Mountain Rose Herbs

Sassafras Leaf

Also known as

Sassafras albidum

Introduction

Sassafras is a sturdy tree found in the bayous of Louisiana. When the tree is young, its leaves are shaped like “mittens,” sometimes with two “thumbs.” As the tree matures, sometimes reaching a height of 100 feet (30 meters) and a trunk diameter of up to 6 feet (200 cm), the leaves grow more rounded, free of indentation. Cajun cuisine uses sassafras leaf to make file (FEE-lay), the seasoning and thickening agent for gumbo. The early Cajuns learned to use file’ from the Choctaw Indians of the Gulf coast, who evidently used it to thicken soups.

Constituents

Alpha-pinene, anethole, apiole, asarone, beta-sitosterol, boldine, caryophyllene, elemicin, eugenol, mucilage, myristicin, reticule, safrene, safrole, tannins, thujone.

Parts Used

Leaf.

Typical Preparations

The leaf is primarily used to thicken and to season. It should be simmered gently, and never boiled. For convenience it may be used as a tea.

Summary

Sassafras leaf is traditionally used as a thickening and flavoring agent in Gumbo, as well as other Cajun sauces and soups. The leaves have a lightly spicy and a pleasant aromatic scent and flavor. The fresh young leaves are used in salads.

Precautions

The actual analysis of the leaf found as little as 0.09 mg of safrole per cup of sassafras tea, or 99.95% less than reports have found. Later research reported by Dr. Jim Duke found that if all the safrole in the leaf leached into a cup of tea, it would yield about 3 milligrams of safrole, or, 95% less than the recommended maximum. Sassafras should not be used while pregnant and it should not be used for extended periods of time. Its moderate to liberal use in soup and sauces is fine.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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