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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´┐Żis 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