As I child, I loved sassafras tea. It was a very occasional treat, delicious, copper-colored, sweet and hot. I treasure my memories of the aroma and taste, and of the very first time I had a cup of it.
You can still buy supposed sassafras concentrate. It doesn't taste a bit like the stuff tasted when I was young. Good sassafras faded out gradually -- I used to find short lengths of the root in simply-labeled cellophane packets at the grocer's, Indiana-produced and presumably with most of the safrole steamed away. But I guess even that was too much for the drug warriors; you'll look in vain for it now. Safrole, the stuff that gives sassafras a distinctive taste, was determined to be more bad for you than good and withdrawn from commercial use in 1960. By 1976, the DEA labelled it a drug precursor: it's used in the manufacture of MDMA, "Ecstasy." And not only is it illegal as can be,* overuse of MDMA appears to be not at all good for you, either, and in several ways.
There are small amounts of safrole in many spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, black pepper, the Cajun spice filé (ground sassafras leaves!) -- and that's a pretty good list of "spices Roberta X likes," as well. Coincidence? I don't know, but here's another: M.D.s have tried me several times on various SSRIs to deal with my chronic headaches, and that stuff just destroys me after a few days: nothing's any fun, nothing's worth doing -- or even worth not doing, either. There's something goofy going on with all that but given that SSRIs and kin are only barely understood by the people who do understand them,† don't look to me for theories; I figure it means even if I could get real sassafras tea, I would be wise to enjoy it only sparingly.
Past that, I don't know. But I'm sitting here drinking a mug of frikkin' bluejohn pseudosassafras tea, and it hasn't got the right taste. Not even close. It's not even the right color! A bottle of "Sarsaparilla" soda pop comes closer on both counts. I'm pouring this weaksauce dishwater out and brewing some chamomile instead.
* That falls under the "doing stuff" section of the rule, "Don't go stupid places with stupid people doing stupid stuff." Felonies are, by design and definition, not fun. Go do something else and don't get caught in the gears.
† This is one reason why I'm kind of cynical about doctoring. Yeah, they have a whole wagon-load of pills and powders these days, but for many of those patented and trademarked nostrums, all the medical profession really knows is they work on some specific problems some of the time, somehow. Good doctors are humbled by by this and hand the stuff out with much thought and care. They're not miracle-workers; they can reduce fractures, lance boils and figure out if you've got gout or the flu but the laser-like precision implied in drug company ads on TV generally does not exist. M.D.s know what they do often works better if you think they're ten moves ahead of whatever ails you. They're frequently not, but being very clever, well-educated and aware of the remarkable effects of the Tincture of Time is the next best thing, and that, most of them have got.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
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