Searching for sassafras

I was flipping through the Farmhouse Cookbook today. It has delightful recipes, but there’s a section on preparing for canning. There are instructions on how to store food in a barrel in your root cellar. (I’ve always wanted a root cellar!)

What I found today, though, filled me with nostalgia. My grandma used to make sassafras tea. She had a big ol’ sassafras tree in her back yard. In addition to serving as a jungle gym for my brother and a place to put the swing, it offered much liquid refreshment over the years.

Sassafras Tea
from the Farmhouse Cookbook

2, 3-inch pieces of sassafras root or bark
4 cups boiling water
granulated sugar or honey

Scrub roots and cut into short pieces. Boil the roots and water for 15 minutes or until the tea is red and strong. Serve hot sweetened with honey or sugar, or chill and serve with ice.

Sassafras— warming in winter, cooling when iced in summer, and marvelous as a spring tonic.
Now I’m on the hunt for a sassafras tree!

I’d also like to quote the book’s introduction.
It speaks to me …

This is a time when many of the ends seem to have become undone, when many of the familiar ties have been loosened, when things once considered wholesome are thought to contain poisons, when the perfect order of things seems perfectly out of order.

This is a time when many know it is desperately necessary to retie the loose ties, to retrace the lost steps, to find a way back to the good beginnings; when to go backward is to go forward. There is a need to replant our roots, to grow our own foods, to bake our own bread, to have some control over our own subsistence, to re-establish that perfect order of things …


This book was published in 1973. I wonder what the author would think about the way of things in current times?

Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.


  • comment-avatar
    Sharon August 3, 2011 (8:01 am)

    We have a lot of sassafras trees and when we had to have one removed, the roots scented the forest for weeks! Sassafras tea contains quinine and it can be harmful if taken in large quantities. The birds love the ripe seeds in the fall and even the butterflies are attracted to them.

  • comment-avatar
    Mary Poppins August 3, 2011 (9:29 am)

    I know where there’s a huge grove of them at my dad’s…the saplings always made the BEST hotdog sticks! I’m assuming you strain the tea so you don’t end up drinking roots?

  • comment-avatar
    Mary Ann August 3, 2011 (10:13 am)

    We have a bunch of small Sassafras trees if you want to come and dig up a couple.
    Aunt Mary Ann

  • comment-avatar
    Farmgirl August 3, 2011 (1:01 pm)

    I did some quick research on sassafras tea. In the 1970s it was banned for sale in the U.S. by the FDA. There is a ton of research on how it is medicinal and ways it was used by native peoples. The research about it being dangerous says the same thing … and each article concludes with “the amount of safrole is not known but researches believe it is well above harmful limits for human consumption.” Hmmm. Strange. How can they not know? Now here’s where it gets interesting … I found an article that said that the drug Ecstasy is made using sassafras oils … and now it’s easy to connect the dots. I like conspiracy theories, however, so it could just be me that’s crazy! Too much tea in childhood, perhaps!

  • comment-avatar
    Laurie August 3, 2011 (1:38 pm)

    If you find some roots, let me know. I loved it too!!

  • comment-avatar
    Amish Stories August 4, 2011 (8:59 am)

    Greetings from Amish Stories. Richard from Lebanon,Pa