Originally Posted by mobilecabinworks
All with what 77bawls and Hoodweisen were saying. My friend did a bunch of research to find a from scratch rootbeer recipe and found out that sassafras root, while able to be found growing in the wild, is an extreme carcinogen and outlawed for food use by the FDA. Thus all rootbeers at least use a sassafras extract. So I guess it a personal choice at this point. I know it can be found in east texas anyway.
So just to clear up some confusion - YES everything stated is correct so far. Safrole is indeed considered a carcinogenic and is considered harmful by the FDA. It is banned in the use of commercial root beers.
To clear up some stuff about sassafras - you can use it! It actually all seems a bit silly to me, since other foods have it in them too (cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper). Not sure why FDA banned it in just one thing and not others. If you actually look into the research, sassafras does not have much safrole in it. You would need to drink (if I remember) a crazy amount of root beer to obtain problematic doses (as in, over 12 bottles a day). In order to induce the effects in rats, they had to REALLY up the doses. Even so, humans still are not the same as rats, just similar enough to INFER research. The rule in medicine is "everything is a cure and a poison, it just depends on the amount". Obviously the amount changes per thing, but just know - everything in moderation. The main concern is its affects on the liver though, so if you know you already have issues (alcoholism, liver disease, take tons of meds for prescribed reasons, or anything that affects your liver), I suggest just playing it on the safe side.
Overall, if you use sassafras, you will be just fine if you don't over-do it. If you choose not to, well - the commercial industry is doing GREAT with sarsaparilla and wintergreen, so you will also have an awesome beverage. Just trying to say you will be fine either way, and this will likely not be a problem if you want to brew a traditional style root beer
Sources: google, wiki, .med, and .org sites (use wiki to get to each, since it really consolidates them all - **just check out their sources for the good ones**)
Also currently a medical student (and doing well :P). I'm not a professional, or your doctor, but I would like to believe I made educated choices.
Anyways, enjoy your root beer, regardless of what recipe you guys choose. I would gladly sample either recipe (send me a bottle!