SASSAFRAS

OTHER NAME(S):

Ague Tree, Bois de Cannelle, Cinnamon Wood, Common Sassafras, Kuntze Saloop, Laurier des Iroquois, Laurus albida, Saloop, Sasafras, Sassafrax, Sassafras albidum, Sassafras officinale, Sassafras variifolium, Saxifrax.

Overview

Overview Information

Sassafras is a plant. The root bark is used to make medicine.

Despite serious safety concerns, people use sassafras for many conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

In beverages and candy, sassafras was used in the past to flavor root beer. It was also used as a tea. But sassafras tea contains a lot of safrole, the chemical in sassafras that makes it poisonous. One cup of tea made with 2.5 grams of sassafras contains about 200 mg of safrole. This is about 4.5 times the dose that researchers think is poisonous. So, in 1976, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that sassafras could no longer be sold as sassafras tea.

How does it work?

There isn't enough information available to know how sassafras works.

Uses

Uses & Effectiveness?

Insufficient Evidence for

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of sassafras for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Sassafras is POSSIBLY SAFE in foods and beverages if it is "safrole-free." In medicinal amounts, taking safrole-free sassafras is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Some scientists think even safrole-free sassafras can increase the risk of cancer. Sassafras containing safrole is LIKELY UNSAFE in the amounts found in medicine. Don't take it by mouth. The safrole in sassafras root bark and oil can cause cancer and liver damage. Consuming just 5 mL of sassafras oil can kill an adult. Sassafras can cause sweating and hot flashes. High amounts can cause vomiting, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and other severe side effects.

When applied to the skin: Sassafras containing safrole is LIKELY UNSAFE for use as a medicine. Don't put it on your skin. The safrole in sassafras root bark and oil can cause cancer and liver damage. It can cause skin rashes in some people when used on the skin.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

It is UNSAFE for anyone to use sassafras in medicinal amounts, but some people have extra reasons not to use it:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Sassafras is LIKELY UNSAFE if you are pregnant. There is evidence that sassafras oil might cause a miscarriage. There isn't enough reliable information to know if it is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Sassafras is LIKELY UNSAFE for children. A few drops of sassafras oil may be deadly.

Surgery: In medicinal amounts, sassafras can slow down the central nervous system. This means it can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. When combined with anesthesia and other medications used during and after surgery, it might slow down the central nervous system too much. Stop using sassafras at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Urinary tract conditions: Sassafras might make these conditions worse.

Interactions

Interactions?

Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

!
  • Sedative medications (CNS depressants) interacts with SASSAFRAS

    Sassafras might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking sassafras along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

    Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.

Dosing

Dosing

The appropriate dose of sassafras depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for sassafras. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

View References

REFERENCES:

  • Kapadia, G. J., Chung, E. B., Ghosh, B., Shukla, Y. N., Basak, S. P., Morton, J. F., and Pradhan, S. N. Carcinogenicity of some folk medicinal herbs in rats. J Natl.Cancer Inst. 1978;60(3):683-686. View abstract.
  • Segelman, A. B., Segelman, F. P., Karliner, J., and Sofia, R. D. Sassafras and herb tea. Potential health hazards. JAMA 8-2-1976;236(5):477. View abstract.
  • Ueng, Y. F., Hsieh, C. H., Don, M. J., Chi, C. W., and Ho, L. K. Identification of the main human cytochrome P450 enzymes involved in safrole 1'-hydroxylation. Chem Res Toxicol 2004;17(8):1151-1156. View abstract.
  • Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 -- Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=182
  • Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal, 4th ed., Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999.
  • Hu L, Wu F, He J, Zhong L, Song Y, Shao H. Cytotoxicity of safrole in HepaRG cells: studies on the role of CYP1A2-mediated ortho-quinone metabolic activation. Xenobiotica. 2019;49(12):1504-1515. View abstract.

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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
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