People and animals have used almost every part of the sassafras tree for hundreds of years. Its uses are wide and varied. According to the University of Florida, however, "medicinal use of sassafras has declined in recent years because of the possibility that it may contain carcinogens (cancer-causing agents)."
Historically, herbalists used sassafras for various medicinal purposes. It is said to relieve pain, act as a stimulant and help treat rheumatism. According to the University of Florida, doctors have administered a sassafras tonic to treat syphilis since 1600 A.D., and that reports claim that chewing sassafras bark can help relieve addiction to tobacco. Lately, however, sassafras medicinal uses have dwindled.
The fruit, or drupes, from the tree provide food for birds and other wildlife. Deer eat the twigs in winter and the leaves and succulent growth during spring and summer. Humans steep the bark in hot water for a calming tea. They also use crushed leaves to thicken soups and stews.
Ornamental Landscape Plant
Sassafras trees may be difficult to establish due to a sparse root system, but once rooted they provide an aesthetically pleasing addition to your yard. They can grow 40 to 50 feet tall with showy bark and an interesting branching pattern. In the fall, the foliage turns from green to brilliant reds, yellows and oranges.
The wood from this tree is very durable. Commercial lumber companies, therefore, use it for buckets, posts, poles, furniture and cross-ties. Its orange color also makes it popular for indoor cabinetry.
The wood, bark and roots of sassafras produce an oil extract. Companies use this extract for flavoring and to add scent to perfumes and soaps. Some people also extract yellow dye from the tree.