Sassafras leaves from the Native American sassafras tree are dried and used to make Filé powder and sassafras tea. The root bark is used as a flavoring agent in root beer. Native Americans distinguished between white sassafras and red sassafras, which terms referred to the same plant but to different parts of the plant with distinct colors and uses.
Sassafras is a genus of the extant and one extinct species of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia. The genus is distinguished by its aromatic properties, which have made the tree useful to humans.
Sassafras albidum is an important ingredient in some distinct foods of the United States. It is the main ingredient in traditional root beer and sassafras root tea, and ground leaves of sassafras are a distinctive additive in Louisiana Creole cuisine (see the post on Filé powder, and a common thickening and flavoring agent in gumbo). Methods of cooking with sassafras combine this ingredient native to American with traditional North American as well as European culinary techniques, to create a unique blend of Creole cuisine, and are thought by some to be heavily influenced by a blend of cultures. Sassafras is no longer used in commercially produced root beer since safrole oil was banned for use in commercially mass-produced foods and drugs by the FDA in 1960 due to health concerns.
Sassafras leaves and flowers have also been used in salads, and to flavor fats or cure meats.[