170, 171, 172. Sassafras.

Botanical name: 

Sas'safras variifo'lium O. Kuntze. The various portions used in medicine are the bark of the root, the volatile oil, and the pith, all official, and the wood, unofficial.

BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS.—Tree with spicy, aromatic bark, 15 to 125 feet high, with yellowish-green twigs. Leaves ovate, entire, or some of them 3-lobed. Flowers dioceious, greenish-yellow, in racemes.

HABITAT.—North America, from Kansas eastward.

170. Sassafras.—Sassafras bark.

Fig. 98. Sassafras - Cross-section of bark. The dried bark of the root of Sassafras variifolium O. Kuntze, collected in early spring or autumn and deprived of the outer corky layer with not more than 2 per cent. of adhering wood present.

DESCRIPTION OF DRUG.—In small, irregular, rust-brown fragments, deprived of the grayish-brown, fissured, corky layer, leaving a reddish or rust-brown surface; 1 to 5 mm (1/25 to ⅕ in.) thick. It breaks with a short, corky fracture, exposing a whitish interior dotted with numerous oil-cells; odor highly fragrant, characteristic; taste sweetish, aromatic. Oil is employed in the compound syrup of sarsaparilla.

Powder.—Characteristic elements: See Part iv, Chap. I, B.

CONSTITUENTS.—Volatile oil (about 5 per cent.), camphoraceous matter, tannin (6 per cent.), sassafrid (a derivative of tannin, 9 per cent.), gum, resin, starch, etc. Ash, not exceeding 30 per cent.

ACTION AND USES.—Aromatic stimulant, alterative, and astringent. It is used almost entirely as an adjuvant or corrective. The infusion is used as a popular household remedy for its diuretic and diaphoretic effects in febrile states. Dose: 30 to 120 gr. (2 to 8 Gm.), in infusion.

170a. OLEUM SASSAFRAS, U.S.—A volatile oil usually distilled from the entire root. A colorless or yellow liquid, sp. gr. 1.051.075, becoming thicker and of a reddish color by age and exposure, and having the characteristic odor and taste of sassafras. It contains a hydrocarbon (safrene, C10H16), and an oxygenated compound, safrol, C10H10O2 (melts at 8.5°C., 47.3°F.), a widely distributed principle obtained commercially from oil of camphor, phellandrene, C10H16, eugenol, C10H12O2, etc. Generally used as a flavor. Dose: 1 to 5 drops (0.065 to 0.3 mil). The oil is sometimes adulterated with the artificial oil and a camphor oil fraction. Virginia is said to be the chief producer of oil of sassafras.

171. SASSAFRAS LIGNUM (Unofficial).—SASSAFRAS WOOD. The wood of the root, coming in billets, partially or wholly deprived of bark, or in raspings or chips; pale brownish or reddish in color, light and easily cut; medullary rays narrow; odor and taste like the bark, but weaker, there being a smaller proportion of volatile oil. It is used like the bark.

172. Sassafras medulla, N.F.—Sassafras pith.

The dried pith of Sassafras variifolium O. Kuntze.

DESCRIPTION OF DRUG.—Thin, cylindrical, white pieces, very light and spongy; inodorous; taste insipid and mucilaginous. The tissue is entirely composed of parenchyma. It contains a mucilage (not precipitated by alcohol or lead subacetate) which forms a limpid, ropy, viscid solution with water, but not sufficiently tenacious to hold insoluble substances in suspension. Demulcent, often used as an application to inflamed eyes.

Mucilago Sassafras Medullae (2 per cent.).

A Manual of Organic Materia Medica and Pharmacognosy, 1917, was written by Lucius E. Sayre, B.S. Ph. M.