Laurus sassafras

Laurus sassafras

  • Common Names: Saxifrax, Saloop, Ague Tree, Cinnamon Wood.
  • Features: The generic name of the three species of trees, two native to eastern Asia, one to eastern North America, in the laurel family Lauraceae. In the United States and Canada, Sassafras extends from Main, southern Ontario and Michigan to Texas and Florida. May approach 100 ft. in height and 6 ft. in diameter, but it is usually smaller sometimes shrubby.
    The bark is dark red-brown, deeply furrowed, soft and brittle with short, corky, layered fracture, with many oil cells. The young twigs are green. The heart wood of Sassafras is dark or orange-brown and resistant to decay. The leaves, bring green above, downy beneath, are 4-6 inches long, oval especially on older branches often mitten shaped, or three-lobed on younger shoots or twigs. In autumn they turn various shades of yellow, orange, pink and deep red. The small greenish flowers appear in April or early May before the leaves. The fruit pistil, which ripens into a blue drupe, is eagerly devoured by the birds. The bark has an aromatic, agreeable taste, and similar fragrance.
    In the book “Trees and Shrubs of Massachus [sic], 1894”, Sassafras has the credit of having aided in the discovery of America. The wind-swept fragrance of the trees encouraged Columbus to persuade his mutinous crew that land was near.
    Sold in some areas under the name of Salap or Saloop.
  • Medicinal Parts: The bark of the root.
  • Solvents: Boiling water, alcohol.
  • Bodily Influence: Stimulant, Diaphoretic, Aromatic, Tonic, Diuretic, Alterative.
  • Uses: Early explorers and settlers in the New World were told by the Indians that it would cure diverse ills, and it was eagerly sought and shipped to Europe. In domestic practice is enjoys a wide field of application and use, especially as a so-called spring renovator to thin and purify the blood. J.H.Greer, M.D., tells us: “Sassafras should not be used by thin-blooded persons”. It would accentuate the positive.
    It is used as corrective in rheumatism, varicose ulcers; given in painful menstruation it soon relieves the sufferer, and is effective in after-pains of childbirth and in all skin eruptive diseases. It is antagonistic to narcotic effect of alcohol. The essential oil will often relieve the most painful toothache. Sassafras was used with other compounds to improve the flavour and render their properties more cordial to the stomach.
  • Dose: Infusion of 1 oz. of crushed or chipped bark to 1 pint of boiling water. Of the tincture, 15- 30 minutes.
  • Externally: A poultice of the root is a good application for ill-conditioned ulcers. The oil may be used as an ingredient in liniment and provides an excellent application for bruises and swelling.

    -pp. 242- 243, Indian Herbology of North America by Alma R. Hutchens (1973)

    To learn about the varieties Sassafras albidum, Sassafras hesparia (native to British Columbia), or Sassafras randainse , please see the beautiful photos and information by variety at Randy Stewart's blog Future Plants.

  • Sassafras Officinalis