Sassafras tea is known for its appealing aroma and taste. It was the favored drink for the young, especially until colas came along. That doesn’t mean you should overdo it through. Sassafras tea like most herbal teas should be consumed in moderation.
Warning: Use precaution when working with sassafras at home. While sassafras root is still commonly used by home-brewing enthusiasts, be aware that sassafras contains safrole and take standard safety precautions when using homemade sassafras containing products internally and topically. The steps below are traditional steps for making Sassafras tea and have not been evaluated for safety concerning safrole. The USDA only allows safrole-free extract from sassafras to be used in commercial foods.
Step 1 - Cut the Roots
You should never take the roots from someone else’s tree without their permission of course. You’ll need to dig or pull the roots up and cut them. The roots should be pulpy and fairly easy to handle.
Find the root system on your Sassafras tree. So as not to disturb or shock the roots take from the tip most point, make a clean diagonal cut and don’t take too much root from one side of the tree.
Step 2 - Wash the Roots
As soon as you have the root inside wash it carefully in warm water. Cut the root into small sized pieces—2 to 3 inches long should work well.
Step 3 - Dry the Roots
Find a cool, dark, and arid spot for the roots to dry. Don’t place them in a window as the sun exposure will make the root tasteless. Allow them to dry for at least a week. Check on them frequently during this time to make sure there is no mottling. It is important that they be kept dry, since they can easily rot.
Step 4 - Pare the Roots
Using a small paring type knife strip the bark or skin from the roots cutting down into the woody part of the root. This is where the tree sap is stored for the winter months. This cutting shouldn’t be too difficult if the knife is sharp, but if you experience trouble—place them on a cutting boarding and cut them as you would a potato.
Step 5 - Refrigerate
Take these strips and put them in an airtight plastic bag. You can then refrigerate these until they’re ready to be used.
Step 6 - Make the Tea
When you are ready to enjoy your tea bring a quart of water to boil. Boil about 2 to 4 ounces of the roots in the water for around 20 minutes. Allow the roots to steep until the water cools down.
Step 7 - Season to Taste
Add sugar to taste. As a rule you will probably use the same amount of sugar or sugar substitute as you would in ice tea.
If you prefer to make enough to enjoy for a while, then steep for a longer period and add the tea to a gallon container of water.
Remember that Sassafras trees and subsequently their roots for making Sassafras tea contain safrole. This is a slightly yellow, oily liquid that is often extracted for commercial use from the Sassafras tree for uses such as camphor oil and natural pesticides.