Have you ever had a smell instantly remind you of something? The smell of a freshly dug sassafras root, dirt and all, is the smell of Appalachia. It just takes my mind back to 200 years ago. I don’t know why, but it just does.
Sassafras grows abundantly in our neck of the woods. Once you’ve seen the leaves a few times, it’s really easy to pick out along a roadside or in the woods.
And then you’ll know it’s sassafras for sure when you pick off a leaf and smell the stem. It smells like root beer!
When one harvests sassafras, the root is taken, therefore the tree will die and not grow back from the root system. So, to make sure sassafras keeps growing, I like to make sure there’s several little saplings around the area before I go uprooting them all.
Back in the hills decades ago, sassafras tea was used for a spring tonic, according to the Foxfire Book. (Other spring tonics might include poke salad or watercress– any spring plants to purify the blood.) It was used as a diuretic and was said to cleanse the liver.
Jethro Kloss, in Back to Eden, says that sassafras “will relieve gas and colic. Valuable for all skin diseases and eruptions. Good for kidneys, bladder, chest, and throat troubles.”
Rosemary Gladstar’s book called Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health states that it is a “powerful astringent, it can be used externally for insect bites and internally for diarrhea and dysentery…it’s a valuable, safe, and effective herb.”
Didn’t know all that about good ol’ sassafras tea, huh?
I found it fascinating! So of course, I made some.
Here’s how to do it:
Dig fresh sassafras root from the young sassafras tree. The roots are more tender when they are young.
Wash them off, and peel the bark. I ended up throwing the bark peels back into the tea, because they smelled so good!
Boil them in water for 20 minutes, or more. The longer the boil, the stronger the flavor.
I used a half-gallon canning jar as my measure, and filled my pot up with a half-gallon of water.
For this amount of water, I used two roots.
I let it boil for around 35 minutes. The water will turn a dark color.
When boiling is finished, I let it cool for a few minutes, then strained the tea through a fine mesh strainer back into the half-gallon glass jar. Discard the roots. (Compost, or hog bucket, for us.)
I added ½ cup of sugar. This can be suited to your taste. Also, in place of sugar, you could use honey, stevia, or any other sweetener.
Stir and chill! Enjoy!
It can also be served as a hot tea. For a hot tea, honey would go perfectly.
Have you ever had sassafras tea? I know you’re Appalachian grandmother probably did… 😉