Sassafras is native to the eastern half of North America and produces yellow flowers. It also has orange bark and fragrant leaves. The sassafras tree can grow as tall as 65 feet and is typically a smaller plant. Its leaves, roots, and bark have been used in medicine and cooking for generations. However, there has been a demanding hype about its wood and whether sassafras wood for smoking can be the best option for smoking enthusiasts.
This blog post answers your queries about the sassafras wood for cooking. Read below to explore.
The largest known sassafras tree in the world is in Owensboro, Kentucky. It is over 100 feet high and 21 feet in circumference.
Why Is Sassafras Wood Hazardous for Health?
Safrole, a chemical compound naturally found in the sassafras plant, has been shown to cause damage to the liver and is known to cause cancer potentially. Its concentrations are highest near the bark and roots.
The effects of safrole poisoning can be felt relatively quickly and vary widely. Some common symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, and an “over-sense” of well-being. If you believe these symptoms are yours, you must seek help ASAP. Also, Safrole is used for the synthesis of MDMA or ecstasy.
The FDA removed safrole from the shelves in ‘76. Safrole is a substance that OSHA and NIOSH have determined to be hazardous. This substance is the difference between the stuff you buy in stores and what’s on the shelves. Keep in mind that it’s also not on store shelves now. Neither of these Federal agencies has yet to publish a permissible exposure limit.
Using sassafras is unsafe because these two agencies do not allow workers to be exposed to inhalation or ingestion dangers of safrole. Some people argue that it is dangerous to ingest safrole, which is found in the smoke. Others say there are two ways for people to get this chemical – through inhalation or ingestion. So it is better not to risk life by such hazardous effects of this chemical.
Can You Use Sassafras Wood for Smoking?
Some hardwoods are supposed to be perfect for smoking meats. However, according to conventional wisdom, softwoods should never be used. Softwoods, like Coniferous trees, can contain harmful chemicals. They irritate your lungs when you inhale them and make you sick when you eat them. While some woods have denser compounds, they burn at a lower temperature. You might consider wood sources: oak, hickory, fruitwoods, and cherry. Therefore, some woods are preferred over others for smoking.
Sassafras, in the same way, should not be used for smoking. Let’s explore why here.
Some say that Sassafras, a hardwood with a variety of chemical compounds which give off a sweet, mild smoke when burned, is not safe to cook over. Sassafras bark contains safrole. It was banned for human consumption by the FDA in the 1960s because of safety risks. Safrole is a natural constituent of the sassafras plant in sassafras oil. The FDA lists safrole as one of the most common anticarcinogenic agents, and it can react with other chemicals to produce potent carcinogenic derivatives.
Whether using sassafras wood with meat is good or bad depends on the individual and their purposes for using it. Some say that not smoking into it is just fine for them. Others don’t think so and use it more often or in larger quantities.
Is Sassafras Wood Toxic?
Some people in the past consumed a tree bark called the sassafras tree. One of the components within that bark contains safrole, which has been found to cause cancer in lab rats when consumed at high volumes. As a result, safrole was banned from human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 3, 1960.
Despite this safety uncertainty, safrole should be avoided in the long run as it is not a substance you want to accumulate over time in your body.
Sassafras oil is safe for inhalation when diluted with a carrier oil like olive or sweet almond oil, but it can cause contact dermatitis if applied topically without diluting. However, it has been examined that its frequent use causes serious health issues. There has been little research on the effects of safrole on humans, but studies have shown that it alters human hormone levels.
What Is Sassafras Wood Used For?
Sassafras is a small tree that grows in the U.S. and Canada and is used for various purposes. Sassafras wood has been used for various applications, including tea, beer, incense, and perfume. Multiple types of sassafras trees grow in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Brazil, and parts of Europe. These types range from the size of a garden shrub to a medium-sized trees with a canopy reaching 10 feet high. In the United States, sassafras trees are considered noxious weeds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are not allowed to be planted. Sassafras wood is, however, still abundantly used for various purposes across the country and in Canada despite its designation as a noxious weed because it is not banned from use on private property or in small areas.
Uses of Sassafras Plant
Following are some of the uses of this plant.
- The root bark yields an essential oil with a pungent smell that has been used traditionally for flavoring foods, medicines, incense, and perfumes.
- Sassafras essential oil is made from the tree’s bark during distillation. It has a strong smell resembling wintergreen or peppermint with a hint of citrus.
- The wood is also used in construction, mainly when it’s used in the form of veneer or sheathing.
- Safrole has been used for centuries as an herb to treat headaches, colds, and coughs. The leaves of this tree are used for medicinal purposes because they contain a compound called safrole which has been known to have sedative properties.
- In the late 1800s, safrole was also one of the significant ingredients in the synthesized version of vanilla extract.
- Sassafras has been used for culinary, medicinal, and aromatic purposes, both in areas where it’s indigenous and in areas where it is imported.
- The wood of sassafras trees has been used as a material for building ships and furniture in China, Europe, and the United States. In Europe and the United States, it played an essential role in the history of European colonization of the Americas.
- Sassafras twigs are traditionally used as toothbrushes and fire starters.
- Sassafras oil is a compound that was once extracted from the sassafras plant. It has many commercial uses and is found today in pest control products such as piperonyl butoxide. This plant is primarily harvested in Asia and Brazil for commercial purposes.
- The wood of the tree is also used for can be used for woodcarving and making musical instruments.
- It has been used in the past as an ingredient in root beer, but it has also been used to make chewing gum.
Can You Cook With Sassafras?
Can you cook with sassafras? This question may seem odd to many, but it’s pretty standard and has been asked by many.
Sassafras is a type of tree that grows in the United States and Canada. The leaves and bark of the plant are used to make tea and flavoring for various food dishes.
Sassafras is a plant that produces a distinctive flavor and fragrance. It has been used as a seasoning in cooking since the 18th century. The leaves of this tree are used as a spice in cooking, especially in southern cuisine, such as barbecue sauce, gumbo, jambalaya, or gumbo herbs (a French-Creole dish). The bark of the root can be ground into a fine powder that can be added to sauces or cooked vegetables for flavor and color.
Sassafras, or sassafras wood, is one of many types of wood that can also be used to smoke meat. Some people prefer it because the smell is milder than in some other woods. Technically, any wood can be used for smoking meat; you may or may not like the resulting taste!
Cooking meat using wood is both an age-old technique and a popular hobby. Certain woods might not be suitable for smoking meat like pine or spruce. These are the softwoods. It is not always a conifer, but sassafras wood is also not mostly preferred or recommended. Another concern is that sassafras bark and roots contain a substance called safrole. The Food and Drug Administration banned safrole as an additive in foods because it was shown to cause liver cancer in lab animals.