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HERBS: Sassafras


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Sassafras

Sassafras

Scientific name

Sassafras albidum

Other names

Ague tree, saxifrax, cinnamonwood, saloop, smelling-stick

Food sources

Once used as flavoring agent in root beer and candies. Its use as food additive is now prohibited by the FDA due to its carcinogenic effect.

Purported uses

  • To detoxify the body: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • For general health maintenance: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To reduce inflammation: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat mucositis (inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat): No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat rheumatoid arthritis: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat sprains: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat syphilis: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat urinary tract disorders: No scientific evidence supports this use.

Warnings

Sassafras, containing safrole, has caused liver cancer in animal models and is classified as a carcinogenic substance. Risk increases with length of exposure and amount consumed. It is unsafe and ineffective.

Adverse reactions

  • Common: Hot flashes and diaphoresis
  • Toxicity: Hallucinations, hypertension, tachycardia, liver cancer, and death.

Drug interactions

Barbiturates: Sassafras may have an additive effect.

References

1. Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.

2. De Smet PA, et al. Adverse Effects of Herbal Drugs, Vol 3. New York: Springer; 1997.

3. Brinker F, Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 2nd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998.

4. Haines JD. Sassafras tea and diaphoresis. Postgrad Med 1991;90;75-6.

5. Safrole. Ninth Report on Carcinogens [online]. Retrieved July 12, 2001 from http://ehis.niehs.nih.gov/roc/ninth/rahc/safrole.pdf .

6. Foster S, et al. Tyler's Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. New York: Haworth Herbal Press; 1999.

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Overview of Herbs | Alfalfa | Aloe Vera | Burdock | Capsaicin | Cascara | Chamomile | Chaparral | Comfrey | Echinacea | Garlic | Ginger | Ginseng (Asian) | Ginseng (American) | Gotu Kola | Hawthorn | Licorice | Ephedra | Milk Thistle | Sassafras | Blue-Green Algae