Monday, November 02, 2015

The War On Some Drugs Ruined Sassafras Tea

     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  Safrole, the stuff that gives sassafras a distinctive taste, was determined to be more bad for you than good and withdrawn from commercial use in 1960.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.


B said...

I kin get you some root, I think...

How much do you want?

Email me

Schmoo one nine 6 four at

pigpen51 said...

I am a chronic migraine suffer. Have tried just about every conceivable pill regime since I was an adult, I am now 55. The only thing that works for me is a narcotic and an anti emetic.
Well, with the state of the drug war and all the drug abusers around now you can tell just how well this works out for me. Now, I don't even ask for my doctor to prescribe anything. I saw him Friday and he prescribed 15 Norco tablets, out of the blue. I was astounded.
I understand how some are addicted to opiates. I understand doctors reluctance to prescribe them with the dea on their necks with an ax. It is just difficult when someone does have a chronic pain issue, and is unable to address it for fear of being labeled a drug addict.
Here in MI, we have medical marijuana as a legal product. I went so far as to get my card and try that. I, a straight shooter who has never even been drunk in my life. Well, long story short, weed not only didn't work, it didn't even get me high, sleepy, hungry, nothing. I tried it several times and didn't even know that I had used it. What a waste of money.
I just hate the idea of the government regulating naturally occurring plants that have been used for medicines for many years, successfully. Sassafras, marijuana, and st. johns wort, and the like, have one thing in common, they don't make money for big Pharma.

Joseph said...

Is growing a sassafras tree legal?

Anonymous said...

There's this:

These folks sell seedlings, $13.50:

Perhaps a few in the yard?

The trick appears to be the roots. Or try clandestine agriculture, plant some in a well out-of-the-way place accessible via mountain bike. Perfect excuse to buy a new bike...

These folks sell in bulk the root bark, the going rate seems to be about $10 for 4 oz:

Chuck Pergiel said...

I like your footnote. I may steal it.

pigpen51: I have a a couple of friends who suffers from migraines. Allergy shots and anti-histamines seem to help.

I vaguely remember sassafras something from when I was a kid. Didn't make much of an impression on me. I thought it faded out because nobody cared for it. Now I know that people's tastes vary weirdly. Some things I like other people think taste awful and vice-versa. Some things others like, to me have no taste at all. And with all these people telling you to try this, that and the other because it's just wonderful... I think they're running a subconscious screening campaign to find out if you are with them, or are one of the 'others'. Beware of snake oil salesmen, they are really trying to identify aliens.

Anonymous said...

Sassafras tea is illegal? I didn't know. When I was a kid my brother and I would go down to the woods and chop out a root from a sassafras tree in the Fall I believe or it may have been in the Spring. We would bring it home and strip the outer part of the root with a sharp knife then our mother would boil the whole root until the water got dark. Add some sugar and it tasted like root beer. This was a yearly ritual which we learned from our parents who did it when they were kids.