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Sassafras Tea

Sassafras Tea is prepared by brewing the roots of the sassafras tree which belongs to the family Lauraceae, and indegenous to North America and Eastern Asia

 

History

Sassafras Tea was originally brewed from the roots of the sassafras tree by local Cherokee Indians. William Bartram in his book Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians food traditions, noted that the local Cherokee Indians brewed china brier and sassafras roots, and boiled then in hot water to make tea. This diet drink would purify the blood and juices. In the seventeenth century, sassafras was actively exported from the US as it was highly valued for the medicinal content of the root and the beauty of the wood. The root was considered valuable as it could be used to treat gonorrhea and syphilis. England imported large quantities of sassafras roots that were used to brew teas that could be used for their dyeing properties, acne reduction properties, to ease digestion, etc. The active ingredient of sassafras was found in all parts of the tree and was called as safrole but the highest concentration was found in the roots.

 

Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation

Small sassafras plants are preferred. The plants are pulled up from the ground and the roots are cut off. The roots of the trees should be cleaned well but extremely gently. The bark of the root lends the characteristic taste to the sassafras root. The roots are added to boiling water resulting in a deep reddish brown liquid. Sugar and artificial flavorings can be added to increase the taste. Commercial preparations now have a purified version of the sassafras root that is much easier to use.

 

Serving and Drinking

Sassafras tea is usually served icy cold with honey or molasses as sweeteners

 

Popular Drink Variations

  1. Sassafras Mead is prepared by mixing sassafras tea with molasses, white honey and cream of tartar. The drink is then mixed with soda just before serving
  2. Sassafras beer was prepared by brewing the roots with water to make the tea. The tea is then mixed with molasses and allowed to ferment to make the beer. 

 

Miscellaneous Facts

Check commercial sassafras products for their actual ground root content. The ground product should not contain the berries as sassafras berries are very toxic to the body.

 

Trivia

According to the latest research, large quantities of safrole can induce hepatic cancers or cause permanent hepatic damage. Use of the actual powdered sassafras root in making the tea is contraindicated but root extracts that do not contain safrole can still be used to make sassafras tea. This extract is also found in commercially produced tea products and root beers.