9 Incredible Benefits of Sassafras Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The many excellent benefits of sassafras oil include relieving inflammation, soothing menstrual pain, eliminating dandruff, detoxifying the body, repelling insects, lowering blood pressure, aiding sleep, strengthening the immune system, and neutralizing head lice, among others.

There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the use of sassafras oil, as it can be toxic even at small doses, particularly when the safrole hasn’t been removed. Safrole can be lethal and composes up to 80% of sassafras oil. Before using this oil in any form, you must be absolutely confident in the source and processing methods and should speak with a doctor before adding it to your health routine.

What is Sassafras Oil?

Sassafras oil is an oil that is derived from the root bark of the sassafras tree, through a process of steam distillation.

This oil is rich in safrole, a potential carcinogen, as well as eugenol, camphor, and various other sesquiterpenes. Although many sassafras oil varieties are safrole-free, they have still been found to lead to cancer. While the limited and diluted use of this oil can help other aspects of health, as listed below, the internal consumption of safrole-containing oil is not recommended in any way. Even small doses of this unrefined essential oil can be lethal. While sassafras oil is available around the world, you must be very careful about the ingredients and method of processing, as well as the manner in which you use it. [1] [2]

Close-up of yellowing leaves on branches

The beautiful autumn colors of leaves. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sassafras Oil Benefits & Uses

Sassafras oil is popularly used by people struggling with arthritis, high blood pressure, insomnia, a weak immune system, liver damage, head lice, headaches, muscle pain, skin inflammation, and insect bites, as well as people in tropical areas where mosquito-borne diseases are common.

Lowers Blood Pressure

In small, measured and regulated doses, this oil does have the ability to lower blood pressure levels, which is good news for heart health and those who are at risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. [3]

Reduces Arthritis Pain

Regular application of this oil to sore joints and muscles is quite common, particularly for people who suffer from arthritis. The anti-inflammatory nature of various components in sassafras oil, even without safrole, can help soothe tissues and stimulate blood flow to lubricate joints, while even helping to relieve pain. [4]

Reduces Inflammation

Aside from arthritis, this oil is often used for other inflammatory conditions, such as indigestion, headaches and oxidative stress, which is a form of inflammation. This oil, when used responsibly, can prevent strain on many different organ systems and lower your risk of chronic disease.

Prevents Liver Damage

This oil is not only known to strengthen the liver but can also induce urination, which further helps to detoxify the body. As a diuretic and a liver-booster, small amounts of this oil can cleanse the body and even help protect the immune system. [5]

Kills Head Lice

Sassafras oil is legendary for its ability to quickly kill head lice, due to its strong anti-parasitic nature. Massaging a diluted form of this oil, which does not contain safrole, into the scalp and hair can quickly neutralize the infestation before it gets out of hand! [6]

Boosts Immune System

There are certain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of this oil that make it an excellent tonic for the immune system. Whether you are applying it to your skin or consuming very small amounts, it can give your white blood cell count a boost and prevent the damage of free radicals. [7]

Heals Wounds & Bites

When you have an open wound or an insect bite, the anti-inflammatory and healing properties of this oil can help prevent the wound from becoming infected, while also stimulating the growth of new cells.

Used as a Sedative

One of the common side effects of sassafras oil is sedation, as the oil interacts directly with the central nervous system. For people who struggle to fall asleep, or experience disturbed and interrupted sleep patterns, inhaling a small amount of this oil before bed, or even topically applying some to your chest, can help you get the sleep you need! [8]

Used as an Insect Repellent

Traditionally, sassafras oil was used as a natural insect repellent, and it is still a common ingredient in pesticides and herbicides. If you live in an area with a high concentration of tropical diseases, then preventing mosquito bites is a huge priority. You can use sassafras oil in aromatherapy preparations to keep the rooms of your home clear of insects, as they cannot abide by the strong aroma of this natural oil. [9]

Anticancer Potential

Safrole from sassafras oil is definitely a proven carcinogen but scientists haven’t yet come to terms with that. They have researched more to check if this cancer-causing agent is able to slow the growth of cancer or not and a couple of studies actually have generated positive results. The research papers suggest that safrole, in sassafras oil, may have the potential to help you in lowering the risk of gastric, liver, tongue, breast, prostate, bone, and lung cancer. While more in-depth research is still awaited, for now, it is best to not use such a food item without consulting with a doctor. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

Sassafras Oil Side Effects

There are many potential side effects of using sassafras oil, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, hallucination, elevated blood pressure, allergic reactions and a higher risk of cancer, including risks for pregnant women and children. Again, safrole-free varieties of this oil are also available and will help to lower your risk of some of these side effects. However, it is important to note that even those highly refined varieties of sassafras oil have some potential risks. [18]

Gastrointestinal Issues: There are some reports of nausea and vomiting when sassafras oil has been consumed. Again, the high level of safrole in this oil can be toxic and have very severe side effects, so the consumption of safrole-containing oil should be avoided.

Allergic Reactions: Some people are allergic to the sassafras plant, in which case topical application and internal consumption will result in allergic reactions, including skin inflammation, redness, and itching.

Blood Pressure: Excessive use of sassafras oil can cause high blood pressure, which is dangerous for people who are already at risk for cardiovascular disease or events.

Hallucinations: The cognitive effects of this oil include hallucination or confusion; this may be due to the fact that this oil is a precursor chemical for the production of MDMA, which is why it is largely banned throughout the world.

Pregnancy: This oil can have very negative effects on the fetus of a pregnant woman, and can also stimulate uterine contractions, which could cause miscarriages.

Children: Children should not use any form of this oil, as even a small dose of safrole-containing oil can be lethal.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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