Is sassafras oil legal?

Sassafras Oil: Legal or Illegal?

Sassafras oil is an essential oil derived from the roots and bark of the sassafras tree, which is native to North America and East Asia. The oil is known for its distinct aroma and flavor and has been used for medicinal, culinary, and aromatic purposes for centuries.

The History of Sassafras Oil

Sassafras oil has a rich history dating back to the Native American tribes who used it for medicinal purposes. It was later introduced to the Europeans who used it to flavor beverages like tea and root beer. In the 1960s, sassafras oil became popular as a recreational drug due to its psychoactive properties. However, in 1979, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of sassafras oil in food and beverages due to concerns over its potential carcinogenic properties.

Legal Status of Sassafras Oil

Currently, the sale and possession of sassafras oil are legal in the United States, but the oil cannot be used in food or beverages. The FDA has classified sassafras oil as an unsafe food additive and has banned its use in food and beverages. However, sassafras oil is still legal for use in aromatherapy, as a fragrance, and in traditional medicine.

Sassafras Oil and its Uses

Sassafras oil has a wide range of uses in various industries. Some of the most common uses of sassafras oil are:

  1. Aromatherapy: Sassafras oil is commonly used in aromatherapy due to its soothing and relaxing properties. It is believed to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve mood.
  2. Traditional Medicine: Sassafras oil has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including skin diseases, fever, and rheumatism.
  3. Fragrance Industry: Sassafras oil is a popular ingredient in perfumes and fragrances due to its unique aroma.
  4. Insect Repellent: Sassafras oil is a natural insect repellent and is commonly used to keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay.

Risks Associated with Sassafras Oil

While sassafras oil has several benefits, it also poses several risks. The most significant risk associated with sassafras oil is its potential to cause cancer. The main component of sassafras oil, safrole, has been found to be a carcinogen in animal studies. In humans, safrole has been shown to cause liver damage and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

In addition to its potential carcinogenic properties, sassafras oil can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some individuals. It is also toxic when ingested in large quantities and can cause nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.


Sassafras oil is a versatile oil with a unique aroma and several potential benefits. However, its use is restricted due to its potential to cause cancer and other health risks. While sassafras oil is legal in the United States, it cannot be used in food or beverages. Individuals interested in using sassafras oil for its medicinal or aromatic properties should do so with caution and consult a healthcare professional before use.

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