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(Sassafras albidum)


The North-American foliage tree Sassafras albidum is a rich source of safrole. Sassafras' effects vary from euphoria in low doses to hallucinogenic effects in higher doses. Safrole is also present in Illicium parviflorum, Acorus calamus and nutmeg. Effects
Euphoria, erotic sensations, heavy stimulation and changes in visual- and auditory perception.
Autonomic changes: dilated pupils, nausea, increased cardio-output, rise of bloodpressure.

Duration :

The symptoms appear in 10-90 minutes after ingestion and last for seven to eight hours.

Dosage and preparation :

Sassafras can be prepared as a tea, or can be chewed.
For half a litre tea, approximately 30 grams of Sassafras is needed. When chewed, lower doses will also be effective.

Figure: Sassafras root

Botanical aspects :

S. albidum belongs to Lauraceae; Lauroideae, Tribus Cinnamomeae, subtribus Cinnamominae. This tree is distributed nothern America.
S. albidum has characteristic three-fingered leaves, small yellow flowers and small fruits which are attached to red branches. The tree grows 30 meters in height and can be propagated through cuttings and seeds.

Figure: The Sassafras tree

Phytochemistry :

The rootbark of Sassafras albidum has an volatile oil content of 6-9% of which 85% is safrole, 3.25% camphor and 1.1% methyleugenol. Myristicine, eugenol, 5-MeO-eugenol, Apiol, Estragol, elemicine are present in trace amounts.
According to other analyses the rootbark contains 90% safrol and the remaining 10% consists of 30% 5-MeO-eugenol, 18% asarone, 11% coniferaldehyde, 11% piperonyl-acroleine, 5% camphor and traces of apiol,1-menthon, myristicine, elemicine and tujon.
The aromatic ethers are non-polar and can easily be extracted with steam-distilation.

Aporphine- and benzylisoquinoline derivatives have also been isolated from the rootbark (aporphine has been detected in various Nymphaea species and several benzylisoquinoline derivatives are present in Papaver somniferum). Upon storage and through metabolism aporphine can be converted to apomorphine

Table 1.26: Aromatic ethers


Pharmacology :
The aromatic ethers aren't responsible for the psychoactive effects, but some of their bioactivated metabolites are; the aromatic ethers are converted by an amination process into psychoactive phenylisopropylamines. This amination process has been shown to occur in vitro and probably also occures in vivo, altough some of the phenylisopropylamines have not yet been found in nature.

Figure: Possible mechanism of transamination of allybenzenes

Although the phenylisopropylamines are structurally similar to mescaline and the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, their main effects are caused by the release of serotonine in the synaptic cleft by non-exocytotic transport; phenylisopropylamines exert their effects through the similar mechanism as indirect sympatomimetica (ephedrine, tyramine).
The hallucinogenic activity of the phenylisopropylamines appear to be mainly an effect of agonist properties on the 5-HT2A receptors and less on 5-HT2B/2C receptors. 11 The affinity for the transporter proteins appears to be stereoselective: the Levo-rotary antipodes of the phenylisopropylamines are the most potent.

Aporphine and apomorphine act as dopamine agonists which have a higher affinity for D2/3/4-receptors than for D1/5-receptors


Table 1.27: Phenylisopropylamine derivatives (PIPA's)

Toxicology :
The allylbenzene asarone, eugenol, estragol and safrol exhibit mutagenic activity (their bioactivated sulphateesters react with DNA-bases).


Modifiers :

- Cannabis can intensify the experience.
- MAO-inhibitors can alter sassafras' effects.
- high doses of alcohol can be dangerous.

1. [Efron/ Holmstedt/ Kline, 1967]
2. [Forth/ Henschler/ Rummel/ Fostermann/ Starke, 2001]
3. [Hoffer/ Osmond, 1967]
4. [Hoffmann/ Schultes, 1973]
5. [Naranjo, 1970]
6. [Ratsch, 1998]
7. [Shulgin, 1997]
8. [Stafford, 1974]
9. [Rattray, 1991]
10. [Karrer, 1950]
11. [Glennon/ Nelson/ Luciates/ Wainscott, 1999]

(Text by Wout. Please mail here for your comments)
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