Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Layton, Patricia A.

Committee Member

Hall , Karen C.

Committee Member

Wells , Christina

Committee Member

Chen , Feng

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to quantify the carcinogenic compound safrole in the traditional preparation method of making sassafras tea from the root of Sassafras albidum. The traditional method investigated was typical of preparation by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and other Appalachian peoples. Sassafras is a tree common to the eastern coast of the United States, especially in the mountainous regions. Historically and continuing until today, roots of the tree are used to prepare fragrant teas and syrups. These traditional uses can be found across cultures throughout its range. Products made from sassafras are banned from the market by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to a carcinogenic compound, safrole, found in the unprocessed root. Low levels of safrole are permitted in Europe due to the small concentration found in common spices, including nutmeg and cinnamon. However, in sufficient doses, safrole causes genotoxicity and cell toxicity, oxidative stress, and liver cancer in laboratory rats after ingestion. In this study, traditionally prepared tea and the FDA method of eliminating safrole were analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography. These two methods were compared for effectiveness of eliminating or reducing safrole levels. The FDA method resulted in little to no safrole content. A smaller amount of safrole was present in the traditionally prepared tea compared to agitate samples, used to gauge a baseline concentration of safrole present in the root. Collaborations with the Center for Cherokee Plants within the Cherokee community will help us to return the results of the research and contribute resources emphasizing the cultural and historical importance of Sassafras albidum.

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