I have a lot of sassafras growing, and they drop a lot of branches. I have been piling them up and burning them, and using the ashes in the garden. Is there a way to use the branches like propagation or flavoring with them instead of burning them?

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    Do you mean graft/grow another plant when you ask how to use the branches in propagation? Also, end uses that are not gardening related are off-topic on Gardening & Landscaping. However, there is a site on the network, Seasoned Advice where your question on flavoring is on topic. You might want to try asking that part there, as you're more likely to get better answers. As always, be sure to read their faq Sep 29, 2011 at 2:12
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    Although sassafras is a traditional flavoring, Cooking is probably not a good place for this since the Drug Digest discourages any oral use of sassafras or its oil (safrole): "In the 1960s and 1970s, animal studies showed that safrole caused permanent damage to liver tissue, which resulted in liver cancer for a high percentage of the tested animals. Safrole is also believed to produce nerve damage. Cases of accelerated heart rate, hallucinations, paralysis, and other severe adverse effects have also been reported in humans who ingested sassafras or safrole." Sep 29, 2011 at 2:59
  • @EricNitardy Right, but that's from sassafras roots. I don't think the leaves and branches, as the OP is using here are harmful nor prohibited. Sep 29, 2011 at 3:41

2 Answers 2


Hugelkultur is a sort of slow composting process that uses woody material as the bottom layer of a sheet compost.

In a nutshell: pile up the branches (don't shred or chip them), pack down the pile a bit, cover the pile with compost and/or soil, add a layer of mulch on top. Let it rest for a couple of months, and then plant into it.

Decaying wood acts like a sponge, so the pile should retain moisture so that the plants you are growing in the pile don't need (as much) watering. As the wood decomposes it will heat up, so your plants may gain some benefit in the shoulder months from slight bottom heat.


Wikipedia covers the culinary uses of the Sassafras plant:


The dried and ground leaves are used to make filé powder, an ingredient used in some types of gumbo.

Roots (Pathogenic and carcinogenic)

The roots of sassafras can be steeped to make tea, and were used in the flavoring of traditional root beer until being banned for mass production by the FDA.

Laboratory animals that were given oral doses of sassafras tea or sassafras oil that contained large doses of safrole developed permanent liver damage or various types of cancer. In humans, liver damage can take years to develop and it may not have obvious signs. Along with commercially available sarsaparilla, sassafras remains an ingredient in use among hobby or microbrew enthusiasts.

Sassafras tea can also be used as an anticoagulant.

As for the cooking aspect of sassafras, 'When ground, they smell somewhat like eucalyptus or juicy fruit gum'. The powder is used to flavour soups and stews and acts as a thickener when combined with liquid.

Source: The Spice House

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