Sassafras variifolium, (Salisbury) O. Kunize. A volatile oil distilled from the root.

Habitat. N. America -- Canada, Florida to Texas; sandy, light soil, in the open.

Syn. Sassaf., Saxifrax, Saloop, Ague Tree, Cinnamon Wood; Sassafras (Cortex) Radix; Fr. Ecorce de Sassafras; Ger. Lignum Sassafras, Sassafrasholz, Sassafrasrinde; Sassaf. Med.; Ol. Sassif., Sassafras Oil; Fr. Essence de Sassafras; Ger. Sassafrasol.

Sas'sa-fras. L. Sazum, rock, + frangere, to break -- i.e., grows in crevices of rocks; Sp. for saxifrage, name given by Monardes, Spanish botanist of 16th century.

Va-ri-i-fo'li-um. L. varius, varying, + folium, leaf -- i.e., leaves of several forms on the same tree, ovate, entire, 3-lobed and cuneate at base.

Plant

Shrub in the North, tree in the south, 9-24 M. (30-80 degrees) high, .3-.6 M. (1-2 degrees) thick; wood whitish, reddish, light, strong, durable, aromatic; bark of stem and large branches rough, deeply furrowed, grayish divisible into layers, young end-twigs smooth, green; leaves 10-15 Cm. (4-6') long, varying shape; flowers, March-May, dioecious, fragrant, appearing before leaves, small, greenish-yellow, racemes; fruit oval drupe, size of a pea, deep blue, 1-seeded. Bark -- Sassafras, Sassafras, N.F. The dried back of the root with not more than 4 p.c. of adhering wood, outer corky tissues or other foreign organic matter, yielding not more than 5 p.c. of acid-insoluble ash. It is in irregular, transversely curved or quilled pieces, 1-15 Cm. (2/5-6') long, 1-4 Mm. (1/25-1/8') thick, orange-brown, nearly smooth, irregular ridges, inner surface reddish-brown, obscurely short-striate; fracture short, corky layer, yellowish-white inner bark; odor aromatic; taste slightly mucilaginous, astringent, pungent. Powder, reddish-brown -- numerous starch grains, bast-fibers spindle-shaped, red masses of tannin, tracheae. Dose, 3ss-1 (2-4 Gm.). Pith -- Sassafras Medulla, Sassafras Pith, N.F. The dried pith (stem) with not more than 1 p.c. of foreign organic matter, yielding not more than .5 p.c. of acid-insoluble ash. It is in subcylindrical, curved pieces, 2-10 Cm. (4/5-4') long, 2-5 Mm. (1/12-1/5') thick, light-weight, whitish, occasional wood fragments adhering; fracture short; odor slight, sassafras-like; taste mucilaginous; mounts in water -- thin layer of mucilage from inner walls of cells; macerate several hours .5 Gm. with cold distilled water 25 cc., filter, mucilaginous solution with alcohol (1) -- no precipitate, unless excess added.

Constituents

I. BARK: Volatile oil 6-9 p.c., Sassafrid 9 p.c., tannin 6 p.c., resin, starch, gum, wax, ash 30 p.c. II. PITH: Gum, volatile oil.

Oleum Sassafras. Oil of Sassafras. -- This volatile oil distilled from the root (better -- root-bark) with water or steam, is a yellow, reddish-yellow liquid, characteristic odor and taste of sassafras, soluble in 90 p.c. alcohol (2), solution being neutral, sp. gr. 1.070, dextrorotatory; contains chiefly safrol, CHO2, 80 p.c., pinene and phellandrene, CH, 10 p.c., d-camphor, 6.8 p.c., eugenol, CHO2, .5 p.c., cadinene, residue 3 p.c.  Should be kept cool, dark, in well-stoppered, amber-colored bottles.  Dose, mj-5 (.06-.3 cc.).

Sassafrid. -- Supposed to be altered tannin, the result of oxidation, analogous to cinchona-red; some disclaim its presence in fresh bark; crystallizes in yellowish-brown granules, soluble in alcohol, insoluble in ether, solutions colored red by alkalies, precipitated by aklaline earths (carmine-red), ferric salts (greenish-brown), lead acetate (white) indodorous, nearly tasteless.

Preparations

Oil

1. Syrupus Sarsaparillae Compositus, 1/50 p.c.  2. Syrupus Eriodictyi Aromaticus, N.F., 1/20 p.c.  3. Syrupus Pini Albae Compositus, N.F., 1/50 p.c.  4. Syrupus Trifolii Compositus, N.F., 1/25 p.c.  BARK: 1. Fluidextractum Sarsaparillae Compositum, N.F., 10 p.c.  2. Syrupus Pini Albae Compositus, N.F., 7/10 p.c.  PITH: 1. Mucilago Sassafras Medullae, N.F., 3 p.c.  Dose, ad libitum.

Unoff. Preps.: BARK: Fluidextract, 3ss-12 (204 cc.).  Infusion (Tea).  Dose, ad libitum.

Properties

Alterataive, diaphoretic, stimulant, emmenagogue.

Uses

To purify blood, skin diseases, rheumatism, syphilis.  Infusion valuable antidote for poison-ivy, internally and externally; it (tea) was popular at one time for so-called thinning the blood (alterative) in spring; given with sarsaparilla, guaiacum, mezereum, etc.; oil popular flavoring agent in confectionery, drinks, soaps, etc., antiemetic, antagonist to narcotic effect of tobacco, hyoscyamus, etc.

Derivative Products

1. Safrolum, Safrol, CHO2 -- CH0H(OOCH). -- This chemically is the methylene ether of allyl pyrocatechol, occurring in the oils of camphor, star-anise, cinnamon, etc., and constitutes 80 p.c. of the oil of sassafras.  It is obtained chiefly from the red oil of camphor by collecting that fraction boiling at 230 degrees C. (446 degrees F.), purifying the same by repeated chilling and crystallization; it is a colorless or faintly yellow liquid, sassafras-like odor, sp. gr. 1.105, optically inactive, cooled to - 20 degrees C. (-4 degrees F.) solidifies to a mass of crystals, melting at 11 degrees C. (52 degrees F.), soluble in alcohol (1), 70 p.c. alcohol (30), miscible with ether, chloroform, boils at 233 degrees C. (451 degrees F.); heated with alcoholic potassium hydroxide solution forms isosafrol, which is less toxic than safrol; with bromine yields crystals of CHBrO.  Reduces arterial pressure by depressing vasomotor center; taken a long period produces fatty degeneration of heart, liver, and kidneys; it is eliminated as piperonalic acid.  Dose, mj-2 (.06-.13 cc.).

2. Sassafras Lignum, Sassafras Wood. -- Contains little volatile oil; used like the bark, but very weak medicinally.