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Oleum Sassafras. U. S. Oil of Sassafras.

Ol. Sassaf. [Sassafras Oil]

Related entry: Sassafras

"A volatile oil distilled from the root of Sassafras variifolium (Salisbury) O. Kuntze (Fam. Lauraceae). Preserve it in well-stoppered, amber-colored bottles, in a cool place, protected from light." U. S.

Huile volatile (Essence) de Sassafras, Fr.; Sassafrasöl, G; Esencia de sasafras, Sp.

The proportion of oil yielded by the root of sassafras is variously stated at from less than 1 to somewhat more than 2 per cent. The bark of the root, directed by the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, would afford a larger amount. The usual yield is said by Sharp to be one pound from three bushels of the root. From fifteen to twenty thousand pounds were sent annually, before 1861, to the Baltimore market. (A. J. P., Jan., 1863, p. 53.) The root, chopped fine by machinery, has steam forced through it in a closed tub, and the oil is then distilled in the ordinary way. 800 pounds of unrectified oil are said to be obtained from 40,000 pounds of root. (M. S. Rep., Aug. 26, 1871.) The oil is of a yellow color or colorless, becoming reddish by age. It has the fragrant odor of sassafras, with a warm, pungent, aromatic taste, and a neutral reaction. It is among the heaviest of the volatile oils, having the sp. gr. of 1.094, or 1.087 at 15° C. (59° F.) on the authority of Buignet, who states also that it is very slightly dextrogyrate. Oil of sassafras is officially described in the United States Pharmacopoeia IX as "a yellow or reddish-yellow liquid, having the characteristic odor and taste of sassafras. It is soluble in 2 volumes of 90 per cent. alcohol, forming a solution neutral to litmus. Specific gravity: 1.065 to 1.077 at 25° C. (77° F.). The optical rotation varies from -3° to +4° in a 100 mm. tube at 25° C. (77° F.)" U. S.

The most complete investigation of sassafras oil is that made by Power and Kleber in 1896. (Schim. Rep., April, 1896.) They find it to have the following composition: safrol, C10H10O2, about 80 per cent; pinene and phellandrene, C10H16, about 10 per cent.; dextrogyrate camphor, C10H16O, about 6.8 per cent.; eugenol, C10H12O2, about 0.5 per cent.; a high boiling portion consisting of cadinene and residue, 3 per cent. They say that the hydrocarbon constituent of sassafras oil, to which Grimaux and Kuotte gave the name of safrene, is, as just stated, a mixture of pinene and phellandrene. Safrol crystallizes well in hard four- or six-sided prisms, with the odor of sassafras. It liquefies at 11° C. (51.8° F.), boils at 232° C. (449.6° F.), has a sp. gr. of 1.106, and is destitute of rotatory power. Variation in the sp. gr. of oil of sassafras may often arise through the congelation and separation of safrol, or through stratification. (LaWall and Pursel, A. J. P., 1898, 340.) Flückiger ascertained that safrol was one of those remarkable bodies which are capable of existing either in a solid or in a fluid condition long after they have passed their freezing or their melting point. Chemically, it has been found to be the methylene ether of allyl-dioxybenzene. Safrol appears to be widely distributed in the vegetable kingdom, probably existing in the bark of the Mespilodaphne Sassafras, also in the Puchury or Sassafras nuts (see Pichurim Beans.), both of Brazil, as well as in the barks of Atherosperma moschatum and of Beilschmiedia obtusifolia of Australia, and in the bark of Doryphora Sassafras of New Caledonia. The bark described by Dymock as that of Beilschmiedia fagifolia, according to the researches of E. S. Hooper, contains saponin and probably is not derived from Beilschmiedia or any other genus of the Lauraceae. (P. J., lxxii.) Safrol is now commercially extracted from oil of camphor, and it probably could be obtained from the oil of various species of the genus Cinnamomum. (See P. J., June, 1887.)

Uses.—Oil of sassafras is chiefly used for flavoring purposes, but has physiological properties similar to those of the oil of clove and other allied volatile oils, and may be used for similar purposes. It is a powerful antiseptic and has been highly praised by Peck (J. A. M. A., 1899, xxxii, 6) as a dental disinfectant.

A teaspoonful of it produced in a young man vomiting, collapse, somewhat dilated pupils, and pronounced stupor. (Cincinnati Lancet-Clinic, Dec., 3888.) According to the experiments of A. Heffter (Atti Dell XI. Congres. Med. Internaz., iii, 1894), safrol is slowly absorbed from the alimentary canal, and escapes through the lungs unaltered and through the kidneys oxidized into piperonalic acid. When taken in sufficient dose, it quickly kills by a centric paralysis of respiration, preceded by great depression of the circulation, and when taken in smaller yet toxic amount, it causes death by widespread fatty degeneration of the heart, liver, kidneys, etc. Its isomer, isosafrol, is in warm-blooded animals much less active as a poison than is safrol, and is chiefly eliminated as piperonalic acid.

Dose, of oil of sassafras, two to six minims (0.12-0.4 mil).

Off. Prep.—Trochisci Cubebae, U. S.; Linimentum Tiglii Compositum, N. F.; Mistura Opii et Sassafras, N. F.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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