf patterns on the same plant, unlobed oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and trilobed (three pronged; rarely the leaves can be five-lobed).Noble Plant Image Gallery [ Sassafras (includes photo of five-lobed leaf)] ] They have smooth margins and grow 7–20 cm long by 5–10 cm broad. The young leaves and twigs are quite mucilaginous, and produce a scent similar to lemons when crushed. The tiny, yellow flowers are five-petaled and bloom in the spring; they are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The fruit are blue-black, egg-shaped, 1 cm long, produced on long, red-stalked cups, and mature in late summer.Flora of North America: [ "Sassafras"] ]

The name "Sassafras," applied by the botanist Nicolas Monardes in the sixteenth century, is said to be a corruption of the Spanish word for saxifrage.


*"Sassafras albidum" (Nuttall) Nees - Sassafras, White Sassafras, Red Sassafras or Silky Sassafras. Eastern North America, from southernmost Ontario, Canada through the eastern United States south to central Florida, and west to southern Iowa and eastern Texas.
*"Sassafras tzumu" (Hemsl.) Hemsl. - Chinese Sassafras or Tzumu. Central and southwestern China. It differs from "S. albidum" in the leaves being more frequently three-lobed,Arboretum Trompenburg: [ photo] ] the lobes having a tapered acuminate apex (not rounded to weakly acute).
*"Sassafras randaiense" (Hayata) Rehd. - Taiwanese Sassafras. Taiwan. Treated by some botanists in a distinct genus as "Yushunia randaiensis" (Hayata) Kamikoti,Kamikoti, S. (1933). "Ann. Rep. Taihoku Bot. Gard". 3: 78] though this is not supported by recent genetic evidence which shows "Sassafras" to be monophyletic.


Steam distillation of dried root bark produces an essential oil consisting mostly of safrole that once was extensively used as a fragrance in perfumes and soaps, food and for aromatherapy. The yield of this oil from American sassafras is quite low and great effort is needed to produce useful amounts of the root bark. Commercial "sassafras oil" generally is a by-product of camphor production in Asia or comes from related trees in Brazil. Safrole is a precursor for the clandestine manufacture of the drug ecstasy, and as such, its transport is monitored internationally.

Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Sassafras leaves and twigs are consumed by white-tailed deer in bothsummer and winter. In some areas it is an important deer food.Sassafras leaf browsers include woodchucks, marsh rabbits, and blackbears. Rabbits eat sassafras bark in winter. Beavers will cutsassafras stems. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species ofbirds including northern bobwhites, eastern kingbirds, greatcrested flycatchers, phoebes, wild turkeys, catbirds, flickers, pileatedwoodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, thrushes, vireos, and mockingbirds.Some small mammals also consume sassafras fruits.

For most of the above mentioned animals, sassafras is not consumed inlarge enough quantities to be important. Carey and Gill rate itsvalue to wildlife as fair, their lowest rating.This section incorporates text from a public domain work of the US government: cite web | url = | author = Sullivan, Janet | year = 1993 | title = Sassafras albidum | work = Fire Effects Information System, [Online] | publisher = U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer)]

Culinary uses

The dried and ground leaves are used to make filé powder, a spice used in the making of some types of gumbo.

The roots of Sassafras can be steeped to make tea and were used in the flavoring of root beer until being banned by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Laboratory animals that were given oral doses of sassafras tea or sassafras oil that contained safrole developed permanent liver damage or various types of cancer. In humans, liver damage can take years to develop and it may not have obvious signs.

In 1960, the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil and safrole in foods and drugs based on the animal studies and human case reports. Several years later, the sale of sassafras oil, roots, or tea for human consumption was prohibited by lawFact|date=August 2008. Subsequently, both Canada and the United States have passed laws against the sale of any consumable products (beverages, foods, cosmetics, health products such as toothpaste, and others) that contain more than specific small amounts of safrole. [ [,11475,552413,00.html EDrug Digest] .]

Sassafras tea can also be used as blood thinner.

Sassafras was a commodity prized in Europe as a cure for Gonorrhea [Tony Horwitz, A Voyage Long and Strange, Henry Holt, 2008, pp. 3-6] .

ee also

* Atherospermataceae, The trees in this Southern Hemisphere family are known by the same common name.


External links

* [ Sassafras medical uses, dosage, cautions, and general information]
* [,11475,552413,00.html Drug Digest Sassafras]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • sassafras — [ sasafra ] n. m. • 1590; esp. sasafras, mot indien d Amérique du Sud ♦ Arbre originaire d Amérique du Nord, voisin du laurier (lauracées), dont le bois et les feuilles sont aromatiques. ● sassafras nom masculin (espagnol sasafrás) Arbre d… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Sassafras — Sassafras …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sassafras — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda ? Sasafrás Sassafras albidum …   Wikipedia Español

  • Sassafras — Sas sa*fras, n. [F. sassafras (cf. It. sassafrasso, sassafras, Sp. sasafras, salsafras, salsifrax, salsifragia, saxifragia), fr. L. saxifraga saxifrage. See {Saxifrage}.] (Bot.) An American tree of the Laurel family ({Sassafras officinale}); also …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Sassafras — steht für die Pflanzengattung Sassafras mit dem bekanntesten Vertreter: Sassafrasbaum (Sassafras albidum), Fenchelholzbaum, Nelkenzimtbaum, nordamerikanische Gehölzart Sassafras (Pferd), französisches Galopprennpferd (1967–1988) Sassafras… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sassafras — (S. Nees, Dietr.), Pflanzengattung aus der Familie der Laurineae Flaviflorae, 9. Kl. 1. Ordn. L., sonst zu Laurus gerechnet; Art: S. officinale (Sassafrasbaum), mäßig hoher Baum in Nordamerika, auch bei uns überwinternd, mit unten weißlichen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Sassafrás — Sassafras (1967 1988) était un cheval de course pur sang anglais, par Sheshoon et Ruta (par Ratification), vainqueur du Prix de l Arc de Triomphe en 1970. Courant sous les couleurs d Arpad Plesch, entraîné par François Mathet et monté le plus… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sassăfras — Nees (Sassafrasbaum), Gattung der Laurazeen, mit nur einer in den Wäldern des östlichen Nordamerika von Kanada bis Florida und Alabama und westlich bis Kansas und dem nördlichen Mexiko wachsenden Art. S. officinale Nees (Laurus Sassafras L.,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Sassafras — Sassafras, Holz, Wurzel od. Rinde eines in Nordamerika wachsenden Baumes (laurus sassafras) mit gewürzhaftem Geruch und Geschmack; wässerige Aufgüsse dienen als blutreinigende Mittel …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • sassafras — ☆ sassafras [sas′ə fras΄ ] n. [Sp sasafras < ? earlier sassifragia, saxifrage] 1. a small E North American tree (Sassafras albidum) of the laurel family, having an aromatic bark, leaves with usually two or three fingerlike lobes, and small,… …   English World dictionary

  • Sassafras — Sassăfras, Fenchelholz, das Holz der Wurzel des zu den Laurazeen gehörigen Sassafrasbaums (S. officināle N. ab Es.) in Nordamerika, gewürzhaft riechend und schmeckend, zu schweiß und harntreibenden Aufgüssen und Teegemischen verwendet. Auch das… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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