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Does Sassafras Cause Cancer?

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According to Tierra (1998), however, the carcinogenic properties of safrole, which is present in small concentrations in Sassafras root bark, has brought up debatable concerns regarding the safety of Sassafras’ use as either a medicinal or culinary herb. Regardless, it must be conceded that Sassafras bark should not be used during pregnancy. In one case, “a teaspoon of the oil produced vomiting, dilated pupils, stupor and collapse in a young man" and moreover, "…its use has caused abortion in several cases.” (A Modern Herbal, n.d.) Fortunately, the leaves of the sassafras tree do not contain safrole, according to Zatarain’s, Louisiana’s traditional producer of Gumbo File’. So while Zatarain’s has had to use newer methods of flavoring their root beer extracts, their File’ product remains completely safe and authentic; which leaves many safe applications available to the herbalist who would choose to utilize the Sassafras tree. Additionally, in 1977 Swiss toxicologists performed a ... more
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