In my joy of learning trees, plants and mushrooms, I will never forget reading about the infamous Sassafras tree that unfortunately, has been tarnished by the continued misinformation and hearsay about this tree. If you were to google the name sassafras, you would undoubtedly come across this:
"Sassafras contains an element called safrole which is found in the root bark and oil of which can cause cancer and even liver damage. Consuming just 5 mL of sassafras oil can kill an adult. Even “safrole-free” sassafras used in medicinal amounts has been linked with tumors. Thus in 1960 the FDA banned this as a potential carcinogen."
Oh my, this indeed sounds very serious, doesn't it? Why would anyone even want to get near this plant let alone use it? Well, we can be thankful for people like Samuel Thayer who before daring to speak about this plant did his homework, unlike all the people who merely run with the crowd yelling, "Stone her, my lord, stone her!"
It's sad that few people out there actually prefer the truth rather instead prefer regurgitated words passed down with no knowledge or facts to back up the real claims.
As Thayer points out, "The decision to ban safrole was made based upon weak findings and very limited data from the FDA study (Long et al. 1961) in which groups of rats were fed safrole at different doses for two years. Only at the highest dose 5,000 ppm of diet (the equivalent of me drinking about 25 cups of sassafras tea per day), did rats show a significantly elevated frequency of malignant liver tumors. Two other studies were reported about the same time: Homburger et al. (1961) found benign liver tumors in protein-malnourished rats fed safrole as 1% of the diet for 200 days. (To get that does I would have to consume fifty 8 oz. cups of sassafrass tea per day.) Abbott et al. (1961) found that when rats were continuously fed safrole as 1170 ppm of diet, some of them developed cancers after 22 months." (Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer pg. 332)
So, if you are like me saying to yourself what the heck is ppm, here is what it means. It is an abbreviation for "parts per million" and also can be expressed as milligrams per liter (mg/L). So, yeah, like it says above, 5ml of sassafras oil can kill an adult, however mind you, this is if your being fed this like a rat for 200 days straight and or how about continuously for 22 months straight, I mean seriously, this is called being scientific?! Hey Bob, want to be told milk is bad for you because someone used this as their sole source of food for a year? Please, these people should seriously be rejected as being anything but a scientist. If they had made sassafras tea and fed it to rats from time to time and gave them a normal diet then we have something worth looking into. Let’s really get to know the facts about what this really means when it comes to producing this stuff.
So what does this 5ml actually mean? Well, as Thayer points out, the 5ml was actually pure safrole, yeah you got it, pure safrole. Which means, they were being given safrole oil that was produced through distillation, a processes that requires a minimum heat of 293-302 degrees Fahrenheit to extract out 100% pure safrole oil. You can’t extract it out at that level if you are only boiling the sassafras root in 212 degrees Fahrenheit water. For a full understanding of the distillation process of safrole oil and how it is achieved, you can click here.
What is so frustrating are those who are purporting all this false information about false dangers while running around screaming to the public things that are not logically sound. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see myself or anyone else for that matter, going and drinking some 25 cups of sassafras tea per day, let alone coffee. LOL!
Anyhow, If you are curious to learn more about this subject then, trust me, buy the book! It is worth every penny as I have greatly enjoyed learning about this as well.
If you want to make a cup of Sassafras tea for yourself, boil the root twice as the first boil will taste bitter, but the second boil will taste awesome and then add the sweetener of your choice with a little creamer.
So, despite all of the crazy claims and information out there, just chill and laugh and well, take a moment to think about those poor rats who died in vain.
Avi Ben Shalom: