Q: What do you know about sassafras tea? Is it safe to drink and what does the tree look like?
A: I know that I drank many gallons of sassafras tea when I was a kid. I’d go up to a copse of small trees we called “The Hut” and dig the roots of two or three sassafras saplings. Once home, I’d scour the roots with a brush to remove the soil, then chop them into pieces that would fit in my mother’s large boiler. We’d simmer the fragrant roots for an hour, then cool the liquor and add sugar to make a bracing springtime tonic.
Unfortunately, scientists found that safrole, the main flavoring ingredient of the tea, caused cancer in animal tests. The flavoring was removed from the market and folks are now cautioned about consuming sassafras tea in any amount.